Monday, December 17, 2007
Google’s Vint Cerf Interviewed
Google vice president and chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf was interviewed by Suisse publication Das Magazin
in Zurich in late November. Here are some of his statements (my translation):
- Asked on the semi-religious meaning of his job title: “Humanity should understand the blessings of the internet. Our history shows: the more people go online, the more flat hierarchies are becoming. The more people join, the more free the world will be. Indeed I have almost religious faith in this.”
- “What we’re doing is this: Everyday we break our heads on the question of how to organize and archive the whole world’s knowledge to make it accessible to millions of people. That is our vision.”
- Asked on privacy issues of moving our data online: “We understood the scope of one of the most exciting information trends since the stone age. Ever since humans back then understood that information can be helpful for their survival – say, knowing which animal is a sabertooth and which is a cattle – they wanted to possess as much information as possible. But now we get to see that there’s one thing they want even more – to share information with others.”
- “99% of all applications are yet to be invented. The internet is mainly software, and software is only limited by our imagination, and our ability to turn ideas into programs. The most trivial will be: our fridge, our oven, our entertainment gadgets – everything will move online. People will start-up companies to manage other people’s devices.”
- Asked about a “cult-like worship” surrounding Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin: “Mr. Brin and Mr. Page are humble, decent and thoughtful men. They are very smart. They talk little. But when they do, you should listen.”
- When applying for a job with Google, Vint mentions it’s a plus if you have some special ability on the side; like being member of an ice skating group, or having gone through vocals training, or having an interest in animals. Vint adds that Google employees are a real team but that you won’t find a casual job with them, as they work on the highest level.
- Asked about the security of the data Google stores in their data centers: “First of all, we’re securing our data through very strict internal rules. Employees which don’t stick to those precise rules are immediately suspended from the company. We have the same sensibility about this as a bank might have.” On the data centers: “Even when we don’t make them look like a CIA facility we know means to ensure that no one had ever reason to complain about the security of their data with us.” (-> related links)
- On self-censoring in Chinese search results: “We debated this internally for one year. Then we decided to offer a censored search engine, but to not offer other services, like Gmail or Blogger. ... We do not want to be getting into a situation where the government asks us: Who wrote this critical blog?” Vint adds: “Besides: This is the law in China. We don’t want to break the laws of any country.” (-> related links)
- “We were and still still are very conservative with information about our product plans. We don’t communicate what we do until we do it.” (-> related links)
- “We never gave anyone reason for real justified criticism. We have been ordered by courts to release information, but we fought for 9 months and won. We are dependent on our users as we handed them the option to break up with us quickly.”
- “The company has a big responsibility and is grateful if it is reminded of it.” (-> related links)
- Asked on when Google will be powerful enough to pressure the Chinese government into accepting Google’s values: “We convince governments, but we don’t pressure them.”
- Asked about Google’s recipe for success: “Don’t be a threat. Do no evil.”
Here’s another noteworthy bit by Vint:
If a journalist needs an official statement by the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt promised he will be ready within an hour. No matter where in the world he happens to be.
So, do you have any question for Eric Schmidt? I will forward it to Google and see if Eric replies.
[Thanks Mathias Schindler! Image based on photo by Google.]
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