As part of today’s Google International Press Day, Google CEO Eric Schmidt is doing Q&A with journalists. Here’s a live blogging highlight of what was said, which covered a range of issues from privacy, censorship, whether Google is too big and scary and more.
First, Eric started with some opening remarks…..
Search remains the "killer application." More engineers working on that than anything else. What’s driving the growth? More connectivity is part of it.
"Personal search is perhaps the next big phenomenon….this is going to become more and more of a fundamental theme from Google." [See Google Ramps Up Personalized Search for more about this].
iGoogle is exploding in use. People love to customize. Thinks of iGoogle as "the ringtone for Google."
"We’re trying to close the gap between what did I want and what did I type."
Keeping users in control: turn-off, pause, take search history to other search engines. "We won’t hold your data hostage…somehow that works; people continue to stay."
Thinks cross language translation has the greatest possibilities.
"The tag line we’re beginning to use is Search, Ads & Apps." [Schmidt once again uses this new Google tag line despite after saying it May, Google then after the fact said it was not a tag line].
Reaction to Semel leaving and what can Google do to reassure on privacy?
"Terry and I started at the same time…he was an outsider to the industry…many people said he wouldn’t be successful…we would talk to each other [as we were growing the market]… he was a phenomonal leader."
Sensitive to privacy… if people don’t trust Google "then we’ve got a probably, because they are literally one click away from switching." Settled on 18 month cookie retention period [he meant log retention]. Says Google is the only company to have said that. Doesn’t think issue will go away… they spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Partnerships, talk more about them such as with Apple
"I think what you’re asking is to see my iPhone," which he holds to laughter. Interesting thing with iPhone is many apps will come along. "You should expect other announcements from the two companies over time."
They have to operate under the laws of each country. But they look at each incident on a case by case basis.
FAST– is it considered a competitor?
Know them, but if they are, they aren’t a big one.
Question on eBay [from me] about pulling ads, and Google changing the party in response. How does this change for a major advertiser influence Google going forward?
Disagrees with some of how it was stated — IE, Google changed the checkout party in their view because it didn’t seem appropriate. Says they compete with eBay to some degree [downplays this -- it's a major competition re: PayPal], but eBay remains valued advertiser and is still advertising [they are outside the US but not within it]. See eBay Ads Still Off Google: How Much eBay Traffic & Google Cash Lost? for more on this.
Google & Yahoo [believe that was the question, perhaps cooperating]?
If there are talks, legally he couldn’t comment on them… "i think it would be presumptive of me to give Jerry advice"
Question on dealing with censorship and privacy and legal issues.
There are many different laws, they follow them for each country, but also review on a case-by-case basis on interpreting laws.
Would data be held less than 18 months?
"If it is the law."
What if more used personalized search. Is that a way idea.
Interesting idea [and actually, something they actually do -- retained personalized data this way longer than 18 months if outside the log database.
More privacy, if info stored on US server, could US government officials get that info. Which law rules?
It's a much more complicated situation than you imagine. Info might not actually be in the US. In principle it is possible for the US government to get information about searches but practically, it is impossible because of the process they have to go through.
When will YouTube be profitable? And doing something with the French library?
Meeting with library today in general on issue. As for YouTube, focus now is continuing to grow user base and eventually make money from all the usage.
What lessons has Google learned from self-censorship with China?
Hardest decision they've ever made [to censor]. Decided to enter the market which was the right decision but also not to put any user data in China [to protect users]. We think that’s the right tradeoff for Google and the users. Traffic is booming, so looks like right decions. "My only regret is we should have done it sooner."
Lots given away for free and based on ads. Thought about other fee-based options?
Google Enterprise [server business, as well as the hosted apps]. That business is likely to become a very important business for Google. Notes advertising is 97 percent of business and that they love it.
Why new focus on international?
"I’m not sure this is a new focus." [indeed, it's not -- they've been pushing internationally for years now]. "I think this is an ongoing emphasis…my own emphasis is on so called ‘second tier’ countries." [Note, not second tier because not important but because Google hasn't done enough to provide a good local experience for them, based on what he explained].
Surprised to people finding Google somewhat sinister, especially after talking personalization so much, buying a genetics company?
We did not in fact buy a company in the genetics space … invested in one. Doesn’t want to comment on the press reaction to being sinister, since he said the information was taken out of context at the time.
There are many many examples where it would be good if Google understood time and choice. Which college should I go to? It will be years before we can answer those questions, but eventually computers that can help answer hypothetical questions.
Stresses this is user choice. This is opt-in.
How about taking on censorship in the way attacking censorship?
"We have tried." Believe having a presence even with limitations helps. "More communication is good. More blogging is good. More user content is good."
Could you pressure the US government?
‘I’m concerned about the use of pressure. We’re not a country. We don’t have nuclear bombs."
Worried about perception too big? What about all your cash?
As long as we continue to serve end users well, have pressure on themselves, should be OK.
Successful companies that don’t manufacture things tend to have lots of cash. True could be used for acquisitions.
Any backlash from the Brussels news decision?
Complaint was resolved "quite amicably" and "believe those issues are behind us." Most newspapers are happy with traffic they get.
How to keep savvy teenagers worried about Google being too big from going?
Every teenager has a choice, and we’re glad they are chosing Google.
Reaction to other video sites like Joost?
Focused on YouTube and the community model.
DoubleClick was going to give 80? percent of ad market….
[cuts in] that’s not true. Says there are many forms of advertising.
And that’s the end of Q&A.
Postscript: Video of the Q&A can now be found here.