Schmidt: Hard To Beat Facebook, If Playing Exactly The Same Game

Can Google beat Facebook in social media? Not unless Google changes the game, says Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt’s comments on Facebook, search rankings and a possible joke about a teenager civil rights act to protect them from social media discrimination came during an interview this week with PBS correspondent Gwen Ifill.

Change The Social Game To Beat Facebook

Ifill asked Schmidt if Google could “beat Facebook at its own game,” getting this response:

It’s very hard to beat a fast-moving incumbent in exactly same game in technology because it changes so quickly.

What you have to do is you have to find a new problem and do that much better than they are, and that’s what we’re trying to do. And if you do that, you can ultimately win very large.

Google’s repeatedly suggested that its Google+ social networking system isn’t directly aimed at Facebook as a rival social network but rather a “layer” to help make Google products themselves more socially-enabled.

 Joke? Teenager Civil Rights Act Will Protect From Social Media Blunders

Earlier in the talk, Schmidt suggests laws will protect people from being discriminated from oversharing when minors.

One of the questions is what are we going to do as a society with all those 16-year-olds’ posts when all those people are 36?

It’s pretty clear to me there’s going to be a law which says you can’t discriminate against people based on their pictures below age 18. There will be additional sort of civil rights sort of acts around teenagers.

Is he serious? It’s hard to tell, even after watching the video. But I have a feeling he’s joking about the specifics while serious about the challenge. Here’s the video, jumped to the part above (and covers the beating Facebook question, as well):

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Back in August 2010, Schmidt made similar serious sounding comments to the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that every teenager would have the right to change their name, to distance themselves from social media sharing mistakes. Wrote the WSJ:

He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

Schmidt later said the comment was a joke, causing laughter for those in the room, even if it was reported seriously. Even during Schmidt’s apearance on the Colbert Show last year, he said it was a joke — “and it just wasn’t any good.”

Google Doesn’t Cook Results

Schmidt also pushed back on the idea that Google cooks its results, something Utah Senator Mike Lee said during Schmidt’s testimony during a US Senate hearing last month.

Well, we, of course, said we had not. I assure you, we have not cooked anything, was my response.

I think in many ways it’s been good, at least so far, because it’s made the company clear — more clearly articulate how we make our decisions and in particular publicly describe that, which is to focus on consumers. So, so far, I think it’s overall been positive.

And I should say, by the way, that the government has a role here. This is their job to do, and so we have to respect that.

Winners & Losers

As for the idea that Google “scares” members of Congress, Schmidt seemed to suggest that because ranking changes produce winners and losers, you especially have losers who get worried about Google:

We make decisions based on what our testing indicates consumers want in terms of a global search engine.

I do understand that Google ranks information, and there’s winners and losers. And those decisions have significant impact on people. So the word scares is their word, not mine. On the other hand, we provide a free and important service to an awful lot of people, and we take great pride in doing it right.

Here’s the video of his talk:

YouTube Preview Image

And on the PBS site, you can watch the video and read the full transcript here.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: General | Google: Business Issues | Google: Critics | Google: Google+

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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