Google Wild About Commoditizing Search

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Google co-founder Sergey Brin says he never imagined how popular and widespread his search engine would become, but despite his altruistic attitude, he is excited about making money off of it.

“The company as a whole is building the technology,” Brin said during a faux fireside chat at the Search Engine Strategies 2003 Conference & Expo here. “We do care about the utility of the technology and that goes both for search and products. We also care for the advertising network and publishers. I think we’re a technology company that applies technology to media.”

The soon to be 30-year-old has maintained a “do good” mantra for the five-year-old company, fending off critics that say Google has gotten too powerful.

“I think people tend to exaggerate in both directions Google’s significance,” he said. “Some says Google is God others say Google is Satan. But if they think Google is too powerful, remember that with search engines, unlike other companies, all it takes is a single click to go to another search engine. People come to Google because they choose to.”

And there have been a lot of people visiting. On any given day, Google processes between 3 to 4 billion pages. A huge departure from its 15 million page per day roots.

Brin also deflected suggestions that the company would be acquired by or acquiring a company on the scale of say Microsoft citing the numerous amounts of liabilities that would be piggybacked with such a deal. Instead Brin said Google’s track record has been to take on companies with good technology and compatible cultures.

“Over time there have been a number of companies that have approached us,” he said. “We’ve said no so far, but it would be silly to discount a serious proposal.”

More likely, according to Brin, are Google’s chances of filing for an initial public offering (IPO).

“We had the first running demo in 1996 or late 1995 and we chose not to jump on the bandwagon along the way,” he said. “I don’t know what would have happened if we had. We enjoy the intellectual challenge.

“For me it’s coping with the growth – it’s the most challenging. There are a lot of things that distract me from what I love. There are a lot of new things to enjoy so it’s not that bad.”

Despite its consumer successes, Brin said the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm has taken almost a calculated methodical approach to building its business model.

With the recent launches of Google News, Froogle, Google Toolbar and its acquisition of Blogger, Brin said he felt Google still has a few new things up its sleeve.

“There are completely new ranking technologies that we are working on,” he said. “We try about a half-dozen a month and launch on a limited test basis. There are a lot of ways to approach knowledge. That’s kind of the reputation but there are other techniques that computers use. I don’t know if there are great examples because they get more complex over time. There are many, many things you can do and I don’t think we are going to exhaust them.”

Brin says he’s most excited about the ramifications of advertising’s influence on search, although the company said its is committed to keeping paid placement separate from relevant results.”

“I’m really excited about our self-serve AdSense” Brin said. “I think this is changing the Webmasters lives. They can now make money and not have to worry about weird search engine deals. I’m hoping that can spur the next generation of content.

The program puts more pressure on rival Overture, which is readying the release of its own contextual advertising product this summer. With its distribution deals, ad buys and self-service program, Google has been able to build a sizable distribution network in short order since Content-Targeted AdWords debuted in February.

Recent analysis from Jupiterresearch and SearchEngine Watch founder and search guru Danny Sullivan helps support the trend that the online advertising revival is being driven almost entirely by search engines and contextual advertisements.

“Search engines are an incredibly valuable way to reach consumers,” Sullivan said. “It’s great to spread the word about search engine marketing in general and to help those within the industry that specialize in this type of advertising.”

Editor’s note: The SearchEngine Strategy show is produced by Jupitermedia, parent company of this Web site.

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