Google Wants to Make Search History Portable
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SAN FRANCISCO About a thousand Internet digerati (developers, executives and media types) crowded into the swank Palace Hotel here for the opening of the sold-out Web 2.0 Summit to rub elbows with big industry names, get a sneak peak at some new services and try and keep current with the fast-changing business.
Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO and Chairman, answered questions about industry trends and his company specifically, in an onstage conversation with John Battelle, author of a recent book on the search giant.
With Google famous for storing everything a user does at its various sites, Schmidt was asked if it might someday be possible for users to export their search history to another site such as Yahoo.
"We would like to be able to do that .. .it's the equivalent of member portability," said Schmidt. He added that such portability could act like a pressure valve to keep companies honest and doing the best they can to satisfy users and minimize, if not eliminate, bad practices.
Asked about standing up to the government's request for search data earlier this year, Schmidt said what the government was asking for "a complete violation of privacy. Thank god a federal judge saw the wisdom our argument and made the right outcome."
In the future, Schmidt said the company will always follow the law and the orders of a federal judge even if it conflicts with the Google's privacy statutes. "If we're against something we'll take it to a judge, but we're citizens and subjects to the laws of the land."
On another topic, Schmidt said Google's own video service had been doing "extraordinarily well" but the company decided to plunk down $1.65 billion for YouTube because it was growing even faster.
"Video's becoming a fundamental data type on the Internet. That's why we bought them," said Schmidt.
He also said he expects YouTube to continue as a separate property from Google because of its unique focus on its community of users.
On the subject of Microsoft and Google's move to providing online productivity applications like spreadsheets and word processing, Schmidt strongly disputed the notion the company was trying to dethrone Microsoft.
"We don't talk about it that way and never made that claim," said Schmidt. "It doesn't replace Office and I don't think it ever will."
Instead, he said Google set out years ago to develop applications, starting with its Gmail email service, that could be casually shared online anytime. He did concede that he expects Google to attract corporate users who need easy and free access to applications on a more casual or occasional basis.
Schmidt, who formerly championed the network computer idea ten years ago when he was at Sun, said the faster, more secure infrastructure now in place, has brought the network computer closer to reality.
"Let a 24 hour data center handle your data and applications and let you use them when and where you want," said Schmidt.
In a later session, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and IAC CEO Barry Diller, were asked about Google and whether they were at all threatened by its growth.
Sulzberger revealed that Google is now the Times single biggest business partner.
"We're delighted. It's clear they are not in the reporting, journalism space, but they are in the advertising space and they're a good competitor. It's an exciting partnership."
Diller said it's impossible for big businesses today not to compete with each other at some point even if they are also in partnership in other areas. He trashed as old thinking the idea that any company would decide it wouldn't work with another company because it's a competitor.
"As all these areas converge, it will be impossible not too [also partner]," said Diller.