Schmidt: Google Closer to The Perfect Answer

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Google CEO Eric Schmidt started with net neutrality.

In a keynote at the Search Engine Strategies show here today, Schmidt said a lot of things. But the most critical concern for Google, he said, is the net neutrality debate.

If broadband suppliers and other proponents of a tiered pricing model for transmission of high bandwidth content, such as video, are successful, Schmidt said Google’s extremely well-funded war chest would be more than able to handle the cost.

Still, the company strongly opposes any such legislation.

Schmidt said equal access to information on the Internet enables the next generation of innovators.

“That’s why we defend it.”

And even as the net neutrality debate rages on, Schmidt said he has yet to see a technical proposal of how to “bifurcate the Internet.”

Going forward, he noted that broadband suppliers and Google  have an alignment of interests in promoting the growth of the Internet and he hoped they would come to agreement.

“Historically, tiered pricing models haven’t worked,” said Schmidt.

Asked about the recent release of search results by AOL, Schmidt emphasized there were procedures and controls in place to prevent such a disclosure of Google users’ information.

AOL has apologized for what it said was the mistaken release of the data on a Web site (which it quickly removed) for research purposes.

AOL didn’t release users’ names, but the content of the searches alarmed privacy advocates who noted the searches can reveal personal information.

Schmidt said the release was “a terrible thing. The data was not anonymized enough.”

He also emphasized that Google does not use or release anyone’s personal demographic information without their permission.

Then the talk turned to Microsoft’s forthcoming Vista operating system.

Schmidt said Google believes Vista’s search default settings unfairly favor Microsoft’s MSN service.

Google is still not satisfied that its concern has been met.

“We have not seen a clear and crisp answer to our concerns,” said Schmidt. “It’s still beta software, so we hope changes are made.”

The big news earlier this week was the blockbuster deal Google the embedded search function for MySpace, a job previously given to Yahoo.

Schmidt said online communities and social networks like MySpace represent a huge, emerging trend on the scale of the PC revolution and instant messaging.

Google has been on something of a product binge this year, introducing a lot of new services, mostly in beta or test format, for users to try out.

Different groups within Google develop many of the services and so they have have different user interfaces (UI).

Asked whether Google is planning an integrated UI for all the services, Schmidt said it’s an issue he’s argued with company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Schmidt has a lot of experience with integrated products and pushed that mode of development but “as usual Larry and Sergey won.”

“Their argument is very simple; if I build an integrated solution that no one uses, it doesn’t matter if it’s integrated.”

Instead, Schmidt said Google wants to get new services out quickly, see how people are using them, learn from their feedback and iterate improved versions.

On the topic of Google’s future, Schmidt said the company it’s not the only solution for search or other Web services.

He also admitted there was plenty of work left to do, even in Google’s core search service.

“Most people I talk to understand Google is not a truth machine,” said Schmidt.

“We do the best job of any of the search engines… Google’s not a perfect filter. I don’t think in our lifetimes we’ll get to perfect answers but we’re getting closer.”

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