I’ll comment on the new products shortly, but here’s Melanie’s liveblog of Google Press Day from yesterday.
First a quick highlight of the day’s launches:
* Google Co-op: A community site-tagging system that shapes Google’s recommended search refinements based on selected users’ votes (tags, rankings and comments).
“It works just like a Grocery co-op,” says Marissa Mayer. Registered users mark trustworthy, expert sites and label them into categories–such as health, influenza, or advice for patients. Then community members can subscribe to other users’ labels. In Co-op you can view the CDC’s profile, see the labels it’s participating on, and who has subscribed (with pictures). Should be up in the labs within hours. Currently, the labs version has six featured subscribers in the directory, including Digg (one of Federated Media’s affiliated sites), Winspectator, Fandago, People, Open Table, Design Assistant at SouthernLiving.com, within four categories, Health, Information, News, and Travel.
* Google Trends: Charts the competing popularity of two search terms (based on the volume of a portion of Google traffic). The Trends chronology also associates spikes in searches with some events that might contribute, and describes the origin of the searches by relevant factors, like region, language, and city.
What is the search pattern for the terms Google versus Yahoo, in Google’s cache? “We’re giving you the keys to the Zeitgeist kingdom, is basically what we’re doing here,” says Jonathan Rosenberg. Searching for “equinox, full moon, solstice,” Trends shows the temporal pattern. “Surfing” has geographic variables. Great monetary implications of trends in geographies, where ad campaigns. “The age old question,” Rosenberg asks, “Boxers or Briefs? Boxers are more popular, apparently.”
In Google personalized homepage, Gadget applications area added like a media player, weather update and an animated toy plant that blooms with mouse attention. A recommendation engine built into Google desktop provides suggetions based on your “internal” (?) cached search history. So, for example, if you frequently query for flights, it might recommend you add an airfare tracker widget. (For Mac users, it’s like a live, Google-integrated dashboard widgets.)
* Google Notebook
Available in the Labs next week, with a google account and plug-in installed, Notebook allows users to take notes while you’re searching, saving snippets of text, images and links (similar to Scrapbook).
* (Not) Health: Oh yeah, and no health yet! Myers acknowledged the rush of rumors she stirred, but no official release. From the day’s previews though, it looks like the crux of Google Health will be the refined search for select medical-related searches that popped up in intermittent trial screen shots earlier last week and is semi-finctional now.
PRESS DAY HAPPENINGS:
Google Press Day was an excellent opportunity to consider public relations lingo and succumb to the little luxuries of the welcome committee. “We know the wireless doesn’t work. We’re fixing it,” beamed Elliot Schrage, VP, Global Communications & Public Affairs. (Om Malik blogs: I am going to try and live blog the Google press day event. It is packed room, and tons of journalists are in the room. Despite all that, we are all disconnected. There is a problem with the WiFi and there is no connection. I am posting this from my crackberry.) I must be feeling lucky, because I’m the only one with a press pass who seems to be able to get online (finally, value-add).
The main cafe, Charlie’s, is swathed in white fabric imprinted with the Google logo in black text, is packed with about 250 visitors. With club music playing overhead, the main display offers up everyone’s favorite wall covering, a running stream of live search terms. The lights dim. The screen rolls with a year of Google Highlights: Earth, Talk, Mobile, Aps, 22 new global offices, famous Googler faces, Google.cn, mag covers, SF picks for new wifi…
After intros by Schrage with a “A Note From Our Lawyers” looming on the screen overhead (“forward-looking statements,” securities exchange, blah blah), Eric Schmidt opened with commentary on the message of the day: Search is still the core focus of Google. He didn’t reveal any secrets behind PageRank like a hidden integration of borrowed Yahoo results, but he did test the journalist crowd’s ability to memorize the fundamentals of the schpiel (however true): Google is being open and testing limits, in particular now, fostering the “localization of our business around the world.”
(In paraphrased/broken quotes): ” Search is still the central thing in which you do anything with all this information….turning power relationships on its head……end users are driving that and I think they’re still not satisfied. And I hope to show you search is still the main way of solving all of that. Search has produced great spin-offs: ajax, LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL Perl/PHP/Python), mash-ups. Search is the inevitable outcome—”
“There’s a magical moment when you type something into google and say ‘wow, that’s something cool/new.”
“The web, at least, is growing faster that Moore’s law…with the web 2.0 model, now we can make money out of it. [Search] advertising is very successful now.” (NB: that must be a sore point in a room full or print reporters).
How Google Runs:
1. 70-20-10 Principle: By the most recent analysis, Google is not as high as 70% in the core of search/ads, so now they’re reshifting the focus again to adjust (in other words, we’re doing more search again…). The 20% represents Google’s bargain with technical people, allowing them to roam free to encourage creativity—where all the most interesting products emerge. The 10% is for wacky ideas that might not work out but feel worth pursuing.
2. An “exhaustive drama of arguments and reviews” in “ceaseless GPS [Google Product Strategy] reviews—so much that it’s produced a recent internal traffic jam on the servers with so many such teams.”
3. A monthly formal revenue force and reordering around product investment.
“The goal is to systematize anything…The only way to deal with the growth in scale, is a systematic approach to each and everything we do…Google’s making significant storage/computing capacity investments, reusing and combing data from one application to another….”
On Competition: Yahoo, MSN
The competition is healthy and but the competition is “not emphasizing the 70%” i.e. SEARCH, “which is what users want,” says Schmidt. With the partners–AOL, eBay– collaboration is growing: “[It's] not just the IT industry anymore, it’s an information industry of hundreds of millions of people. There’s room for hundred of companies emphasizing different stuff…..”
More Schmidt Snippets:
Big Issues: the role of government, the regulatory structure of the Internet.
Copyright: We’re “indexing, note, not reproducing, the world’s books.”
Rules of the Internet: The first rule of the internet: People have a lot to say…All user generated info all the time…Expertise will transition in our lifetime from learned information to learning information——this is a big shift (add full quote)”
Factoid: The search numbers in mobile (cell, treo, blackberry) are more than three times in use than persona computers. Mobile presents interesting challenges, as well as potential, because the user experience is “more as finding than generalized searching—-because of the very small screens”
The Future of Search:
What users want is “serendipity—tell me what I’m typing….Information businesses have predictive power and make a business out of this focus of information that we are creating…. It [search] will work as a continuous cycle, more search, more advertising, more innovators… the model is designed to scale to no boundary…I’m sure there are limits, but we don’t see them today…”
Comment spam is not an issue in determining PR, but link exchanges/farms are still an issue—and to some extent there are valid (i.e. Berkeley and Stanford trade links)–but they’re developing new technologies to deal with interlinked sites.
A hard question: “How do I know if a change in the ranking function is good or bad?” Answer: If a algorithm change can make 40% of results better, leaves 40% the same, and hurts 20% of words—What should we do? We do it. “No change we make is going to make 100% of the queries better,” but the improvements are typically small.
FACTOID: More than 1/2 of Google queries come from outside the US.
There are more than 15,000 engineers/Googlers: a “global mindset, local focus.”
Speakers: Omid Kordestani, senior vp, global sales and business development, Nikesh Arora, vp Eurpoean Ops., Adam Freed, Dir. Product management, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, vp, Asia Pacific and Latin Amaerican Operations.
Google is growin “in parrallel rather than sequentially… continuing expansion, [world-wide offices have] gone from zero to 120 in record time…[Google is] operating in different government and regulatory environments,” a complex job.
Google Maps launched in Asia after the US, and just last week in Europe. “Most [of Google Maps Asia was] built outside Mountain View—on the ground, present in these countries… [providing] deeply local, unique in culture and content, books, video, etc. orginating from there. And Google Finance originated in Bangalore.”
How Google Saved My Life: The Video
A deluge of warm images and soft words over the screen….
The parents of infant twins did a google search on mobile when the newborns had an illness. “Thanks to Google, we went from needing this major proceedure for our newborn, to being able to go home.” Awwww….. The writer with a voice of confidence: “As an author—[Google] leveled the playing field” allowing me to compete with the bestsellers. The White Coat hugging a picture of a pink baby to her chest says, “Health care providers don’t know enough about rare diseases…Essentially Google saved her life because she had been sent without any other help from her local physicians.” Another user found 30MinuteSeder.com: “Google saved me two and half hours”!
The press thought this was pretty corny…
Next Speakers: Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior VP, Product Manager & Marisa Mayer, VP Search Products and User Experience
A bit on how Google does what it does: Still continually inspired by the founders’ S1 letter; offices at the googleplex are actually patterned after the space of the original garage Page and Brin worked in—with three to a cubicle. Pushing the analogy that innovation permeates every facet of the plex, Rosenberg uses the cafeteria as an example–where hungry Googlers can choose their own ingredients then hand them off to the cook who will whip it up into an omelette.
Maps has kicked off a whole new spin-off of programming, the ajax paradigm.
Mayers highlights the core components of Search Experience: 1. comprehensiveness: Google believes it has 3x as many pages versus its competitors’ indexes. 2. Relevance: provided by adding dozens of tweaks in algorithm. 3. Speed. 4. User experience.
Advertising hopes to increase relevance—with site targeting, content bidding, position preference near—increasing its hold on the “longtail.” For instance, Local delivers click-to-call in map ads—in bringing it “closer to a transaction” because the user is “engaged in phone call with vendor.”
Scaling Free Innovations
Starting with the core of Search/Ads, the larger spectrum is Communications (like Gmail and Talk), then broadens to Free products (Earth, Picasa, Blogger, Print).
Innovation, Not Instant Perfection
“And because it’s free, you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect,” says Mayer. She said Google launches early and often, pushing out to public sphere, then seeing what the public thinks of it, then improve it. Mayer charted the increasing pace of innovation thus far, noting that inside of a year, Feb-Jan, there were several iterations of Google video and improved services. Mayer suggests to keep watch for a new G-Desktop launch soon—if the engineering team can keep its current pace. With all the focus on innovation, Mayer goes out of her way (as others do) to reiterate that the focus remains extant and centered on search. Using Mobile, Rosenberg walks through finding a Bed & Breakfast in Mountain View, results delivering what credit cards they take and rates.
The measured reservation of the whole day reached its apex in the Q&A when Brin and Page unexpectedly dropped in along side Schmidt and Schrage.
Q: Is Google becoming a Bureaucracy? A: A no-answer answer.
Things only got lively when the BBC reporter asked Brin and Page if a) they had a Peter Pan complex and wished their company was still small, and b) they felt like taking flight and living-off their riches. It was almost another no-answer answer, until Page stepped in with a great response reflecting Google’s evolution and self-awareness today.
A snippet: We realized that search was “too meaningful to the world for a small company to really succeed in that…. so in order to really fulfill that mission we had to grow….[Google] really is changing the world, and to do that we really have to be really big.”