The Future of the Web According to Eric Schmidt of Google

Eric Schmidt*

“The Future of the Web According to Eric Schmidt of Google” is a post I have written a few months ago that hasn’t been published by the blog I have been writing for then. I don’t know why, they never even bothered to tell me about it. I guess it was too critical of Google. So here it is. Judge it yourself:

Over the years Eric Schmidt formerly CEO and now chairman of Google has been known for giving some intriguing insights into Google, the Internet and the future of technology. Some of his remarks were very controversial to say the least. Many things he has expressed were hidden between the lines.

All in all Eric Schmidt has given us lots to think about no matter how important you think Google is for your business. Eric Schmidt is one of the people who decide how the future of the Web will look like even now after having been replaced as Google CEO.

In fact it’s eye opening to read old interviews with Eric Schmidt and compare his words from back then to the situation today. Just recently I’ve reread an interview from 2007 where Schmidt stated, let me cite:

“Can users get their own data and e.g. give it to Yahoo? Schmidt says that Google has made a commitment never to track personal data (search history, Gmail etc). He says end users wouldn’t choose to adopt the services Google offers otherwise.”

Just think about it. How much their strategy has changed. They now not only are collecting all kinds of data, you can download it now as well. Many privacy scandals, the one with Google Streetview cars collecting Wifi spot passwords and reading private emails was just the worst one. At the same time Facebook has been even more negligent about privacy and people did not leave. Thus Google was able to change its approach altogether as well. They just realized that nobody really cares.

Google knew early how important user data collection is for manifold reasons. That’s the core of this quote even though it has proven to be wrong. Nowadays they use all kinds of tools to collect data about its users, Google+ being the foremost endeavor in this arena.

 

Siri is better than Google

Recently Eric Schmidt responded to the US senate and tried to make the officials believe that Google is not a monopoly by explaining that there is already a better new search out there. It’s the virtual assistant called Siri you can use on the iPhone 4S. While trying to convince the regulators that Google is no threat for the free market he revealed some intriguing insights about the future of search and beyond. He said that

“history shows that popular technology is often supplanted by entirely new models. Even in the few weeks since the hearing, Apple has launched an entirely new approach to search technology with Siri, its voice-activated search and task-completion service built into the iPhone 4S. As one respected technology site reported: “[E]veryone keeps insisting that Apple will eventually get into the search engine business. Well they have. But not in the way that everyone was thinking. Siri is their entry point.” Another commentator has described Siri more simply as intended to be a “Google killer.”

So Schmidt is trying to convince government officials that Apple’s Siri is the next big thing in search technology that actually will prevent a Google monopoly in this arena.

Of course everything Eric Schmidt says has some purpose. Here he aims to convince lawmakers that there is still some competition in the search industry and no need for regulation by the government. Likewise in the quote above he meant to explain why Google is trying to keep its users. It’s all about privacy evidently not about the Google bottom line.

Reading between the lines is always a good idea with Google spokespeople but Eric Schmidt has the special talent of the slip of the tongue. He once exclaimed that you can “just move” in case you don’t like the way Google Streetview depicts your home or that if you have something you want to hide on the Web you shouldn’t do it in the first place. Just a few months later he has silenced a former lover by removing her blog from the Web.

So any remarks by Mr. Schmidt have to be taken with a grain of salt but on the other hand they allow a sneak peek into the future search strategy of Google. No matter what Schmidt says about a particular subject the sheer fact that he mentions it means it’s important. Thus we have to listen to his words to predict Google’s next steps.

We know now that they really care about Siri. What does this mean? I expect that they will soon launch their own voice recognition based personal assistant to compete with Apple. Like with Android they will be late to the table but they will offer the better product I presume. Remember that they were late with search as well. There were dozens of search engines before Google but they have managed to overcome the first generation issues of the competing products and excel.

So while Eric Schmidt might aim to protect Google from regulators insisting on Siri being the next huge leap in search technology he indeed expresses how important this development is for Google. Google really needs to compete here as well in order to stay competitive overall in the future. It will.

 

Opinion is better than algorithms

What else is Eric Schmidt talking about? He explains why they acquired local restaurant review service Zagat and how they plan to introduce these reviews on Google Places and local Google search results. While he is of course keen on dismissing the notion that this move is an anti-competitive measure that endangers competing services like Yelp he points out how quickly Yelp is growing even despite the overwhelming competition from Google’s own local search results.

Eric Schmidt thus confirms how important local search and reviews will be in the future and that Google is of course planning to grab a substantial portion of this market. What could this mean in particular? I can imagine that sooner or later Google will show more of its own reviews instead of “scraping” third party content from sites like Yelp or TravelAdvisor. Both sites have complained about this practice of using their content.

So let me summarize: Eric Schmidt cares about identity, opinion and mobile search.

They want to know who you are, where you are and what you think. Then they want to use this data to provide other people with what they want. This is the future of search and the Web as a whole according to Eric Schmidt. It will be your personal assistant knowing everything about you and finding everything you need even before you ask.

 

* Creative Commons image by the WEF.

 

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