Friday, August 13, 2004

The Google playboys

In the middle of the Google IPO quiet period, Larry and Sergey decided sit down for a little chat with Playboy magazine. The interview is published near the end of the latest amendment to their S-1. A couple excerpts, first on portals:
    PLAYBOY: With the addition of e-mail, Froogle—, your new shopping site—, and Google news, plus your search engine, will Google become a portal similar to Yahoo, AOL or MSN? Many Internet companies were founded as portals. It was assumed that the more services you provided, the longer people would stay on your website and the more revenue you could generate from advertising and pay services.

    PAGE: We built a business on the opposite message. We want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’'s the point. The portal strategy tries to own all of the information.

    PLAYBOY: Portals attempt to create what they call sticky content to keep a user as long as possible.

    PAGE: That’'s the problem. Most portals show their own content above content elsewhere on the web. We feel that’'s a conflict of interest, analogous to taking money for search results. Their search engine doesn’'t necessarily provide the best results; it provides the portal’'s results. Google conscientiously tries to stay away from that. We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible. It'’s a very different model.
And on the GMail targeted advertising privacy flap:
    BRIN: Any web mail service will scan your e-mail. It scans it in order to show it to you; it scans it for spam. All I can say is that we are very up-front about it. That’'s an important principle of ours.

    PLAYBOY: But do you agree that it raises a privacy issue? If you scan for keywords that will trigger ads, you could easily scan for political content.

    BRIN: All we’re doing is showing ads. It’'s automated. No one is looking, so I don'’t think it'’s a privacy issue. To me, if it'’s a choice between big, intrusive ads and our smaller ones, it’'s a pretty obvious choice. I’'ve used Gmail for a while, and I like having the ads.
I think The Register has the best comment on the wisdom of doing this interview in the middle of the IPO quiet period.

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