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Google's future and how it shapes ours

September 08, 2008|Jessica Guynn | Times Staff Writer

As Google celebrates its 10th birthday, The Times talked with Internet experts about what the company should do over the next decade. Condensed interviews follow. For the full text visit

Michael Arrington

Editor and founder of


Google continues to fight a multifront war. They dominate search and search marketing, which is where most online advertising dollars are spent today. That gives them a huge war chest to explore other areas for both defensive and offensive purposes -- Google Docs and Google Apps to try to disrupt Microsoft Office revenue and further erode the need for Windows, for example.

In search, Google needs to continue to dominate text but also explore rich-media search. Today, no one can actually search inside of a picture, video or sound file to see what's in there.

Finally, social networking is the new search. Everyone's doing it but no one can monetize it effectively yet.

Kevin Bankston

Senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

In the next decade, Google will continue to be the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of digital free speech and privacy. On the one hand, Google's innovative tools for finding and publishing online content have been and will continue to be a boon to the Internet's billions of users, fostering free speech and open access to information on an unprecedented scale. On the other hand, Google will also continue to be the primary innovator when it comes to finding more powerful and invasive ways of tracking and monetizing Internet users' private online activities.

Google's credo is "Don't be evil," yet it's building the biggest horde of sensitive Internet usage data this side of the National Security Agency. In the next decade, Google needs to prove that its commitment to privacy is more than just talk, not only in the design of its products but in its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

Google is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of the Internet tech sector, and it should start throwing that weight around on Capitol Hill by demanding on behalf of its users an update to this country's woefully out-of-date electronic privacy laws.

John Battelle

Founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing and author of "The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture"

Google is a company in the midst of a pretty significant identity crisis, but it probably doesn't know that yet. When you are at the point of having so much cash flow and so much success, and you have an employee culture based on being the smartest, best-treated, most important people in the world, you tend to think you can do just about anything. That is a wonderful thing. But if you end up trying to do everything, you can end up forgetting who you are.

Shifts in how culture interacts with technology regularly surprise dominant, near-monopolistic companies. We saw it with IBM and mainframes, who, despite knowing it was coming, lost the interface to Microsoft and Windows. And we saw it again with Windows, which is losing the interface to the Web, search and Google. It remains to be seen if Google will be surprised by a shift from search to something else.

Max Levchin

Founder and chief executive of Slide, chairman of Yelp

The most amazing thing about Google to me is the huge number of small -- and not so small -- online businesses that depend on Google entirely, not just for their customer reach but even their brand. This power hints at future directions for Google: a search engine that knows what I need before I know it, a discovery system that can introduce me to new concepts, a sort of command-line interface to the Web.

The most important thing Google management will have to do over the next decade is figure out how to keep the spirit of entrepreneurial technical and business innovation alive and well within the rapidly scaling company. Fantastic perks like food and massages will only cut it so far.

Marissa Mayer

Vice president of search products and user experience at Google

I think there will be a continued focus on innovation, particularly in search. Search is an unsolved problem. We have a good 90 to 95% of the solution, but there is a lot to go. How do we monetize new forms of content as they come online such as video, maps and books? How do we help content providers transition their businesses online and build healthy businesses?

Ultimately, I think we will focus on what serves users and Google best: making the Web better and making it easier to use the Web.

Mike Sheldon

President of Deutsch LA

Google will continue to receive as much money as they can from advertising, which is 99% of their business. Their $4.2 billion in profits are about people paying to get the top results on their search engine. They will continue to maximize that and try to get a bigger piece of the pie.

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