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Sergey Brin wanted to leave China; Eric Schmidt wanted to stay (wsj.com)
70 points by kareemm on Jan 14, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments



This article requires me to login :(

Murdoch needs to get with the program.


Can anyone supply the full text?

edit: I remembered the news.google.com trick:

By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO

Google Inc.'s startling threat to withdraw from China was an intensely personal decision, drawing its celebrated founders and other top executives into a debate over the right way to confront the issues of censorship and cyber security.

The blog post Tuesday that revealed Google's very public response to what it called a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China" was crafted over a period of weeks, with heavy involvement from Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

For the two men, China has always been a sensitive topic. Mr. Brin has long confided in friends and Google colleagues of his ambivalence in doing business in China, noting that his early childhood in Russia exacerbated the moral dilemma of cooperating with government censorship, people who have spoken to him said. Over the years, Mr. Brin has served as Google's unofficial corporate conscience, the protector of its motto "Don't be Evil."

The investigation into the cyber intrusion began weeks ago, although how Google detected it remains unclear. As Google employees gathered more evidence they believed linked the attack to China and Chinese authorities, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, along with Messrs. Page and Brin, began discussing how they should respond, entering into an intense debate over whether it was better to stay in China and do what they can to change the regime from within, or whether to leave, according to people familiar with the discussions. A Google spokesman said Messrs. Page, Brin and Schmidt wouldn't comment.

Mr. Schmidt made the argument he long has, according to these people, namely that it is moral to do business in China in an effort to try to open up the regime. Mr. Brin strenuously argued the other side, namely that the company had done enough trying and that it could no longer justify censoring its search results.

How the debate ultimately resolved itself remains unclear.The three ultimately agreed they should disclose the attack publicly, trying to break with what they saw as a conspiratorial culture of companies keeping silent about attacks of this nature, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Soon, Google's vice president of public policy and communications, Rachel Whetstone, began crafting and revising a number of versions of a possible statement the company planned to release publicly, these people said, sharing it with the three.

The top three agreed that in addition to discussing the attack, the blog post should contain some language about human rights, the strongest statement of which is a clause in the penultimate paragraph of the post.

The section said they had reached the decision to re-evaluate their business in China after considering the attacks "combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web."

Concerned about potential retribution against Google employees in China, the founders and their advisors agreed to include a line saying that the move was "driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China."

To further protect Chinese employees on the ground, executives didn't notify the vast majority of Google's China team until a few minutes before the post went up.

Disagreements among Google's top troika aren't unusual. Last year, for example, Mr. Schmidt told reporters that he had long opposed Mr. Page's desire to build a Web browser but ultimately came around.

Google's conduct in China has long incited broader geopolitical debate over whether Western companies should do business in the country. In 2006, after Google said it would censor its China search engine, Google was called to defend the move before the U.S. House of Representatives, which began contemplating legislation that would prohibit U.S. companies from cooperating with Chinese officials, except in certain circumstances.

On Tuesday, Google said it could no longer abide by Chinese government requirements that it filter the search results on its site in the country, Google.cn. The company said it will be discussing the matter with the Chinese government, stating that it realized that its move may mean that it will have to shut down the Web site and potentially its offices in China.

The question is whether other U.S. companies will agree with Google's definition of evil.Google's decision conflicts with the strategies of many U.S. companies to deepen their involvement in China, which is both a key market for their potential exports as well as a source for many manufactured goods on which U.S. companies and consumers depend.

Veteran observers of trade between the countries suggest that Google, and the U.S. generally, has little leverage to press China to back down on Internet censorship or other issues.

Some expressions of support for Google's position flowed in from around the world, including from consumers in China as well as some U.S. companies—including rival Yahoo Inc.—and politicians. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday issued a statement saying Google's allegations "raise very serious concerns and questions," and that "we look to the Chinese government for an explanation."

Odds are high Google could be left largely on its own in taking concrete steps to confront the Chinese government. Veteran observers of trade between the countries suggest that Google, and the U.S. generally, has very little leverage to press China to back down on Internet censorship or other issues.

Besides the Google.cn Web site, Google has a range of other business initiatives and partnerships in China that could be affected by its decision. By snubbing Chinese authorities so publicly, the company risks government retaliation against itself or its partners. The decision also affects local competitors who could benefit from any retreat.Shares of Google's biggest Chinese rival, Baidu Inc., surged following the news.

Google's blog post Tuesday said cyber-attacks on its infrastructure resulted in "the theft of intellectual property," stating that it found evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists. It said other U.S. companies were targeted by similar attacks, and dozens of Gmail accounts around the world had separately been "routinely" accessed by third parties it did not identify.


Don't copy it here, just use this link:

http://www.google.com/search?q=A+Heated+Debate+at+the+Top


Do you really want to be copying entire Murdoch articles?


Not all of them, of course. Only in special cases when it is necessary, like this one...otherwise, how can we have a discussion about it when we can't read it?


otherwise, how can we have a discussion about it when we can't read it?

Gee, how about by paying the organization that employed a reporter to write the story......

I swear, it's like half the internet has forgotten what it's like to buy something.


For normal usage like regular reading, I would agree with you, and also, it was not me who downmoded this comment. But this is a special occasion - someone brought the link to this article to our community here to discuss, so naturally I want to read the article. But that does not mean, that I want to became a paying customer of WSJ...as an European, I even do not know that much about it.

Then, if it is not possible to legally read the text without paying, then I would suggest to not submit such content here to HN. Let the paying customers to discuss that stuff between themselves, then.


Even if you don't subscribe and can't read the article, the discussion could be interesting as there are probably many subscribers in this group. It might even prompt someone to subscribe. And of course you can search for the same news from a different venue if your interest is piqued; no one has a monopoly on the news itself.

In the case of WSJ and NYT, they've provided an approved (by them) way to read paywalled content for free: by visiting via the google "trick." A post of the google search, like ars did, is enough.

It's one thing for a subscriber, or google trickster, to post a quote; I think that's generally accepted practice, Murdoch and AP notwithstanding. In the context of struggling content providers and blustering media owners it's at least ironic to post an entire article.


OK, you are right. I didn't want to encourage anyone to post copyrighted material here in full (although I don't see much difference between copying it and provide a google trick, but that's not important.)

So far so good, if many HN members are WSJ subscribers, of course let's them to discuss that stuff here, no problem from my side.


The article misses an important point: Google simply didn't make any money or not as much as they expected from China. They got harassed constantly and its Chinese competitors received a lot of preferential treatment from the government (e.g anti-porn raids often shut down google). I got this from here, but its german: http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/international/google_beugt_sic...


"Odds are high Google could be left largely on its own in taking concrete steps to confront the Chinese government."

Just a random thought, but wouldn't it be cool if the US had a hacker military branch?



If you just search Google for "A Heated Debate at the Top" and then click the link you should be able to see the full text.


The thinking is, if you can afford food, the Internet, rent, BOOKS, MOVIES, etc. then you most certainly can afford to pay for a subscription or for one article.

Myself, I'm not going to pay for the Wall Street Journal but I will pay for The Economist and other news magazines/journals. So I'll be waiting till they have the story.


That's perfectly fine thinking if it's something you found yourself. However, implicit in linking something on a social link aggregator is a sort of "here, read this, it's good" on the part of the poster, which just doesn't jive with the site asking for a fee. It's like bringing donuts for your friends, opening the box and telling them you got each person their favorite, and then charging for them—it's just not how our particular social machinery works.


I think it's more like you tell your friends about a place that sells great donuts, then they go to the donut shop and yell at the proprietor because his donuts aren't free.


Not necessarily. Most of the links posted here are free. Most of the people here will expect the links to be to freely distributed content. Submitting a story here without saying "[pay to see]" or something similar at the end is akin to claiming that the content is free.

To further extend the analogy, it would be like announcing the donut shop in a forum where people are talking about free food. Then being baffled when people took that to mean tha the donuts would be free.


Unlike donuts, information wants to be free. I'm not saying that trying to be funny. It is in the nature of information to be free. One can try to shackle information, but one will have problems doing so, this is to be expected.

When explaining one's rationale for locking down information, people often use metaphors of physical objects. This is doomed to fail. Try to use non-physical objects that are similar in nature to information as metaphors instead. The problem with that is of course that it is also impossible, as the very nature information shares with intangible goods is that they also want to be free.


Ah, you are selling bullshit my friend. If your employer turned round to you after a month of work and said, 'but tjogin, all you've done is create information and information wants to be free, why should I pay you?', methinks your view on the entire matter would rapidly change.

Someone worked hard to produce that article and if they want to charge for it it's their right to.


I never even mentioned economics, thus your comment does not in any way disprove anything I said.

In your example, the employer buys time, not information. Time is significantly harder to reproduce or copy than information is.

So, one way to charge for information is to sell time sensitive information (like stock information), but then what you're really selling is time exclusivity.

Selling information without any kind of unique or time sensitive properties is doomed to fail — the only thing that made it once possible was technical limitations; information needed for instance paper as a vehicle to distribute it. Those technical limitations are gone now.


He should pay tjogin because of the contract he and tjogin have, or, absent such a contract, because he wants more content from tjogin or people tjogin could communicate with.


I'll be waiting till they have the story.

No need to wait:

A new approach to China http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-approach-to-china...

Google to Stop Censoring Search Results in China After Hack Attack http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/01/google-censorship-c...


The Economist, unlike WSJ, has the fresh article accessible initially, and only restricts access to past issues and the audio edition.


I suggest we just stop posting them. Give him his pay wall and allow his newspapers to slowly fade into obscurity.


> This article requires me to login :(

> Murdoch needs to get with the program.

The "I'm running one of the only two profitable newspapers in the US" program?

I think he's ALREADY with that program.

Sorry that you don't like it.


Eric Schmidt is always in much greater danger of losing his job based on missing large market opportunities than Sergey or Larry ever will be, so it makes sense that he would be the one who wanted to stay in China.


Absolutely. As far as the bottom line and job security are concerned, Larry and Sergey are immortal, while Schmidt is playing for performance.


It's probably a good thing for Google that Schmidt doesn't have the final say in these decisions. He seems to have a misguided product sense. There was a Charlie Rose interview where Schmidt he was convinced that Adwords was going to be a flop, and tried to kill it. He didn't really want Chrome or Android. It's too soon to tell whether or not this China move is a good one though..


Isn't he paid 1$ per year and owns several billions of USD worth of GOOG?


Anyone else have a deja vu moment while reading this? The article repeats this snippet of text twice, the second time adding the word "very":

"suggest that Google, and the U.S. generally, has [very] little leverage to press China to back down on Internet censorship or other issues."


I doubt they meant to do that, I'm was sitting there thinking wow they want people to pay for this and they make mistakes like that that I never usually see from bloggers.


silly aside, but did anyone else notice that the following sentence appears twice?

"Veteran observers of trade between the countries suggest that Google, and the U.S. generally, has little leverage to press China to back down on Internet censorship or other issues."

Seems like something a good copy editor would catch.


I'm curious how Page responded. Given what happened, it does seem he tilted Brin's way in the end.


Is anyone surprised that Schmidt wanted to stay after making that privacy statement blunder?


Schmidt has his career on the line; tasked with growing the fastest growing company in history, the man has bigger problems than you and I can conceive.


And he's doing an amazing job, from what I can see. I can't imagine the pressure he'd be facing.


So just because he has a big job means that he can be immoral about it?


I thought your point was valid and on-topic. The statement "If You Have Something You Don't Want Anyone To Know, Maybe You Shouldn't Be Doing It" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/07/google-ceo-on-priva... ) was fairly extreme.




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