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Eric Schmidt Steps Down from Alphabet’s Board of Directors (twitter.com)
702 points by azhenley on Apr 30, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 344 comments

Eric Schmidt was the anti-privacy leader who dismissed privacy concerns.

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."


Keep in mind this is the same guy who blackballed CNET reporters for finding personal information on him through google search.


The guy represents every wrong with tech. Privacy for him, but none for thee. And that's not even including on his shady ties to government.

I will always remember him as the guy who would willingly collude with other mentees of Bill Campbell to not hire engineers from each others companies. Willingly trying to keep the salaries of engineers low is pure evil. They even tried to rope-in Zuckerberg into this gentleman's agreement. Zuck asked them to buzz off. When Eric is involved in shady practices like these, how do all other leaders on twitterverse who are singing his praises justify their pandering. I wonder if Eric would have survived now as a Google CEO. Half the company would walk out today, if they came to know Sundar is in bed with his other CEO buddies and has agreements not to poach employees from each other's companies.

You know how far you are over the ethical line when Zuck tells you to take your shady scheme elsewhere.

More likely Zuck correctly saw that Google as the incumbent had much more to gain from such a scheme. Facebook wouldn't be where it is today without aggressively poaching employees from Google, in their early acquiring tech chops phase they were basically the inofficial open source arm of Google because they hired so many googlers who wrote near 1-to-1 clones of internal Google tech and later also released them as open source long before Google ever got around to releasing the real thing (buck, thrift, ...). These days of course, Facebook itself is a powerhouse of original tech.

Apparently FB hyper-targeted Google employees with ads based on the profile these employees had happily volunteered when creating their FB profile. (Wish I had a reference link).

Also, from what I understand (again, only hearsay, I don't have any proof for this), there were many employees at Google who thought "Don't be evil" was a joke.

And so they decided they will go to Facebook, which was more closely aligned with their morals, as explained in this rhyme -

Move fast and break laws,

Lets show these dumb fricks who's boss,

When shit hits the fan

The CIA will cover our arse

> there were many employees at Google who thought "Don't be evil" was a joke.

Well, and the wage theft conspiracy amongst other things proved them right. A smart and experienced CEO like Eric Schmidt would certainly have known that what he was doing was illegal and also that it would be profitable, zero risk to himself and low risk to the company, even if caught. His only possible mistake was to underestimate Facebook as a competitor and the cost of giving them probably more of a leg up than was wise in retrospect by handing them a huge bidding advantage for top tech talent by "defecting" from the collusion. In retrospect it might turn out to have been one of the most expensive rounds of prisoner's dilemma ever played ;)

Well, that just doesn't rhyme at all.

In a perverse sense, it's a display of markets working effectively. The more big tech players entered into a cartel, the greater the incentive got to defect and pick up talent that wouldn't have been affordable otherwise. That doesn't imply anything noble about the practices of the people who defected, but it's an interesting display of how such things fall apart even without requiring any moral action.

Sounds like the "let's do evil" guy

He actually mocked an early engineer who voiced the "this is evil" mantra in a meeting after he joined Google. If not right then, definitely in a TV interview a few years later.

Pure evil lmao

If Google and other companies did this, the employees ought to unionize. Normally I am not in favor of that, but Google et al. were colluding to gain an unfair advantage on their side; that invited the same on the labor side. Companies colluding to keep wages low means workers ought to collude to make them higher and counterbalance the companies.

He's still going to serve on the "compensation committee"..

Those poor underpaid Googlers

...higher salaries in one place tend to pull up salaries elsewhere too. And conversely, if you push down the top, you also push down the middle (under the optimistic assumption that the bottom can't go any further down...).

Also, it's easy for other industries to then justify with: "hey, even Google is doing it, and they were they guys supposed to 'do not evil', amirite?".

That's the problem with unethical behavior, we're all into copying and generalizing stuff :|

Indeed- I thank the FANGs everyday for pulling up my salary. In 2013 I was making about 1/3 what I am now in the financial industry in NYC doing algo trading/HFT. I was reluctant, but after years of seeming to miss out on the big money that everyone talked about finance people making, I finally just decided to look outside the industry. I got a remote job with a company in the valley, and got a 60% increase in comp, that after 3 years grew to just a hair shy of 100%. I was pretty much the first defector to leave finance for tech in my circles, but more followed. I jumped around one more time, with a financial company who truly pays top tier salaries (to match tech companies), and am now making a full 3x what I was just a bit over 5.5 years ago, with a much better work life balance and general work environment.

I can't imagine this would have happened without Goog/FB/Apple/Netfix, etc. Every day I reap the benefits of their competition for talent without having worked at any of them.

Collusion like that puts a downward pressure on the wages of all workers.

It also normalizes that behavior and makes it more likely that other employers will take similar steps.

It’s happens a lot more than it’s talked about. When a few people left the company I worked at for Rackspace who was paying a lot more the CEO of my company talked with Rackspace into agreeing to stop interviewing people from my company. I moved on from that company after the CEO admitted to the agreement.

It’s a practice older than IT. Hard to judge the man on that alone.

You don't have to feel sorry for them, while still disagree about the non-poaching agreements that these CEOs made.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Sorry but this is just hopelessly naive and one sided. Sillicon valley is more then google and apple, and if the competition is only between them with regards to salary then those engineers have nothing to complain about.

>Sillicon valley is more then google and apple

It is... but the top tier companies pay dramatically more than the next tier down. Like, we're talking 30-50% difference once you count total comp.

(it's interesting, base salary is somewhat comparable... but stock and bonus are a big part of comp if you work at a FAANG company, and those... largely don't exist at third-tier companies.)

The top-tier employers also do a lot to bring up salary pressure on the lower tiers; if the FAANG companies didn't pay so much, the most desirable people wouldn't leave the lower paying companies, wouldn't make room for someone less desirable, etc... That's how I got my start; I didn't go to college, but I did work my way up through those smaller companies, into larger companies that paid better and better.

Very few companies include bonus as a part of a software engineer's compensation (large SV companies are more or less alone in this). Bonuses are generally reserved for executives (excluding sales staff, of course) in most industries, including mine (defense).

Though, salary for software engineers has been ticking up lately. I suppose I can thank the demand for engineers created by these tech companies for that.

>Very few companies include bonus as a part of a software engineer's compensation (large SV companies are more or less alone in this). Bonuses are generally reserved for executives (excluding sales staff, of course) in most industries, including mine (defense).

Yup, that's what I'm saying. I'm just a sysadmin; I'd never gotten a bonus in my 20 years working as a programmer or sysadmin, mostly at tier 3 tech companies... not until I started working at a FAANG company these last few years, but the bonus + equity is a really significant portion of my compensation now, and brings the whole package from "nicely comfortable for someone who didn't go to college" to "wow"

I'm much too old to work at a FAANG :), I do make a pretty good salary for the area of the county I live in, though.

In any case, moving to SV would only be worth it if salary+bonus were close to half a Megabuck, and I doubt there are more than a dozen engineers in the world making that kind of money as a FTE.

Yes, those quary workers should stop all that ranting. What have the Roman's not ever done for us.

Conveniently you (and everyone else who quotes that line) left out the following part.

"But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And [...] we’re all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities."

His whole point is to NOT use their services because they are bound by law to turn over that kind of data. Not to shame you.

Is avoiding using "their services" sufficient or even possible/plausible? I may be being overly cynical here, but I think it's relevant.

"The homepages of popular sites placed cookies for 275 third-party hosts. In just visiting the homepage of popular sites, we found 32 websites placed 100 or more cookies, 7 websites placed 200 or more cookies, and 6 websites placed 300 or more cookies. We found that Google tracking infrastructure is on 92 of the top 100 most popular websites and on 923 of the top 1,000 websites. This means that Google's ability to track users on popular websites is unparalleled, and it approaches the level of surveillance that only an Internet Service Provider can achieve."


When toys r us was still in business, I went digital dumpster diving on all the 3rd party domain references to find the companies behind all of them. At the end of the day it seemed like pretty much every major tech company I could think of was getting a hit by my browser.

I'm not sure if this was the exception or norm - I was just curious because their website was soooo slooow.

At the time of the comment it was quite possible.

I don't understand how this part is "conveniently" left out. What about this quote weakens the OP's implication of hypocrisy among business leaders?

I think the idea is that the continuation of the quote reframes "shouldn't" from a moral to a practical exhortation, saying that not being observed is unrealistic and so doing things you would want to keep private is a bad idea because they won't be.

I just went and found the video clip, though, and I think that reading is incorrect. Schmidt isn't saying "don't do those things because we can't hide you from the feds". He's very clearly making two distinct different claims about privacy; the second half is about people with 'legitimate' reasons to need extreme privacy, while the first half looks like exactly the moral judgement everyone portrays it as.

He’s explaining the reality of the situation.

But he’s also disregarding the fact that things people have done, historically, things that have been persecuted, but may only be “wrong” according to shifting cultural temperaments (e.g., loving somebody outside your race).

It’s pretty tone-deaf, in that sense.

Well I am just thankful Google didn't have a Larry Ellison or Rupert Murdoch controlling it. It's pure luck they weren't more evil than they actually were.

I'm not making fun of you, I'm just guessing that the value you get from my service is worth more than the concerns you have about your privacy. Come join me. I promise I won't hurt you so much. You'll enjoy it.

You're free to make your own choices. Schmidt (and Google) make no such promise. Use ProtonMail and DDG if you care so much, others will use Google, life moves on. No one is coercing anyone else.

> No one is coercing anyone else.

Specifically because Schmidt made a career as a lobbyist for privacy erosion, I think he's open to criticism on this basis, even if he is not guilty of coercion.

If it were some random person who was just developing a product I would agree with you to leave well enough alone, but I think the lobbying angle is enough to clear the bar of "theses actions should be publicly scrutinized".

What anti-privacy lobbying are you referencing?

I don't know specifically, I just know he was Google's top lobbyist and their business model depends on a certain privacy law landscape.

"No one is coercing anyone else" - in a way they are. As a software developer I don't think I have the choice not to use one of the big clouds. Protonmail and DDG I do use, but I can't use Hetzner instead of AWS or GCE if I want to remain competitive. (Offtopic: I am actually starting a new project and this is what I'm struggling with.)

The companies aren't the ones that are the problems here if you're worried about the clouds here and privacy.

It is the United States government, their laws, and enforcement.

My point isn't that he's coercing. He isn't. I said that clearly. My point is that he's being disingenuous.

Edit: for the record, I did switch off of gmail too :)

Privacy is usually not about things you don't want anyone to know. It's about things you don't want everyone to know.

Privacy is also about solidarity with those who do have something to hide. We want to create a society with herd immunity for dissidents, free thinkers, and even the less controversial yet somehow still controversial; fetishists, (closet) non-traditional-sexuals, or simply those who engage in behaviour that we have only learned to condone, not yet accept.

Even if you are not any of those, it is our duty to provide a thicket where the free canaries can hide from the harsh environment. When they die, we best pay close attention.

Saying “I don’t care about privacy because I have nothing to hide” is uniquely selfish, on the level of “I don’t care about gay marriage because I’m not gay.”

Several months ago I came across a website dedicated to sharing this mindset--that privacy, even if you have nothing to hide, is good for society and lets people break out of restrictive norms. I haven't been able to find it again despite a pretty long search. Do you happen to know the site I'm talking about?

That's a key principe behind Tor.

I think your second quoted sentence is a perfectly fine attitude. You have to pick your fights and caring about every possible issue that may affect every possible person is a road down to insanity.

(I say this while I agree with your post otherwise.)

His quote doesn't suggest you care about gay marriage. It suggests caring about PRIVACY because for example (amongst many other examples he didn't mention) gay marriage.

I can't upvote this enough.

More specifically, privacy is about things that you want to isolate to one sub-self and its corresponding social circle.

Everyone leads a “double life” (or N lives) to some degree, and privacy is the societal etiquette allowing for the continued separation of those lives (without having to go to the effort of using real OPSEC to isolate them.)

So much this. I don't really want my work, my online life, and my family to collide very much, but within each sphere of general influence, I want to be able to reach out and interact with people fairly openly. The best way, of course, is to carefully curate different identities online, but that feels dishonest at times and can be problematic on occasion.

> The best way, of course, is to carefully curate different identities online

Doesn’t this only work if all your interactions are online? Otherwise your family might meet your colleagues at your birthday party (or whatever you might celebrate).

No this works offline too. For example, I would think that my friends have the decency not to talk to my grandmother about my sexual preferences, even if the two happen to meet at my birthday.

But if you hold your boyfriend’s hand during your birthday your grandmother would probably wise up to your sexual preferences.

Admittedly, Google+ tried with circles but sounds like a bandaid to a problem that didn't exist in the first place until Facebook along with myopic social do-gooders forced everyone to use real names online.

Google+ wanted real names too.

In my view it's mostly about justification.

What's your age, sex, and race? These are questions that, in and of themselves, are not private. Any stranger on the street who sees you could immediately answer them. And if you've ever posted a picture on the net, you can add far more people. And you probably wouldn't be bothered if every single person in the world knew the answer to this question. And in fact you've probably told everybody the answer to these questions, even if indirectly, in your own posts.

Yet in spite of all of this, you probably would not want to tell me. And that's largely because I have absolutely no justification in asking or knowing this. If I said I was surveying developers, and you believed me, then you'd probably be more than willing to submit this information to me however.

Google wants to harvest massive amounts of information on me to, at best, try to get me to purchase things I otherwise would have no desire to purchase. And that is, again, at best. This is the same company that literally black-listed the term "human rights" for their proposed engine in China. [1] To imagine they won't, if they are not already, use that information for even more nefarious ends is being naive.

So on this front I couldn't care less if every disinterested person in the world knows what I had for breakfast (it was muesli), yet I would not want Google to have this information, because I don't think they are justified in knowing it. More sensitive information just ends up reaching a higher and higher standard of required minimal justification.

[1] - https://theintercept.com/2018/12/01/google-china-censorship-...

That's the most succinct explanation of privacy I've seen. I'm going to have to crib that line.

I disagree, I wouldnt send a nude photo to a single stranger (even if they wouldnt send/show it to anyone else).

It doesn't sound like you disagree. You might want to be nude in front of some people (doctors, lovers, airport security), but not everyone (your barber, your boss, perfect strangers).

Strangers, sure. Would you send one to a sexual partner?

Medical records are another good example. Most people are squeamish about reproductive and sexual health... but share such info with a doctor.

> Strangers, sure. Would you send one to a sexual partner?

Only if I had made up my mind that I would have no - or only a small - problem with the photo going public. I may conceivably trust the partner. I do not trust partner's ability to keep things under sufficient lock.

In Maths anyone and everyone are the same. When you start a proof you say - Let x a member of set Z be arbitrary


Which is exactly why equivocation is a logical fallacy.

Long before Eric, the SUN's CEO (Eric's previous employer) made a remark that privacy is an illusion and we need to get over it:


This stuff was going on for a long time, FAANG just perfected it.

FANG maybe; Apple seems pretty keen on maintaining privacy as one of their primary differentiators.

There's privacy between people but not between people and corporation or people and the government.

> Eric Schmidt was the anti-piracy leader who dismissed privacy concerns.

You mean anti-privacy I think? It took me way too long to get there.

I fixed that. Thanks for pointing it out. Not sure how I managed to spell it incorrectly once and correctly once in the same sentence.

ARRRRRRRRRRG ya gots it right again me fren!

Because every CEO is saying "it's okay that privacy is gone! It's no big deal!" I know that one day I'm suddenly going to feel the consequences of their policies and learn by experience that privacy was a big deal after all.

Didn’t he also scheme with Jobs and others not to poach employees from each other and faced class action lawsuit?

> Eric Schmidt was the anti-privacy leader who dismissed privacy concerns.

Well, he did understand how to turn the customers data into a product. He is one of the key persons who formed the whole data economy thing; that's quite a big deal - he formulated the way of making money for the 21st century.

Once upon a time money was in producing stuff, now stuff and people are so much varied so that the main problem is that of pushing adds. This is the way that this age got the tool to keep it going...

Of course the system has its bugs that can be called 'features'

>Once upon a time money was in producing stuff, now stuff and people are so much varied so that the main problem is that of pushing adds

No, this is a very misleading comparison. Schmidt (and others) have found a way to commodify your personal information and how to transfer ownership of your data, and as such wealth, from you to Google.

They're not the 21st equivalent of Henry Ford, they haven't unleashed new modes of production that suddenly unleash growth and drive down prices of material goods and services, they've figured out a way to turn attention into a mechanism to redistribute money upwards.

pushing adds is a service that means it is a 'product' that advertisers are buying. Of course google is also buying our data: its the price for using free products such as search, android and gmail; google is then reselling this data; this takes place either by reselling it directly or by using it as part of their service .

If a fast food chain recorded all customer conversations at its tables and then mined that information for profit, most people would consider that unconscionable - even if the conversations were anonymised.

Similarly most people wouldn't be too happy about a physical newspaper or a TV that tracked their eyeballs as they read/watched it - at least not without an opt-out option.

And yet this is very close to what Google does, albeit hidden behind the distancing effect of a search engine and a web browser.

Should we really be grateful?

I don't like Google. Possibly I'd prefer to live in a world without a Google.

That said, your comparison strikes me as rather reductive. Google Search, Maps, Chrome, YouTube, Android, and so on, are all things that have had a measurable impact on my life, and quite a bit of it positive.

I'd like to think these things could've happened without all the bad stuff that funds it, but at the very least I can't just dismiss all of it.

If they let you eat there for free, I suspect you'd find that significant chunk of the population would consider it to be an acceptable trade.

Terms of service should not imply consent to a transaction: that is inherently a dishonest and exploitative method of running a business.

Also, the idea of paying to use a free service is an oxymoron. Google is not and has never been free, it is ad supported, and it has ruined the internet by normalizing this behavior.

well the whole 'product' is a net loss for humanity in long term and made the whole internet worse for everybody probably forever, so no tears shed for this a-hole

> Well, he did understand how to turn the customers data into a product. He is one of the key persons who formed the whole data economy thing; that's quite a big deal - he formulated the way of making money for the 21st century.

You keep repeating this as if it is somehow axiomatically good.

The surveillance capitalism business model is not one we should be proud of in any way.

I don't like it either (don't work for them) I was just trying to gain an understanding on what is going on.

But the internet forgets. I don't understand how could anybody cheer to him or the FB CEO. These guys are the menace of our age.

People can have nuanced views and don't always mean everything they say 100%.

> The guy represents every wrong with tech. Privacy for him, but none for thee.

That's hardly restricted to tech. It's pervasive with government officials.

He's also a co-author of Lex.


It's human nature to demonize folks.

> He's also a co-author of Lex.

Your point is?

> It's human nature to demonize folks.

Is that criticism of Schmidt or the parent comment? If Schmidt, he was not so much demonizing people as just not giving a shit about them.

And we hold our leaders to higher standards than the common man. In prior generations, our "elites" held themselves to higher standards as well. Not any longer, it seems. Regardless of how high you rise in society, as long as you can claim decent from the middle class, you hold yourself responsible for nothing outside of yourself and your in-group.

> Your point is?

Probably that the "everything wrong with tech" statement was a bit strong if I could speak for the person you responded to. I'm not sure I'd go as far to say he's "everything wrong with tech", would you? He's certainly done lots of good too, along with bad.

The comment was "he represents everything wrong with tech", not "everything he's ever done is wrong". There statements are not identical.

This is of course extremely subjective, and I have no knowledge of what Google was and is on the inside except for a short internship almost 10 years ago: I somehow always felt that Google with Eric Schmidt as a CEO was a much different Google than later on. Under Eric Schmidt, Google seemed like this extremely innovative company with the brightest minds in the industry. Afterwards, it seemed to instead grow into just another corporation.

Though maybe that's just what growth does in general.

EDIT: I singled out Larry Page before, but that's a bit skewed, given that he founded Google and was its CEO for the first few years.

The other big thing was Larry pushed social on the company without really understanding social as a product, and was absolutely unable to handle the huge negative response both internally and externally to that push. This all happened at the same time Microsoft and Amazon committed to Cloud (which Google has only tepidly adopted).

The one time I met with Schmidt to explain my cloud project, he was delighted and encouraging and helped shape the design in a way that made it much more effective. He was a very effective leader (although not everybody agrees- some people think he's an arrogant asshole).

I think Page had the right idea, because if you look nowadays at people under 30 for them the Internet is represented by social networks, be it Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or even Snapchat, the internet/web represented by the browser and by visiting different websites via Google is no longer that important. I think Page realized that if Google doesn't hop on the social train they'll end up looking from the outside at a flowering walled garden in which they will have almost no relevance.

I think they had a similar idea after Apple's iPhone started gaining traction, it's only that in the case of Android Google's execution was an order of magnitude better compared to what they did with Google+. I wouldn't put the blame for the failure of Google+ on Page only, I'd also assign it to Gundotra, after all he was the man directly in charge of it all, Page's fault is that he chose and supported the wrong man for the job.

None of G+ was Page's idea. There was a product manager (who left for facebook!) who did the big pitch deck that got it rolling. Then they put Vic Gundotra in charge and gave him carte blanche to modify multiple products. I agree that was the wrong person for the job. But you can't even imagine the amount of groupthink and ego that Vic surrounded himself with.

I don't think it was super-obvious 10 years ago, but social has turned out to be a growth product that led to a minefield for the successful companies (look at Twitter and Facebook now) because the growth strategies were so sketchy that people and the government ultimately had to reject them.

Ultimately, it's on Page, though. He stood up at TGIF and told all the player to "get along" when Search had made a coherent argument that coupling the Social brand with search was brand suicide. I think Google could have made a much less obnoxious social network, maybe it would have been good, but without aggressive growth strategies, it wouldn't have been popular (a lot changed since the Orkut days, most people forget Google had a social network with half a billion users at one point!)

> None of G+ was Page's idea. There was a product manager (who left for facebook!)

Didn't know that, it's cool to learn about it.

About Twitter and FB being on a minefield I agree, but I don't think that will lead to any serious consequences for them, because there's almost no political will to make things right and that happens because the voters themselves (those FB and Twitter users) have almost no interest in how those companies reached their present size. In the end any skilled politician can smell that there's no sense in going to war against a company (or against a communication medium) that consumes at least 3 or 4 hours per day, on average, of their voters' time, it's like a US politician going to war against television in the 1960s, backed when TV had just emerged, it would be public opinion suicide.

Retrospectively I still do think that Page had the right idea to try and force Social (back at that time I also thought it as a crazy idea), like I said, I think that he had sensed that Search will be of almost no use in a world where the internet/web is not represented by websites anymore. I do agree though that even as seen from the outside Page could have done a much better job of getting the Google employees behind him and behind his idea, I think that that wood and arrows metaphor he used was really, really poor and, frankly speaking, quite condescending.

Nah. Larry doesn't get a pass on this one. I was there at the time, and this (unlike, say, Cloud) clearly was one of "his" projects, something he pushed relentlessly and cared about a lot. That's why G+ was where you went if you wanted a quick and easy promo: you could launch a total embarrassing turd and just because Larry liked G+ that turd would be promotion worthy nevertheless.

Seeing the FB revenue figures today I can see why he cared, but I think he undermined the long term prospects of the company with this shit quite a bit, and distracted it from more valuable pursuits as well. That's all on him, not on Gundotra.

Google is not going to sell every g*damn email you ever sent for $$$, but Facebook will and does. So there was never as much profit there for Google as for Facebook because Google was run more ethically.

Never say never. Companies pretty routinely do surprisingly underhanded/unethical things once they begin to experience financial difficulties, if not on their own then under pressure from investors.

Wait, how does FB have my sent emails? I'd think sent emails were one of the few things they don't have access to

Did you miss the time that google was showing ads targeted based on the content of your emails?

The "trouble" with Orkut was the large majority of those users were outside the United States. Brazil and later India made up the majority.

Those eyeballs weren't worth as much to advertisers, and I don't think Google valued the product highly because of it.

> Those eyeballs weren't worth as much to intelligence agencies

Where on the 10-Q is revenue from intelligence agencies? I seemed to have missed that line.

The argument structure there 'a related to b related to c, therefore c works for a', isn't far from what they use on Ancient Aliens.

So, where's the actual profit? Or is this all mind control, friend-of-a-friend illuminati stuff that's assumed to make Google want to do this stuff?

You have a short attention span for a finance guy...

Argue the points, or don't bother addressing the writeup. Good grief.

Going ad-hominem now? What points? You posted URLs. Neither of the URLs showed a revenue stream to Google.

That was because you couldn't "sign up" for Orkut. You had to receive an invitation from someone who already has an account. Therefore it spread in regions where people knew one another, instead of spreading smoothly.

The reason why they kept it like that was because of the processing power that was needed to serve the pages. That was more than search. Every individual had to be served a different page. And computing at that time weren't as cheap.

Facebook was the first large practical social network among these where you can actually go and signup an account on your own when it was fully open. And they did it by heavily optimizing their code and hardware. That was a separate challenge, which seemed to me Google was unwilling to take for Orkut or anything social at that time.

That's what I felt was happening as an outsider.

>Facebook was the first social network where you can actually go and signup an account on your own.

That's doubly false :)

First, all social networks that preceded it (LiveJournal and MySpace were big amongst my peers) had open sign-ups.

Second, Facebook became popular because the sign-up was not open. You needed to have an .edu email address to sign up. This was a feature, as it kept parents and younger siblings off the networks. Having a FB account was a literal right of passage, something you can only get once you go to college. It spread because of that; those were the great days of FB.

Minor remark - LiveJournal had a closed invite (or pay to play) system for a few years, before doing open access again. :)

Indeed. But you get the point.

> Facebook was the first social network where you can actually go and signup an account on your own

Myspace, Friendster, Bebo…

And Hi5 - I remember kids using that before FB took over.

No way does a social network require more compute than searching the entire internet. That is ridiculous.

They cut Orkut because Brazilians aren't worth much in advertising. Plain and simple.

> Therefore it spread in regions where people knew one another, instead of spreading smoothly.

I laughed far harder than I should have.

They are beautiful regions. Have you had the chance to visit?

> Google could have made a much less obnoxious social network

Even today, I think YouTube has a great potential for becoming a better social network, than G+ ever was.

YouTube has been a bustling social network for years. Not everyone gets involved with the social part of it, but it's there.

Very interesting. Social media today is a much more refined offering than google+. Google feels like microsoft nowadays. It’s something for adults to get things done. Your personal stuff happens on DM’s, instagram, snapchat, tiktok... much more so for young people. Therefore keeping search and social separated was a good thing.

Reductio ad Microsoftium.

In some ways, ms is more progressive than the goog at the moment. Office 365 is pretty good imho. Win 10 feels flakey though.

That’s interesting. I think Google would have been better aiming for something closer to Twitter instead of trying to copy and mimic Facebook with Google+. Google’s core strength has been organizing information as a data first company versus facilating social connections.

The original pitch deck for G+ (https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-presentation-that-...) really laid out a compelling view for a social network that worked well for people who had multiple distinct subnetworks ad they didn't want to cross the streams. Personally I thought the presentation was brilliant and I was behind the general strategy until Vic took over and started to wield the plus-hammer.

That strategy is dumb because in practice people don't mind or prefer using distinct apps for each of their subnetworks; and when these networks start overlapping in the same app, they start posting less (Facebook's problem), creating multiple accounts ("finstas" on Instagram), or bifurcating their real friends to another app (Snapchat 3 years ago).

Hell the fact that Snapchat succeeded in growing a credible threat to Facebook with a fraction of the engineering and marketing resources as Google+ should tell you how wrong that strategy was...

Each of the networks grew initially by providing an insanely better experience specific to a subnetwork (FB for alumni networks, Insta for narcissistic hobby photographers with its filters, Snapchat for horny teens who want to send nude pics, or who want to be goofy with its funny face filters...)

There were a few niches where Google+ unintentionally ended up being successful, such as internal to enterprise, and for pro photographers who liked that pictures had an option to be hosted uncompressed. But the vision overall had poor market fit and would never have latched on to a dense enough subnetwork to succeed IMO.

> I think Google would have been better aiming for something closer to Twitter instead of trying to copy and mimic Facebook with Google+.

Google Buzz was closer to Twitter, and came and failed before G+ was a thing.


I for one would like to thank Larry for messing this up.

While current situation is far from perfect (looking at you Mark Z), I don't think having the Borg being the top dog on both Search and Social would have been a great thing at all.

You mean: "the top dog in search, online videos, web analytics, web ads, and social".

It could have been a bit worse. It could have been a lot better as well: google already has one of its fingers on about half the pages of the Internet.

Exactly, thank you for fixing my mistake.

Uncle G has already too much grasp on the web as it is.

Yes, but imagine what could have happened if Google had gone all-in on cloud instead of social in 2011. Instead of seeing some lackluster earnings from a still totally dominated-by-ads-revenue Google, we would have seen a roaring revenue engine fuelled by cloud growth. TBH that was really Google's market to win because they had all the infrastructure to do it in 2011, but didn't want to expand in cloud because it was perceived as low-profit-margin compared to ads.

"if you look nowadays at people under 30 for them the Internet is represented by social networks, be it Facebook"

I'm not under 30, and can't really say, but I've read frequently in the media that young people don't use Facebook. I use it to a limited extent, and I think everyone I know that uses it is 30-40ish.

Why did you cut off the quote there? OP also mentioned Instagram and WhatsApp. Most people under 30 are on Instagram.

Young people use it to interact with family. Their friends are all on other networks.

But Google completely failed at "hopping on the social train". Are they now irrelevant? It seems now that that "realization" was just wrong.

Yes, a Page fault.


> He was a very effective leader (although not everybody agrees- some people think he's an arrogant asshole).

Those two are not at all in conflict, they're orthogonal.

I'm sure Larry Page is a smart guy, and Page Rank was clever, but I'm not really sure there's any particular reason to believe he knows where any industry is moving. Schmidt could predict technology trends well, while Page seems to just throw acquisitions at a wall, see what sticks, then sunset anything that doesn't.

most of pagerank predates larry; several people were already looking at using centrality measures for page ranking before him. And I think Brin contributed a lot more of the math and theory than Page ever did.

Yeah, Sergey was better with numbers. Like that time when a PM was showing a new payment product on stage and he asked "was that your real credit card number?". She confirmed it was, to which he replied "Anyone could have memorized it... [starts reciting the digits, with the demo already at the next screen]".

Remember that Larry was CEO twice: 1998-2001 and 2011-2015. During the first period Google was exceptionally innovative. During the second, Google attempted to be exceptionally innovative but largely fell flat on its face.

I'd blame size and market position more. Google was left as one of very few profitable giants standing when the dot-com crash hit, and yet they were young enough to not have the institutional inertia of Amazon, E-bay, and Yahoo. That left them exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on the Internet's deployment phase, where the technology got good enough and widespread enough to really build huge businesses off it. They managed to own the next platform (mobile) but were too large, slow, and entrenched to really understand the implications of it, and they're not even attempting to play in the cryptoverse.

> they're not even attempting to play in the cryptoverse.

They aren't even attempting to play in snake oil or astrology either

Crypto is 99% woo, but the 1% is interesting. The interesting stuff isn't world-stompingly amazing, so it gets less press. I like the idea of someday being able to take pennies worth of payments from places where transaction fees alone at traditional payment processors represent a huge % of income. Bitcoin won't be the one to do it, but some of the coins that depend on something other than proof of work might.

At least I hope it's not Bitcoin. The power use is obscene.

Penny payments will never* be viable.

* Never say never. Basically I don't think it could possibly be viable because it would require the total cost of transaction to be less than pennies. That includes the shopkeepers time to manage the automated store, the electricity used in the transaction, and a bunch of other non zero components.

Hell even transactions with real pennies today are almost a net loss. We eradicated 5c coins in NZ because they cost something like 6c to make.

And to be clear I understand you mean micropayments in general and maybe it is something possible im just not yet convinced the electricity costs will allow it unless it's subsidized in an unsustainable way.

> We eradicated 5c coins in NZ because they cost something like 6c to make.

Why would that matter? A 5c coin is spent thousands, millions of times. Why would there need to be any connection at all between how much it costs to make the coin and the value that coin represents in a transaction?

I think it was actually the cost of the metal, i.e. the metal was worth more than the denoted value.

There were other reasons like inflation making 5c coins largely irrelevant (we also had 1, and 2c coins phased out years earlier) (also 1nzd=0.5usd at that time)

NZ has also been largely cashless for at least 20 years now. (Link below has some interesting info/graphs)


I think the only reason this happening was even a big deal at the time was because they replaced all coins at the same time with much smaller, lighter and cheaper versions. I.e. it wasn't a big deal at all but rather the swap over was.

If the extra cost is labor it's fine, but not if it's material cost. People have been know to melt down coins and sell the metal when the intrinsic value of the coin exceeds its face value. This practice is illegal most places, but avoiding the situation altogether is probably better!

Possibly the bullion value trending in such a way people might be tempted to start scrapping them in the foreseeable future :)

I'd say it's 80% woo, 1% of what you call interesting and 19% is solving real user problems with breaking the law. Mostly transactions that you can't depend on banks for - like buying drugs.

I think being able to make small transactions with low fees is a human economic problem, not a technical one. How would crypto do anything better or differently, other than the idea of "let's spend power on proof of work instead of trust" which you seem to dislike?

Transaction costs for small payments on Bitcoin are much higher than the 1.5% a credit card processor takes. Crypto has been nothing but dreams (and sadly lots of scams, as I had to personally witness)

> cryptoverse

What exactly is this and what business is doing well in it?

I assume this refers to cyptocurrency-related businesses. ICOs ('initial coin offerings') collected around $5.6 billion and most of them never delivered any real product: https://www.coinwire.com/ey-report-finds-most-2017-icos-fail...

One could argue that getting enormous amounts of money without needing to produce any results for it is the very definition of "doing well".

I hope there aren't too many people who define "doing well" that way. Seems like it would lead to a total breakdown of the social fabric.

I am assuming he is referring to cryptocurrencies & blockchain tech. There are plenty of businesses doing well but that's irrelevant. Waiting for established businesses in a growing space before jumping in isn't very innovative.

This is an interesting point: is it innovative to jump into any new thing regardless of its actual potential? You could claim that yes, it is. I would argue that it actually isn't. The key to innovation is to be able to correctly evaluate where there are real opportunities for innovative technologies. It's possible "the cryptoverse" will eventually show that it has such potential, but it has stubbornly refused to do that for the near decade that I've been paying attention to it, despite metric gob-tons of money and hype being thrown at it.

On the other hand, in the same time period (actually in a shorter time period!), machine learning driven technologies like voice and image recognition have gone from sci-fi to commonplace. I ask: which is more innovative?

Jumping into a new thing regardless of its potential is a necessary, not sufficient, component of innovation.

If you wait until it's obvious to everyone that something's a good idea, you're not being innovative, you're just an opportunist. Similarly, if it turns out that it's not actually a good idea, you're not being innovative, you've just wasted a whole lot of time.

Innovation happens at the intersection of contrarian & right. You have to be willing to stake your time, energy, and ego on an idea that many people believe is bad, impossible, or not worth it (otherwise it would've been done already), but you also have to be right in your judgment.

I'm confused by all the assumptions in this thread, including

1. That Google didn't research crypto internally and purposely decide not to pursue it.

2. That crypto is worth staking Google's time, energy, and ego on.

3. That crypto involvement is a direct reason a company is or is not innovative.

Hard lesson learned from a couple of research projects within Google and then again from my first couple years as an entrepreneur:

Internal research is useless.

The only way to know whether a new idea will work is to try it: put some minimal form of it in front of people and see if they actually get use it. People are complex; sometimes they do things that all rational thought says they shouldn't (buying Bitcoin and investing in ICOs would both fit into that category, IMHO), and many times they don't do things that all rational analysis says they should (I participated in research projects while at Google for both micropayments for content and for labeling trustworthy sources on the results, both of which most people would agree are good goals but neither of which has ever worked, and I founded a startup afterwards to provide career guidance to undergrads, which every adult we talked to said "I love what you're doing, and totally wish that existed when I was a student" and every student said "I love that idea and would totally use it", and then promptly never looked at it again once we built it.)

There's no guarantee that external research works either, but at least you've learned something applicable to the next idea.

> The only way to know whether a new idea will work is to try it: put some minimal form of it in front of people and see if they actually get use it.

And then get skewered left and right for shutting down products? You can't have it both ways.

Take a look at Google Reader, though. They got skewered for dumping that. But despite being shuttered years after RSS was a thing, even then it was limited to RSS wonks like a lot of us who were the only ones lamenting it (and the decline of RSS).

Fast forward to today and 10x to 1000x the number of us wonks are getting an overlapping amount of Reader's value (plus new value) from Twitter. The purging of Reader is a distant memory, but it doesn't mean it's necessarily bad to try a bunch of things and kill the non-viral losers (in a relative sense).

Exactly. I don't think Google is making the wrong choice, given their size and prominence. I do think that making the right choice means that they inevitably lose their ability to innovate, and hence miss out on the next technology choice.

> Internal research is useless.

> The only way to know whether a new idea will work is to try it: put some minimal form of it in front of people and see if they actually get use it.

And in the face of a universe of potential ideas how do you determine whether you invest time into prototyping pre-sneezed tissues? Internal research. You’ve just moved the goal post.

Who is making those assumptions? My comment assumed the opposite of #2 and #3.

Most people, not you :P

a) Opportunism is good business.

b) 'Wasting time' is a part of research. If you never fail, you're missing opportunities. That said, you pick your failures with the hope of getting the right kinds of wins... which brings us to...

c) Giant centralized cloud-based businesses have giant centralized and for-the-most-part trusted datastores. There's no reason to use a blockchain if a standard distributed database suits your needs. From where I sit, blockchains are mainly a solution in search of a problem.

(and just imagine the press cycles if a FAANG company rolled out a blockchain, and thus burnt god-knows how much coal bringing it mainstream...)

Yeah, I totally agree that for the sort of problems that Google or Amazon faces, blockchains are a terrible solution. There are well-known best practices for scalable distributed computing, and blockchains are not them.

I'm equally convinced - and I suspect I disagree with most HNers here - that there are also some problems for which blockchains are the only solution - they just don't work with centralized data stores, mostly because nobody would trust a single entity to manage that data store. Google isn't even looking for those problems. In general, Google does not look for problems, it takes problems that everybody knows about and looks for solutions. There are thousands of entrepreneurs in the cryptoverse who are looking for those problems.

There was a time, early in its history, where Google was willing to take a solution - download the web and keep only the links - and then find the problem (search) for which it was the solution. And then they leveraged that solution into all sorts of other problems - webmail, navigation & directions, news, academic papers, video, etc. But the thing is that this is a risky business: most solutions in search of a problem don't actually solve anything, so the time spent solving them is wasted.

It's just so hard to imagine, at least in the current version of the world, a problem for which a distributed trust algorithm is the right solution, instead of a centralized one, probably state-owned if high levels of trust are needed. This is especially true given the advantages that a trusted authority has over blind consensus (e.g. the ability to revert fraudulent transactions).

> that there are also some problems for which blockchains are the only solution

Name a single actual problem that is only solved by the blockchain.

The forces of capitalism and most existing forms of government are anathema to decentralization (inherent in the crypto-blockchain premise). The idealism of decentralization exists only until it meets the overwhelming real world gravity of money. At which point blockchain tech and crypto could only thrive if carried out by hand-calculated hashes on paper transported by motorcycle and carrier pigeon.

> and just imagine the press cycles if a FAANG company rolled out a blockchain

I'm not sure if you're being facetious, but assuming Amazon is a member of "FAANG": https://aws.amazon.com/managed-blockchain/. Does that count?

Which one is doing well? Which company has actually delivered something? And what is it?

The set of companies & foundations centered around blockchain, cryptocurrency, distributed ledgers, and related technologies. Coinbase, Binance, CoinMarketCap are doing great, Bitmain would be doing great except they made a terrible bet on Bitcoin Cash, a number of other organizations (VeChain, IOTA, Ripple, Stellar, Ethereum) are doing "we'll see", and still others (Bitfinex, Tether, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV) are imploding dramatically.

The whole space is a pile of scams the entire way down. As we are just now learning, tether, the "stablecoin" that makes up the backbone of the entire crypto economy was basically a fraud.

The tech has had 10 years and so far it has produced absolutely nothing of value. In fact considering the damage it has done to the environment, it has been only contributing negative value to the planet.

Looks like the only ones doing well are the traders.

Nah, it's the folks who sell shovels to the traders.

Just like every other gold rush in history. Fortunes get created, but often not for the folks who think they're going to get rich.

Cryptocurrencies. For example Coinbase is doing well—raised $300M on a $8B valuation: http://fortune.com/2018/10/30/coinbase-series-e-funding/

Google's market cap is 850B. The existence of some very successful companies in crypto does not mean that Google made a mistake by not jumping on that train.

Raising a bunch of money at a high valuation isn't enough to make a company "very successful" either.

Coinbase grew from zero to an $8B valuation in just over 6 years. If that isn't "very successful", what is? ;)

Getting to the point where you don't have to sell off parts of your company to get the cash to sustain your growth. Coinbase is certainly on a nice trajectory, but assuming your goal is to build a real business you haven't succeeded yet if you're still talking about your funding rounds rather than how much money you made last year.

They made a billion dollars in revenue in 2017 and about $520M in 2018, in the midst of a massive bear market. For a company whose primary product is software and doesn't need to worry about cost-of-goods-sold the way that sharing economy companies do. Supposedly they made $450M in profit. They're doing way better than Uber and Lyft are, which continue to lose money even after going public.

>they're not even attempting to play in the cryptoverse.

Which is a good thing considering how much of the population's life is already intertwined with and recorded by Google. I can't imagine anything more dystopian than a Google issued currency.

Google also grew to dominate the browser market during 2011-2015.

Through Chrome, which was started internally in 2006 and launched externally in 2008. Though that also was one of those projects where Larry sponsored a couple of talented engineers behind Eric's back and they put out something awesome.

Behind Eric's back? A company that has tens of thousands of employees and you think the co-founder would have to hide a small initial implementation of a project he believed in?

Absolutely. If it isn't hidden, the developers will have to deal with management, credit taking, metrics, attempts to squash the project, jealousy from other employees, unreasonable pressure (surely a browser can be written in 3 months ...) and being treated as a cost center.

All this would happen even if backed by Larry.

It is a miracle that new projects happen at all in companies, though Google of course actually bought many successful projects.

There's no way Google had tens of thousands of employees in 2006. Although it was probably large enough (between 5,000 and 10,000) that your point still stands.

Yes it is quite amazing how they have almost complete browser dominance and video content creation/hosting dominance as well as search dominance but are unable to come up with even a simple in browser tipping system to hedge against the downfall of their almost entirely ad based revenue.

> unable to come up with even a simple in browser tipping system to hedge against the downfall of their almost entirely ad based revenue

Google has launched multiple micropayment products as replacements for ads. Nobody uses them.

You're assuming that an "in browser tipping system" is a viable hedge to the also assumed downfall of their ad based revenue.

Well Patreon is proving to be somewhat successful, I don't see why something similar, or donation/tipping shouldn't be easy to incorporate.

Patreon launched in 2013 and estimates $1 billion in total payments to creators by the end of 2019. That averages out to $166M/year. Google reported $30 billion in ad revenue for Q1 2019, that's 6 years of Patreon transaction activity compressed into 3 days (or their entire 2019 activity of $500M in payments in less than 2 days).

Can you still extrapolate from this that the tipping model is even anywhere near a threat to Google's ad based business model that they should be incorporating it? And is it even an apples to apples comparison? Many creators don't use Patreon in spite of or to replace ads, they use it as a supplement.

Moreover, just because something is technically simple to integrate, doesn't automatically make it the correct business decision to do so.

First of all, I guarantee a native Youtube donation/subscription/tipping service would already have far more users than Patreon even does currently (see twitch.tv for a great model) due the enormous network effect Youtube already has. Second of all, $1 billion and growing rapidly for a third party service. Nearly every quality Youtube channel I am subscribed to has a patreon at this point, and I can only imagine it increasing as a percentage of income the content creator generates.

> Can you still extrapolate from this that the tipping model is even anywhere near a threat to Google's ad based business model that they should be incorporating it?

No, but we can extrapolate from twitch, and guess that it probably would be.

> Many creators don't use Patreon in spite of or to replace ads, they use it as a supplement.

Because it is a third party site, there is no such option. It would be trivial to incorporate an ad-free experience for donations/subscriptions similar to how twitch does.

>> native Youtube donation/subscription/tipping service

This exists, already competes with Twitch, and is part of an even bigger portfolio of media services from Google. You're arguing for Google to do something they have been doing for years.




Well I use YT nearly every day and didn't know you could become a member of a channel or what the benefits are. Guess it is just poorly marketed. My bad!

Its up to individual channel owners to enable it. If you don't know about it, that's probably because nobody you watch uses it.

Youtube is their content business division and already has tipping, superchat, subscriptions, ecommerce and premium channels. It also has ads and is highly profitable.

You're vastly overestimating what people will actually pay for and underestimating how big and critical the ads industry is.

Then they should just buy Patreon like they bought YouTube. Why risk failure if that’s actually a good hedge? A: It probably isn’t a good hedge because they know Patreon can’t even remotely scale to the size of the AdWords business. People just generally don’t want to pay much for content. Better would be leveraging subscriptions and then developing a money distribution process to support the content people will come for. I think they are trying with YouTube TV and Red.

There have been experiments that you probably didn't hear about. I liked the old version of Google Contributor, but apparently few others did.

Are you talking about contributor.google.com?

Corporations are not meant to disrupt themselves. It just doesn't happen.

Apple disrupted itself at least twice.

macOS are the Apple II series iPhone clobbered the iPod.

Both of those are examples of parallel product groups that eventually migrated one set to the other.

The Apple II product line lasted until 1992, by which point the Mac product line had become affordable to the people at which the apple 2 line had been marketed.

The iPod continued as the iPod classic and iPod touch products until 2015, nearly 10 years after the iPhone was released.

Netflix did.

So, a few years ago, someone mentioned something very similar, and I asked them to elaborate because I was curious.

This was their response: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14540332

It's well worth a read.

Google has been an ad company from the time they IPO’d until today when 85% of their revenue is still from ads.

From a business side, they really haven’t done too much.

> From a business side, they really haven’t done too much.

Myopic. They've greatly increased the eyeballs available to them through new products and business relationships

It’s been over 15 years and their net income was down year over year, their traffic acquisition costs were up and their margins were down.

The “eyeballs” they are creating are less valuable and are more expensive to acquire.

Isn’t that the same business plan of every startup? Get “eyeballs” and worry about profit later? What’s going to happen as more people start using ad blockers?

They are still just a one trick pony.

>> They are still just a one trick pony.

Nothing wrong with that when it got them to a trillion dollar valuation. And Google Cloud has the potential to be even bigger than their entire ad business.

Well “valuation” is just what the stock market thinks. Whether a business is sound is based on things like net income.

If “valuatoon” is all that counts, Uber is a successful company.

Google Cloud isn’t exactly capturing the hearts and minds of most companies compared to AWS and Azure.

Regarding Google Cloud, that may be true but 1) they took way too long to figure out what an opportunity it represents and 2) in terms of internal culture and external reputation they are not well suited to take advantage of the opportunity.

The former includes things like not being good at enterprise sales, the history of allowing employees to veto customers, and ADD induced by the wacky promotion system. The latter includes a legion of techies burned product shutdowns and abandonments that will never, ever believe that google really cares about back compat and long term support no matter what kind of contract language it puts out.

What's the evidence to any of that?

What's with the persistent narrative of google not being "just another company" and then (sadly?) becoming one? that's some fairytale nonsense.

There’s plenty of anecdata from the employees. When I first joined Google 9 years ago I was terrified of not being as good to google as google was to me. I bled the google colors.

The last time someone asked me what it’s like to work there, I said “it’s just a job” on instinct.

There is nothing wrong with being "just a job", it most likely always was, the rest was just in your head.

It's better for the company to help the delusional embrace the "it's just a job" mentality ASAP so that they and the rest of us might be spared the weekly public hissy fit.

I worked at Novell while Eric Schmidt was the CEO. I thought he was a great leader and enjoyed working at Novell while he lead the company; in spite of the fact that my direct boss was an oversized tube of ass paste.

I liked Google as a company a lot better during Schmidt's tenure as well. Best of luck to him in his next role.

The growth phase at Google when Eric was A CEO was very different than later when Larry took the helm.

Had nothing to do with Schmidt, it was all timing. Google was young, new & hungry. Conquering and not defending. Google is grown in a new phase, relaxed and now having to play defense to all the new unicorns wanting a piece of her pie.

Larry hasn't been the Google CEO for some time now. I do think the company got caught up in incremental goals and internal PC struggles during Sundar's time, making it feel like yet another large company rather than a powerful disruptor it used to be.

> internal PC struggles

There's plenty of reasons for why they started taking place, that have nothing to do with who is CEO. Societal expectations have changed, formerly unpopular ideas gained both a voice, and mindshare, and Google's influence over the Internet has grown - and with it, expectations that that influence should be wielded responsibly.

Intelligent people strongly disagree as to what 'responsibly' means in this context.

Do you think Oracle encourages the sort of open internal debate culture that precipitated that well-known incident?

The responsibility for corporate culture is ultimately with the CEO and the board.

Do you think Google would have attracted the talent it did with a culture like oracle's?

Just because a CEO decision has consequences doesn't mean it isn't ultimately up to the CEO or the board. Making executive decisions that involve trade-offs is their entire job.

Good riddance. Among other problems, Schmidt was one of the organizers of the "no poaching" scandals:


He also wrote this, to make it clear that he knew he was doing wrong: [let's share this with competitors] "verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?"

To me, the big story is not so much that he attempted it, or that he tried to cover it up, or that he got busted doing something totally illegal, or that he was never prosecuted criminally, or that the judge threw out the initial settlement for being hilariously low, or that the revised settlement was still a small fraction of the billions estimated that the conspirators cheated away from staff...

It is that all of this happened, was well documented and publicly reported... and Google’s board did absolutely nothing. He continued in high ranking positions there for another ~decade. They sent a clear message that they find this sort of criminal conspiracy to be A-OK, nothing worth firing the guy over, or indeed reprimanding him in any meaningful way whatsoever.

To me that’s a bigger story than the Andy Rubin thing.

Obviously it was A-OK. Nothing bad seemed to happen, stocks are up from that time period.

If you can start a company that breaks the law, the only punishment is a $0 fine, your competitors don't do it, and doing it brings you large financial rewards, many would do it 10/10 times.

"No poaching" is underselling it. It was wage fixing plain and simple.

He was also the one who, with a straight face, said "if you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to fear" in response to widespread surveillance. Of course, he would not then open himself up to any scrutiny.

That's not what he said at all, even remotely. He said "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place" and that was largely in the context that no matter what Google does, the American government can come in and take any information they want that is stored on Google's servers with very little recourse.

I am surprised that the Feds didn't go after them or take an interest.

They did. And they were found guilty. This was widely reported years ago.

That wasn't just him, it was the whole valley.

It wasn't the whole valley, it was specifically Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel. Absent were Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Microsoft.

Okay - good riddance to him and the rest of the valley :-)

"After over 18 years on the Board, Eric Schmidt is not seeking re-election at the expiration of his current term on June 19, 2019. He will continue as a technical advisor to Alphabet. Eric has served as a member of the Board since March 2001. He was Google’s Chief Executive Officer from July 2001 to April 2011, and its Executive Chairman from April 2011 until January 2018."

From the press release: https://abc.xyz/investor/news/releases/2019/0430/

I'll remember Eric Schmidt for sabotaging XMPP progress by saying something along the lines of "no one wants to support IM federation, so we should follow suit" and killing off Google Talk (which caused me to lose most of my IM contacts at that time).

About that - Facebook was leaching off Google's network graph by allowing cross-platform chats (initiated from Fb), but Google couldn't access Fb users from GTalk. IMO, it's a perfectly reasonable response in terms of game theory; the best course of action when the other party defects in a Prisoner's Dilemma scenario is to also defect.

If FB was a problem, Google could ban FB, and allow federation with those who federate back. They didn't and instead killed the whole thing.

It was a pretty bad response in the terms of actually fixing the messed up IM situation. It only made it worse, basically axing XMPP adoption. Game theory doesn't advise doing that. Compare it to one ally defecting. Others defecting in response (instead of looking for more allies) means losing the whole campaign right away, which is exactly what happened.

I don't use XMPP at all today and naturally none of my IM contacts are from Google or FB. Good thing something like Matrix is gaining traction. But I have little respect for Google today because of the above.

I'm starting to read "When Google Met WikiLeaks" by Assange. In this book Schmidt is the villain. It will be nice to match Assange's point of view with all the eulogies that we will read about Schmidt now.

BTW, here is an excerpt of the book: https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/

Schmidt's involvement with US's politics is strange, especially for the business leader: he met with Assange, he went to North Korea.

There was a hilarious moment at the company meeting when rank-and-file learned from the news that Eric and Larry met with Trump. Somebody demanded explanation, as if it is something strange that business leaders meet with the president. Sundar mumbled something like "yes, I didn't know they are going to meet, but this was a single meeting and many business leaders attended...". Eric rushed on stage and said "To clarify: I met with President Trump more than once, bla bla".

It's probably strange more due to his strong relationship with Obama and those campaigns. It's exactly the sort of thing you don't want to see in that sort of dominant company.

He doesn't come off very well in "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" either.

edit: as guessed, I got down voted for an Obama reference. Here's a quote from the book:

"First, Google demonstrated that the same predictive knowledge derived from behavioral surplus that had made the surveillance capitalists wealthy could also help candidates win elections. To make the point, Google was ready to apply its magic to the red-hot core of twenty-first-century campaigning, beginning with the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. Schmidt had a leading role in organizing teams and guiding the implementation of cutting-edge data strategies that would eclipse the traditional political arts with the science of behavioral prediction"

Schmidt is like Bloomberg. They aspired to geopolitical power as their ambition exceeded what was available in the business world. Bloomberg had the weird twist of trying to buy his way into British royalty, while Schmidt wants to be "in the room where it happens" from USA to North Korea.

Some of those leaked videos of the Google team discussing politics with their top management at one of those meetings, are disturbing.

Link or it doesn't exist

Ironically, one google search away: there is a surreal leaked video of company-wide meeting after Trump Election:


Google's response: "Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products."

Which of course is not true, as was ironically demonstrated on the same meeting pre-election, when instant answer cards in search results were popping up for Hilary queries, but not for Trump queries.

Schmidt is a defense establishment insider, since, at least, his time at Sun. Having just finished Trillion Dollar Coach I can reaffirm that I am no fan of Schmidt as pop business book guy. But he's less wrong than Assange.

Does anyone inside Google care to share how Eric is perceived among fellow engineers?. From the outside, it seems many of the great innovations came when he wS CEO and Larry + Sergey were building the company culture.

I was there for both the end of the Eric era and the beginning of the second Larry era. I liked Eric - he was an engineer at heart, but he also was effective at making decisions, listened well, and was able to defer to subordinates when they had better ideas. Much of Google's strength came because he tolerated Larry & Sergey running around sponsoring talented engineering teams to work on crazy projects without his knowledge, which must've been challenging as a leader but was ultimately a great thing for Google.

I left Google years ago and have a few crazy stories about Eric, but it might be still too early for some of them.

He was very approachable and understood well the technology that we were building. Most of my colleagues seemed to like him, too. He wasn't the money guy at the top of the org chart that doesn't understand his own products. That was even clearer when I talked to him in person once, after a company-wide meeting. He wasn't in a rush to get away from us plebeians, either.

Someone next to me made a comment about surveillance and he replied along the lines of "You know, I grew up in the Hoover days", explaining that he had seen the potential for abuse of power or personal information since a young age and that he held that as something to keep in mind or avoid when making strategic decisions.

I found Eric extremely impressive as a CEO. He always spoke with eloquence and charisma and generally seemed to have the answers and explanations when pressed.

Hard to compare Eric and Larry as CEOs because they both led at very different times in the company’s history, each with their own unique set of challenges.

it's kind of a bimodal distribution. many engineers hated him with a passion but then they would learn he wrote lex and set up early networks at Berkeley and kind of come around to the idea that he was a very successful technobusinessman who confronted Microsoft repeatedly.

> he wrote lex

Wow, didn't expect that. I used it back in my uni days for a compiler project.

Eric was great. I always watched his town hall live streams. He's incredibly charismatic and always offered a lot of detail about his thinking.

I greatly miss his leadership. There was a sense that he knew how to steer the ship.

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