Web Site Expert巻頭レポート(英語)

Where is Google Going?

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In the Crosshairs

As Google has grown, it has become the nail sticking out that, to some extent, is getting pounded down. The company⁠s mistakes are amplified, and its strategic moves are magnified. Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette recognized this state of affairs when he told a financial conference gathering: "We shouldn't pretend we're not a big company." In other words, part of where Google is going is where Microsoft has been?in the crosshairs of government scrutiny.

That will be especially true in Google⁠s core area of online advertising. While Google has made more than 60 acquisitions since its founding, its agreement to acquire AdMob, a provider of mobile phone advertising, has gotten the attention of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Google has characterized the deal as comparable to those made by its competitors, and claims that in the mobile space, no single ad network prevails. AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple may not agree.

Google is also starting to feel the same kind of regulatory heat as Microsoft from the European Union regarding complaints from competing search companies. Google and the Chinese government have clashed over China⁠s Internet censorship policies. Google first said it would abide by the policies, arguing that some Internet search was better than none in a country notable for trying to stop the free flow of information. But after attacks on Google servers and some Gmail account holders that appear to have originated at Chinese universities with government connections, Google reversed itself. At this writing, the issue is still unresolved.

Google⁠s size has also raised privacy concerns. Author Ken Auletta spent a couple of years reporting on the company, including frequent visits to the Google campus, researching his book, Googled: The End of the World As We Know It. He came away with a combination of admiration for the company⁠s innovation coupled with a fear that too much of this innovation is coming from a single company. Microsoft, he said in a radio interview, is run by cold businessmen. Google is run by cold engineers. ⁠Brilliant engineers are at the core of the success of a company like Google,⁠⁠ he wrote in his introduction. ⁠Drill down, as this book attempts to, and you'll see that engineering is a potent tool to deliver worthwhile efficiencies, and disruption as well. Google takes seriously its motto, ⁠Don't be evil.⁠⁠ But because we're dealing with humans not algorithms, intent sometimes matters less than effect. A company that questions everything and believes in acting without asking for permission has succeeded like few companies before.”

Auletta⁠s fear is that in making the Web more attuned to a user⁠s preferences, Google has amassed a lot of information on the people who use its services. If you are logged onto the service, the company ⁠knows⁠⁠ what you search for. If you use Gmail, Google ⁠knows⁠⁠ the contents of your email, using that contents to serve you related ads. If you use Google Docs, the company is keeping potentially sensitive information on its servers. If you use Google Reader, it knows something about your online reading habits. Having all that data under Google⁠s control means you have to trust the company. While Google does not appear to have violated any of these trusts, the company did get seriously dinged for its Google Buzz?by automatically defining a person⁠s social network on the basis of email activity. That⁠s a large and obvious mistake that might have been caught through a slower rollout of the service.

In another sphere, the European Union, as well as a group of Japanese scientists and lawyers, has become concerned over Google Street View?which gives a street-eye-view of streets and highways from images taken by cars mounted with a camera. Along the way, the pictures become a record, through faces and license plates, of where people were on some random day. ⁠We strongly suspect that what Google has been doing deeply violates a basic right that humans have," said Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of constitutional law at Sophia University in Tokyo, in a Reuters interview. "It is necessary to warn society that an IT giant is openly violating privacy rights, which are important rights that the citizens have, through this service."

Whether posting images of public places is truly a privacy violation remains to be settled. The company credibly argues that it has a lot to lose should it ever violate the trust people have put in it. But Auletta is right to say we should be paying critical attention to Google, even as we largely admire what it has accomplished and where it is going.

Sidebar: How Google makes money

Publically traded companies that don⁠t have a good use for their extra cash will give some of it back to stockholders in the form of dividends. Google doesn⁠t do that and doesn⁠t expect to. It invests its surplus can into long term projects, including some $5.7 million in outside research grants announced last February. Google has invested in clean energy initiatives. It plans to test and build an experimental fiber network capable of delivering 100 gigabit per second speeds. The cost of scanning all those books has no obvious immediate payback. Wall Street is often accused of focusing on short-term gains, but Google management is clearly thinking beyond the next quarterly earnings statement.

But something has to fund these research projects, let alone the many services it offers. Where do those funds come from? How does Google amass its $24.5 billion in cash and equivalents as of the end of 2009? Despite all Google⁠s technologies and initiatives, the answer is surprisingly simple. Google is primarily in the online advertising business. That business has two primary services. AdWords brings in revenue through companies bidding to be listed on the Google search page along with the ⁠organic⁠⁠ search results. AdSense is an ad-serving technology that lets websites run Google-served advertising and share in the revenues.

Advertising revenues made up 99% of the Google⁠s revenues in 2007; 97 percent in 2008 and 2009. AdWords accounted for roughly two-thirds of that, AdSense the remainder.


Bart Eisenberg

Bart Eisenberg's articles on the trends and technologies of the American computer industry have appeared in Gijutsu-Hyoron publications since the late 1980s. He has covered and consulted for both startups and the major corporations that make up the Silicon Valley. A native of Los Angeles and a self-confessed gadget freak, he lives with his wife Susan in Marin County, north of San Francisco. When not there, he can sometimes be found hiking with a GPS in the Sierra, traveling in India, driving his Toyota subcompact down the California coast, or on the streets of New York and Tokyo.


1980年代後半より,『Software Design』や『Web Site Expert』などの雑誌に,アメリカのコンピュータ業界のトレンドと技術に関するレポートを執筆しています。シリコンバレーで,スタートアップ企業から大企業まで幅広い分野でコンサルタントを務めました。

ロサンゼルス生まれで,自称ガジェットフリークです.現在,妻のSusanとともに,サンフランシスコ北部のMarin County在住。また,SierraのGPSを携えてハイキングしたり,インドを旅したり,カリフォルニア海岸をドライブしたり,NYや東京の街中を歩いたりしています。