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March 27, 2008

A Letter from Larry Page

Tech~Surf~Blog posts a letter from Larry Page included in Google's Annual Report for 2007. Some interesting excerpts with my emphasis:
Search is a really hard problem. To do a perfect job, you would need to understand all the world's information, and the precise meaning of every query. With all that understanding, you would then have to produce the perfect answer instantly. We are making significant progress, but remain a long way from perfection. We're so serious about improving search that more than a third of our people are working on it. (...)

Sometimes you don't get a good answer to a search because the information simply isn't available on the web. So we are working hard to encourage ecosystems that can generate more content from more authors and creators. For example, we recently announced an early version of a tool called "knol" to help people generate and organize more high-quality authored content. (...)

Advertising is even harder than search. Not only do you have to find the right ad for every situation, but you have to handle paying customers! We have developed very sophisticated advertising systems designed to benefit both users and advertisers. For users, we strive to produce relevant advertising as good as the main content or search results. For advertisers, we provide tools to target and tune their advertising and accurately measure the results of their spending. (...)

We are still keeping to our long-standing plan of devoting 70% of our resources to search and advertising. We debate where we should classify our Apps (Gmail, Docs, etc.) products, but they currently fall into the 20% of resources we devote to related businesses. We use the remaining 10% of our resources on areas that are farther afield but have huge potential, such as Android. We strongly believe that allocating modest resources to new areas is crucial to continuing to innovate. This 10% of our resources generates a tremendous amount of interest and press, precisely because these projects are different and new. Often, we find small teams of only a few people suddenly command huge attention worldwide. That's useful to keep in mind as you read about Google-the vast majority of our resources are working on our core businesses: search and advertising. (...)

We have made tremendous strides in our web applications. I am writing this using Google Docs. I don't have to worry that my computer hard drive might fail and lose my work, because it is automatically being saved into the Google network cloud. (...) We've started the next phase in productivity software. That phase is about working with everyone seamlessly and effortlessly. Our goal is fast, easy access to create or share from any computer in the world. No futzing with software required. Just open your browser. (...)

While almost all of our effort is focused on important improvements to core search and advertising, the small percentage left over is producing a lot of important innovation and even more notice from the world.

It's interesting to notice that Google is still mostly about search and ads, while the other efforts try to encourage creating more content that should improve the search results in the future. Larry Page says that "systems that facilitate high-quality content creation and editing are crucial for the Internet's continued growth", so this is one of the explanations why Google bought Blogger, YouTube or Writely.

{ via Feld Thoughts }


  1. Google started as a search engine and does the job better than ANYONE else. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!!
    You can bet the other 30% of googles
    resources will be JUST as good as what they have done with search.
    Google RULES!!

  2. I never heard that justification for Knol before - "Sometimes you don't get a good answer to a search because the information simply isn't available on the web."


  3. Why do you think it's laughable? Most of the world's information is not available on the web, which is a recent invention (19 years old). You'll find a lot more reliable information in books, scientific papers, lectures, but the problem is that they're not available online.

    Here's the first paragraph from the post that introduced Knol:

    "The web contains an enormous amount of information, and Google has helped to make that information more easily accessible by providing pretty good search facilities. But not everything is written nor is everything well organized to make it easily discoverable. There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it. We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that. The challenge posed to us by Larry, Sergey and Eric was to find a way to help people share their knowledge. This is our main goal."

  4. I had missed that announcement. However, arguing that Knol will bring a lot of missing information to the web is not honest. They seem to intentionally ignore Wikipedia altogether.

    Insomnia is definitely not a good example:

  5. Google is still alocating so much resources to search because they know they are not finished with it. Yes, it's the best search we use, but the story is not over. Not only that search can be improved but there is a huge field behind it. Structuring those dbases will turn out as a huge advance once they start messing with AI's and other stuff that is in that 10%.

  6. Till now, Google has really done a great job, I won't say best as everything is always more attunable & can be imporved upon..

    as regards to knol, yes, Internet does not provide good answers to all questions & lot of its content is also questionable. Internet was never developed as a means to store correct information. it only stores data, how to process it, what to derieve from it, is anybody's prerogative.

    While justifying knol, nobody says that it will generate lot of missing information, but yes, it does make a honest try to gather that information. Some people who criticise it, do not undertand that a honest try is important & mere critical approach does not solve problems rather aggravates it...

  7. The way that Google is ignoring Wikipedia and it's content to build Knol is really worrying.

    Google should support Wikipedia like initiatives.

  8. The virtue of Wikipedia is also its weak point. Anyone can write, edit, change items. Even if an article is completely wrong, it takes time for someone - someone knowledgable - to identify and correct or delete it. Knol simply proposes to be a site where content is more reliable because it is provided by people who are recognized experts in their fields.

  9. You may agree that there's not single silver bullet for making info and knowledge available online. However, before evaluating solutions, we need to be aware the differences between data, information, knowledge, and intelligence.

    Regarding to "Google ignoring Wikipedia", I think this is 2 folds:
    1. The entries of Wikipedia can easily appear in the first page of Google search result. So, as least Google engine does not ignore Wikipedia even the algorithm does not give Wikipedia higher factor than other source, because Wikipedia entries generally have well enough inbound link and the quality of the content is well enough for search engine (not necessarily for human readers directly).

    2. Whether Google should acquire Wikipedia or donate a large sum of money is pretty large subject. I don't think Google has intention to beat Wikipedia.

  10. Knol and Wikipedia are two different projects. We need both. As stated, Wikipedia has the same spot as its best and its weakest. It's all good if one knows that. It can be listed at the top of the Google search results, that is the effect of our linking to it. Once again, Wikipedia's rating is our responsibility.