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Google Almost Sounded Humble At Its Press Day Event

From its need to communicate better with business partners and the press to its need for internal controls, Google's acknowledging it needs to change its ways.
The refrain of the techno music blaring at Google's second annual "Press Day" last week asked, "Are you ready for love?" Google clearly is.

Google's success depends increasingly on business partners extending the Google search platform into high-value markets, so it has realized it must keep partners better informed. That helps explain its vow last week to be more transparent with partners and the press and its release of several new search-related products that allow for more open interaction with the Google community.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt emphasized that the company's business will continue to center on search, and all four new products try to enhance the search ex- perience. "We have a heavy, heavy investment in new search algorithms," Schmidt says.

Schmidt: Your humble servant

Schmidt: Your humble servant

Photo by Kimberly White/Reuters
Of the new tools, Google Co-Op is the one with the greatest business appeal, since it is Google's response to search tools tailored to an industry or specialized field. Individuals or companies can label or categorize Web pages and make those labels available as a subscription. Subscribers get the labels and associated links added to search queries when relevant. Essentially, it lets people syndicate their knowledge to improve others' search results.

For example, a tech consultant could contribute labels in an area of expertise to establish a group of pages that are particularly noteworthy. Clients could subscribe to those labels and see links added to relevant queries that offer a categorized subset of results. Google's answer to vertical, or category-specific, search engines is the wisdom of its users.

It's particularly noteworthy because collective intelligence is the basis for Google's most successful technology, the PageRank algorithm that counts Web links as votes that help determine how high a Web page ranks. But the opportunity for manual user involvement is a departure from the automated systems Google tends to prefer as a means of operating at scale.

However, the tool that may scare IT teams most is Google Gadgets, since it invites people to download small applications that live on users' desktops or inside Google's Desktop environment. They're Google's answer to Apple Computer's Dashboard widgets.

Out Of The Browser, Onto The Desktop

For Apple and Microsoft, Gadgets must be a troubling development. It's one more type of program those companies would sell in their operating systems that Google offers for free. These programs also have open APIs on which developers can build. And just as creates book recommendations based on shoppers' purchase history, Google plans to leverage the knowledge it gains about users to pitch programs that dovetail with their interests.

Google's commitment to openness also is on display with Google Trends. This will let someone check how a search term ranks across the Web and by regions or language. So marketers who launch products they consider buzzworthy can see if and where they spark Web searches. Google Notebook, which should be available next week, is a scratch pad application that lets people store and share URLs and data copied from Web pages. It's really more of a re-imagining of how browser bookmarks should work.

Schmidt also suggested that Google needs to improve its internal management processes, such as integrating new employees into the company more efficiently and making more timely new product decisions.

Of course, the day wasn't all humility and openness. Alan Eustace, senior VP of engineering, claimed Google's index of Web pages is three times as big as the nearest competitor. Yet even when Schmidt said he sees no limits to the growth of Google's model, he appended some caution: "I'm sure there are limits, but we don't see them today." For a company growing like Google, that's downright humble.