US: Google exec sees Internet potential

Speaking in Taipei, Google's Greater China executive highlights "rich content, lifestyle and platformization" as development focus for 2008

China Post
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

By Brian Asmus

Kai-fu Lee, vice president and president of Greater China, Engineering and Public Affairs at Google, spoke on development of the Internet and business opportunities to the American Chamber of Commerce's Telecom and Media Committee yesterday, at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei Hotel.

Google has become the No. 1 brand (as ranked by Brandz) -- incredible given its relatively short history -- and it is also deemed to be No. 1 when it comes to employment opportunities.

The company, said Lee, makes its money through advertising. "We do not design ads; we bring advertising concepts to the user." This may involve placing ads for vegetarian restaurants or food items in a box to the right of the results of any such search. Google is paid only when someone clicks on one of the ads. This is much more effective in that ads are presented only to customers who are interested in certain products and services, while charges come only from customers who demonstrate an interest to purchase.

According to Lee, in 2008, Internet development will focus on three key areas, namely, rich content, lifestyle and platformization. Previously, he said, Google searches involved text. "Now, we link to video, images and news."

The company's universal search, he said, would provide the following results for a new national theater: news, a map to get there, the home page of the theater and any images. More specific queries would lead to, perhaps, news dropping in prominence on the result display with performance schedules on the home page moving up. It will also be possible to search by date and time, not just subject.

Technically, providing universal searches is quite difficult, said Lee. It is going to take a while, therefore, for Google to hone its skills and improve upon its service offering. "This is not going to happen overnight," he cautioned.

The company is also working on enabling cross-lingual searches. Maybe a customer is looking for discounted Disney tickets, posited Lee. The search engine will find information in other languages, providing it in the user's language, albeit imperfectly, as well as the original. "We are still working on making this better. We hope that, by this time next year, customers will expect this for every Google search."

Looking at lifestyle, Google wants to make information on food, friends, going out, bars, pubs and movies available. "People will be able to conduct searches on restaurants and bars, but within a two-mile radius of their hotel or office," said Lee. This will very useful for real estate agents selling homes or renting apartments.

Another focus will be real-time collaboration and empowerment of the individual user. "Google has backed the open-document format to allow 10 different people in 10 different departments to work on the same document with all changes merged and kept up-to-date."

Finally, in terms of platformization, users will be able to customize the kind of content that they want to receive to a far greater degree. This might mean getting headline stories from the New York Times, business news from the Wall Street Journal's financial page, entertainment information from USA Today and sports information from ESPN.

Users will be able to simply drag and drop whatever they like. "An open platform will allow people to look at the Web through different lenses," said Lee. This will be of particular interest to members of online communities, such as MySpace and YouTube. The key challenges, pointed out Lee, are cost of needed operating systems, ease of development and access to source code.