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'Mobiles will be the first introduction to the internet for an awful lot of people' : Vinton G Serf - Google’s vice president and chief internet evangelist

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Google’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton G Serf is regarded as one of the fathers of the internet. While in Bangalore, he shared his views, Google’s objectives and the future of the internet, with Indiantelevision.com's Tarachand Wanvari.

Excerpts:

IPR issues – You say that Google would like to make information available everywhere globally. Recently a Belgian court passed a ruling against Google over copyright. Google has been accused of dragging its feet in bringing in technology to take care of IP rights and help fight piracy. What does Google propose to do now on this issue?



First of all, I’d like to point out that Google does not preview the content and we don’t claim any ownership or anything like that. Our intent is to make people aware of content which is already on the network. There are issues arising when someone who pulls copyright material and someone else has put that material improperly on the network. Google is unaware of any of the copyright claims when that information shows up on the net, it was there.

Our package is very much like the package that was established in the US called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The US DRM is not as good as the framework in the EU.



Actually, there is some tension in here between the piracy laws and the copyright laws and there is uncertainty as to how that is going to be resolved. The European Commission is trying to figure out how to adapt their intellectual property and content protection laws to match the US DRM laws.

Google earth has run into several problems with regards to security. Lot of concerns have been raised about sensitive locations being viewed easily. What do you propose to do about this?



Our policy is that whenever we have an issue arising with the national authorities, we take it away. We do understand their problems, and in fact there are any number of images that have been adapted. But I do need to point out to you that the data that we are using is not ours, typically it is available for free like the Nasa Landsat. Anyone could have access to it, and so removing it from Google Earth does not necessarily solve the problem, because the imagery is there. It’s also commercially accessible, in other words if you wanted that information, particularly if someone deliberately wanted the security overhead in order to mount an attack, if they have a coherent capability to attack, they probably also may have the ability to purchase this information quite independent from Google. So the problem is more complex than taking things out of Google Earth. The problem is that a lot of the overhead imagery is widely accessible. Period.

I actually do not know of the specifics of the issues here in India, I can say that for some US installations we have removed or replaced information with less resolution or in some cases actually wiped out – like the White House for example, you can’t see the roof, it’s simply been covered up digitally. So those are things where actions have been taken.

We face this all the time with regards to content that is indexed in different parts of the world you’ll find governments with different views, usually the Chinese example, the one everyone brings up, but I want to mention that there are other places. For example in France and Germany, it is illegal to profit form Nazi war memorabilia, and so it is considered illegal literally to put up images of these materials. So we have to consciously remove them form the google.de and the google.fr index. We understand that and we try to work with governments.

The way mobile penetration is going on compared to laptops and desktops, do you see the internet more as a virtual net?



In some ways yes. I think that we’re going to see expansion in all directions 802.11, Wifi, as opposed to physical networking technology. Lots and lots of mobiles which I think will be the first introduction to the internet for an awful lot of people in the world. Their first opportunity to interact with the internet may be on a mobile device.

'The ability to respond to an individual interaction, and to produce relevant advertising material in these different media is very important for us to consider'

As evangelist at Google, is it right for Google to acquire companies like Youtube, etc. Basically your core competency lies in developing search engines, aren’t you moving away from those core competencies?



I disagree that we are going away from our core competencies. First of all, we acquire a lot of companies, because their technology we think is helpful. It’s true that our primary business is search and we have never lost track of that. But remember what’s driving the company right now is advertising, because advertising is how we pay for everything. And so you have to remember that the core of the business is revenue generation through target advertising. And we are very interested in all the mediums, not just the online internet, which has turned out to be wonderful for us. But that doesn’t mean that the other advertisement mediums should be ignored. They are still quite valuable.

Youtube and Google video are media and so is radio. So we have been experimenting with video advertising, with audio advertising and with print advertising. Using similar kinds of techniques, the thing which is probably the most critical is the ability to produce an intervention in real time as opposed to the traditional thing where you produce a video advertisement which is a part of a television show actually prepared months or weeks ahead. The ability to respond to an individual interaction and to produce relevant advertising material in these different media is very important for us to consider.

Could you speak on Web 2.0 and Web 3.0?



I actually think those are two marketing terms and I sort of reject them out of hand as being overly simple. I do think however that the web as we know it with xml and html and so on has created an infrastructure layer on top of which you can now do things and so to the extent that there is a Web 2.0, maybe it uses web services and Service Oriented Architecture, it’s still very nascent, still very infantile. Long ways to go before we see it grabbing hold. I even chatted with Infosys this morning abut that and we have a similar view that it is still very much in its infancy.

But, the concept is very compelling that you could standardize interaction. I hope we do it right this time. We tried once before in 1980, we called it the Webtronic Data Interchange and it didn’t work out because it was too vertical. So I sort of don’t like the terms Web 2.0 and Web 3.0., the thought behind them is standardizing of exchanges creating a layer of infrastructure that everyone can use and build on.

How much is your India R & D center involved in solving these issues and challenges?



In very obvious terms, we have a large number of Indian researchers and engineers at Google working very hard on many of these problems. So it’s a direct contribution at least to Google.

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