Google's Marissa Mayer and The Economist's Vijay Vaitheeswaran
How do we see the world?
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THE ASPEN INSTITUTE
ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL 2012
HOW DO WE SEE THE WORLD?
Paepcke Auditorium, 1000 N. Third St. Aspen, Colorado
Monday, July 2, 2012
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
MARISSA MAYER Vice President of Location and Local Services at Google
VIJAY VAITHEESWARAN China Business and Finance Editor at The Economist Author of Need, Speed, and Greed
(2:40 p.m.) MR. VAITHEESWARAN: I'm Vijay Vaitheeswaran. I am a correspondent at The Economist, and author of a book on innovation called Need, Speed, and Greed, available at good book stores near you, including the one that's about
10 feet away by the way. It's my great pleasure and honor to be your host for a conversation with one of the most interesting people around.
Marissa is a senior figure at Google. She joined there in 1999. If I'm not mistaken you were in the first 20 employees. She is engineer with a specialty in artificial intelligence by background from Stanford, but has held some important jobs at Google and continues to. And we're going to talk about both what she's doing now, but also perhaps a little bit of how Google sees the world more broadly than the maps that all of us are used to, how Google maps the world conceptually as well.
Maybe we can start with a vision for the future. For many years your job involved search and user experience, Marissa. How much better can search get? Where do we go from here?
MS. MAYER: Oh, I think that search is just getting started.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: How do you figure it?
MS. MAYER: So I think that today there's an expectation, and Google and other search engines are great at taking keywords and bringing back relevant content. But I actually think there's going to be a real change and we're already starting to see it along a couple of really important axes.
One is just media, what kinds of media come back, you know, do you get pictures, do you get video, do you get news, do you get maps? And there's new kinds of media updates and tweets and things like that coming in all the time. And making sure we can find the best information out there for end-users is something that is really important. Also modes; so a lot of times people feel really
constrained with keywords, being able to just say, well, wait, what types of words would appear on the pages I'm looking for as opposed to expressing concepts or expressing them verbally. We have launched voice search on Android, and last week we also announced Google Now, which is a new voice search assistant for the Android phone. And we're already -- in the technology that's not even 2-years-old, we're already seeing that 25 to 30 percent of searches on Android come via voice. So it's clear that when you're mobile it's much easier for you to do that kind of search using voice, and that's something that will change.
But there'll be other ways of doing searches. So for example, we've done experiments with things like Google Goggles which took pictures and did searches based on pictures, so can you take a photo, recognize what's in it, and bring information back about that. There's all
kinds of different modalities in search that will come to pass.
And the final piece is around social and personalization, and the two play together. How could we take a user's social context, their personal preferences, what they already know, and provide answers that are just that much more relevant to them. So we don't necessarily show them something they already know. And when you look at something like a really broad topic, if someone does a search on, say, New Zealand, there's really two axes; there's the best general reference pages out there on the web anywhere, but there's also the best pages that have been written by people I know, or maybe there are photo logs or travel logs, and I want to be able to see both. So pulling in the social piece as well as pulling in a bit of my personal context, where I am, location, all of those things are things that are going to make search just that much more pointed and that much more useful. And so I think there's a lot --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: So it's going to get better and better, that's the view from Mountain View?
MS. MAYER: Yes.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: You had mentioned Google Goggles in passing. Just a few days ago at the developer conference, your company unveiled a product called Glass, which is -- I think that some of you would have seen the pictures, Sergey Brin was wearing a pair of spectacles, but that in effect provided an augmented reality, right, that gave you video, or can search things that are of relevance.
Can you tell us just a little bit about it? It sounds a lot of science fiction for some people. How is this going to actually come to market and change the lives? I mean, if we meet in 5 years' time, will everyone here be looking at their Google Goggles little window searching what I'm saying rather than actually listening to us talk?
MS. MAYER: Well, we hope so. But right now Glass is very --don't.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Gosh, I don't -- I certainly
MS. MAYER: Glass is very early. That said it's something that we've been working on for a while. It's a pair of glasses, so it's ultimately wearable computing. And it puts a small screen in your field of vision. It has a camera, so it can see ultimately what you're seeing. It obviously has audio, so it can take inputs in that way. And there's any number of things that can be done here around augmented reality.
The very interesting demonstration which I think showed the power of Glass, and really was electrifying last week at our developer's conference was that they actually had a Google hangout -- a Google+ hangout, which is our video chat inside of our social network, and the people were hooked up to the video chat using glasses. So there were a few different people wearing the Google Glasses some of whom were skydivers, and were actually skydiving towards the building. And the video chat actually showed that you could take that stream and that experience, and people watching the video chat and participating could see ultimately what they were seeing.
And I think being able to share that way and share these really intense experiences where -- normally people think of video chat as you sitting at your desk talking. You could actually be doing these very active things and sharing that experience I think is really powerful. But I also think just the ability to have all these different inputs, to understand users' context better, to participate with them while they're really mobile and active is something that can be really exciting in terms of just helping people understand the world more, have easier access to information throughout the day. I think all of those things have a lot of promise with Google Glass.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Something else you announced in addition to the Glasses, I think you announced a tablet device, the Nexus 7, if I'm not mistaken.
MS. MAYER: That's right.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: And a cool sort of orb I think called the Q which is audio integration, it's got all kinds of other features. The question that comes to my mind -- let's not get into a tech discussion about the specifics of the products -- it's sort of a more philosophical one. Many people may think of Google as a software company. These are serious bits of kit, obviously, and tablets have to be very good. It seems to be a lot of direction; Microsoft announced its own tablet recently. Are you evolving to become a hardware company or is the vision something different? And is what Google is at independent of whether you talk about software or hardware?
MS. MAYER: Well, I do think having a really well-integrated system that provides a great user experience is something that we've always provided, it's something we've always striven to provide. I do think that with our acquisition of Motorola Mobility we are now more focused overall on hardware. But that said we're also very focused on open-source. So the Android operating system is an open-source system and we want to make these innovations available for people to build on top of them, just like Google Glass. The reason we introduced at the developer conference was because we're making pairs of them available as early as 2013, for people to begin to build applications on top of Google Glass. So we really want to provide platforms that can be built on top of -- do that in a way that's open-source.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: So you want to try and top a bit with the hardware so that your content will be picked up?
MS. MAYER: And we want to -- we want to ignite people's imaginations.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: Right, what can be done with it? And one of the ways to do that is to actually build some hardware that shows exactly what some of the strengths of Android are, or what some of the strengths of Project Glass are. And by having that it hopefully gets even more interesting products and more interesting uses into the market.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: And you've taken out a new job within Google. And of course you've been there for many, many years, one of the first employees, but now you're looking at a new area that involves maps, local. Can you tell us what exactly is your vision for the bits that you're looking at now?
MS. MAYER: Sure. So today I'm the VP of Maps, and Local, and Location services. And so what we're looking at is a suite of products that include things like Google Maps, Google Maps on your phone, Street View, Zagat. We recently launched Google+ Local, Google Earth, all of those types of products. So everything -- we call them the geo products, because they're all geographical or location-based in some way. And so there's a lot of really interesting activity here partially because mobile technology is really fueling a big surge in demand. We already see that about 20 percent of searches that are done on google.com everyday are for local information, and when we move to the phone that looks more like 40 percent.
So when people are on the go, what they're looking for most is, you know, where's a restaurant, where's a pharmacy, where can I get this, this, this somewhere nearby, so looking for places and looking for local information. There's been a big demand there. And our products are working to respond to that. So we have a great platform for Google Maps on the desktop, we have Google Maps on the phone where we have, you know, literally hundreds of millions of active users. And we're looking at how to enrich that platform.
So recently we've announced that we're bringing three-dimensional imagery to maps on the phone. We've had for some time things like turn-by-turn directions to help people not only navigate and see their path, but actually have a voice assistant guide you to exactly where you'd like to go. And we're also looking at how to personalize the map and make it more social. So when I look at a place I can see where are places that I'm likely to like, where have my friends been, where are my friends now. We have products like Google Latitude which can show you where your social circle ultimately is.
And we're also trying to get to a state where we understand the world much better. So maps is about creating a digital mirror to the world, how can we get as much visual imagery and as much richness there as possible. On the local side of the effort we're really striving to try and understand local businesses. And so our goal is ultimately to really have an authoritative review of every business in the world, be it written by a user, be it written by a Zagat, we really ultimately want to be able to provide people with great information about where they're going and what they can expect when they get there.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is there a possible new business model there, because, you know, famously Google, you do great search paired with paid ads, right, that's the lion's share of your money. Is there a way to monetize what you're doing in your area?
MS. MAYER: I think there's key ways that we're looking at it. So we definitely think that Google+ Local people looking for local businesses and getting a better understanding of that has a clear tie with advertising, and advertising is a big part of that. It's basically a digital form of the yellow pages, and with really great search and insight.
There also is Google Offers which is another way that people can say offer, you know, a discount to someone who's coming to try their service for the first time. And we're looking at different pre-paid options, and different ways of deploying those. But the other thing that I think
is really intriguing is to try and provide a set of services to business owners, to really help them build their business.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: So what's your concrete
MS. MAYER: So a concrete example would be something like loyalty or feedback, now, you know, can you run your business using a tablet, so everyone -- all of your employees have a phone in their pocket or a tablet at the register. People there ultimately have mobile devices, can they leave feedback right there? Can you by, you know, enabling payments through the phone, which is something that Google Wallet does, can you keep track of how much money has been spent by that user at this business, and ultimately reward their loyalty over time.
And so these are things where we can really -- we think we can give people an interesting and unique dashboard into their business, tying together analytics from the web, from the phone, from people's behavior in the physical world and in the digital world, and really help them strengthen their businesses.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Now you've mentioned mobile a number of times. When we look across the developing world, particularly India and China, the way that the majority of people access the Internet is very much their mobile device, it's quite different than the way perhaps most people in this audience might access the Internet. I know you've just come back from a global tour that you do once a year with some of your newer employees to check out what's happening in the world. Can you give any insights into how the Internet is evolving elsewhere, and how that's shaping how you think about products and services innovation at Google?
MS. MAYER: Sure, well I just took a group of associate product managers who've all worked at Google for about a year out of four Asian countries where we have offices, Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, and Sydney. And the point there is to meet local googlers, advertisers, users,
VCs, really try and understand what's happening in technology in each of those markets.
And they're interesting because they're all so different, who the major players are, what types of technologies have been adopted, how they're used, you know, there each geography has its own issues. Jakarta was somewhere I'd never been before. And I was really anxious to go there because they have such a huge Internet population. They're actually the number 2 country for both Twitter and Facebook. They have 42 million Internet users, and 28 million of them, so two-thirds of the Internet population is between the age of 16 and 24.
So it's this really interesting Internet population to see how do people use their phones there, how do they work with the web, what's useful to them? And it's very -- it's really, really intriguing to see -- even how the communication patterns are different. You know, they tend to use Twitter almost the way most people would use e-mail.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: Right, and so you know, things like, hey, I'll be there in 5 minutes, or what most people would e-mail or text they tend to tweet. And so it was really interesting to see how some of these technologies are getting deployed and how they're being used.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: You'd mentioned Shanghai. I think some of our listeners should be surprised what they would have remembered from the headlines is that Google pulled back in China some time ago, some of the concerns about censorship, the great firewall of China. Can you give us an update on what it is you're doing in China at your Shanghai office? And also what you're maybe not doing in China consistent with what was declared at the time your, you know, don't be evil policy?
MS. MAYER: Sure. Well, today we maintain two offices in China, Shanghai and Beijing. Our Shanghai office is more focused on advertising, our Beijing office works on some of the geographic products that I work on as well as some of our search-based products. And we today are offering our search into China. When you go to google.cn which is the local domain, it asks you to visit our Hong Kong site. And in our Hong Kong site we actually are offering our un-censored web search, which that was really what the early 2010 headlines were about. It was that we announced that we were no longer going to provide censored search results into China, and we wanted to find a way to maintain that and we have through the Hong Kong site.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: And actually this is a very selfish question because I'm a journalist living in China for The Economist and a number of my cohorts in journalism as well as others, academics, have been getting messages on our Gmails saying that we believe your account may have been hacked by a state-sponsored organ or words to that effect, where Google has been notifying us that there has been possible security breaches and how to deal with that. Can you tell us a little bit about the ongoing concerns you might have about China and what does that say about what everyone here should be worried about?
MS. MAYER: Sure. Well, what spurred on the -- our new position in 2010 was a hack attack. So our servers were compromised. We were lucky in that I think at the time only approximately two users had their e-mails read. But as we uncovered that hack attack and contained - - the team did a great job containing it very quickly what we discovered was that there were patterns where e-mail accounts were being accessed from say somewhere in the United States, and then occasionally accessed much faster than you could get to China, from China, right?
So we'd see an access from say Rhode Island, and then we'd suddenly see an access 30-minutes later from China. And we saw that pattern on the two compromised accounts, we also saw that pattern on several dozen others, and we wondered how that was happening. And it turns out that there are various hackers, and you know, what their specific agenda is, is unknown, but they all target individuals, ultimately get things like key sniffers on their accounts. And so that means, even if you are fastidious about changing your password, things like that, whoever is monitoring that computer ultimately gets the password as soon as you change it.
And so one of the things that we've done, and it isn't just China-related, but one of the things we've done for our Gmail users is if we see access from different places that are very geographically spread out, yes, it may just be that you're sharing your e-mail account with someone or you shared your password with someone around the world could get into it, but we you to -- we want to make sure that you know that someone far way has accessed it in a time period that doesn't seem physically possible to be the same person --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: -- and make sure that you see a message where you can say, yes, actually that was me, I'm not concerned about that access, or wait a second that actually is of concern to me. I should maybe run a cleansing program on my computer, change my passwords, things like that.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: How concerned should people be? I mean, most people here don't live in China. And there have always been hack attacks, there's now anti- virus software, and the tools. And companies like Google are in some ways keeping an eye out for their customers. Is this just the way it has been in the age of the Internet with some malicious actors and good actors, or do you agree with some of the cyber experts in the government that has issued warnings saying things are getting worse? What's the sense -- what's the view in Google?
MS. MAYER: Well, I do think that overall, you know, for example the attack that compromised our own computers was very, very sophisticated. And so I do think that the level of sophistication is growing. And that's something that means that, you know, our security team at Google has to work that much harder to stay ahead of it, and that's true for all technology companies. I do think that overall, as an end-user, you
want to be careful about these things. So you do want to every now and then take a look and see if there are things running in the background of your computer, if things seem to be taking a while, you know, your hard drive, things like -- and your CPU clearly making noise when you're not doing anything, things like that are things to be careful of obviously you computer. It be something.
MS.MAYER: But if you see things like that want to figure out what's causing it on your may just be a malfunction, but it also may
MR.VAITHEESWARAN: Tangentially, something else that people sometimes worry about is privacy, something
Google has been very much engaged in the public conversation on. What's the current thinking? I remember -- I think it was some time ago that Eric Schmidt who's now your chairman had said words to the effect of if you have something you don't want anyone to know maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
I know Eric can be -- he tends to say glib things sometimes, maybe he was a little cheekier than official Google policy. But you are in the data mining business, right, this is part of your business model. What's your current view on privacy, and how do you allow what appears to be an audience at least of my generation, they're not all youngsters in this audience, that grew up maybe with a different understanding of privacy?
MS. MAYER: Yeah, well, I think the one thing that's definitely true is there's just a lot more data being generated all over the world. I was just -- one of the interesting stats I found from Google Maps is that every two weeks we upload as much new data to Google Maps as we had about the world in 2005. It's like the global upload in 2005 is now as big as the data batch we deliver every 2 weeks. So you know, there's just a lot more information being generated by a computer -- by companies - -
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: You have the capacity to make sense?
MS. MAYER: Yeah, so I mean, these all are just like the images, how high-res they are, and new countries, all those types of things. So companies are generating a lot more data and users are generating a lot more data. And I think with that data comes a big opportunity, the ability to do things like Project Glass, and say, okay, what is that user's context, how can we help them? But there always are some privacy challenges.
And our approach to privacy has always been transparency, choice, and control, help people understand what information we have and how it's used. So for things like personalized search we allow people to turn on for their search history, which keeps track of the searches they do and what they click on. This ultimately means you'll get more relevant results over time.
But we have a nice log where you can actually go on search, click in the upper-right-hand corner and see that search log. And so if some of those searches weren't done by you, someone else used your computer, or you'd rather that search, just for sensitive reasons, were deleted, you can go ahead and see it and you can delete it.
So we have transparency where we show how the data is being used. Choice, we always try an offer a way to use our services that allows people a certain amount of anonymity and privacy. They can decide whether or not they want to use it. And so you can still, for example, use Google search without being signed in. We think it's better if you are signed in. We do a better job with it. But that said, you can use it even being signed out.
And control, so being able to, for example, delete various searches, or for some of our ad targeting we do interest-based advertising. And so we compute what we think your interests are based on your activity across our network. If we get some of those wrong, you can go in and delete some of those interests. You can also say, actually I don't want this type of targeting, period, and you can opt out of the program.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: The Europeans seem to be a lot more concerned about privacy than America and American regulators. Is that fair to say? They've tended to take a view on privacy issues and policy issues that have been a little more combative to companies like Google. Is it a problem for Google, or is that -- how do you look at that issue?
MS. MAYER: I mean, I think that for us, you know, the privacy issues are global issues. And for us it's really about trust with -- between us and our users. Search is a business that ultimately is based on trust. When you do a search you want to make sure you're getting back the best possible answer, not the answer that's going to make Google the most money, not the answer that panders most to your taste. You want to know that you're getting the best possible answer. And the way that we've built
our business and our company and the usage is because people ultimately trust that that's what they're getting. And so for us trust is always a very big issue.
And as a result you need to be very forthright with people about their information, especially their private information. That fact that we really view that the users own their own information. In fact we now have a program called Google Takeout, where if at some point you just say, you know what, I really just want to take all of my information out of Google and bring it somewhere else, you can go to google.com/takeout, and we actually package up all of your data and give it you.
So you can see what's there, you can import it to another service. We really want end-users to have control. But I don't really think that the privacy issues -- while the regulations on privacy do differ from country to country the basic issue is one of user promise. Can we -- what is the promise and the covenant we have with our users, what is their expectation of us, and how do we meet that.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Let's talk about leadership. We're fortunate enough to have one of the leaders of Silicon Valley with us. I think one area that you've been quite passionate about in the past is women and technology. You know, I'm an engineer myself by background, and there are not nearly enough women in engineering and technology, computer science, I think a degree, certainly in the upper echelons of Silicon Valley. What's the problem? Is it a supply problem or a demand problem?
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Can you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on this?
MS. MAYER: Well, my view overall is that it is a supply problem, but it's a different supply problem than a lot of people think.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Okay.
MS. MAYER: Just in general I don't think we're producing enough computer scientists and enough technologists, right? I mean we're in a state where --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Of either gender?
MS. MAYER: Of either gender. And so I think that, you know, being -- having just recently been in China, China graduates as many engineers every year from universities as we have in the workforce in the U.S., right? So I mean, I think they graduate about a million engineers a year, and we have about a million engineers in the U.S., so we need there to be a lot more technical people overall.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: But there have been -- before people get too caught up with the China-is-going-to- beat-us-on-everything, studies have challenged the quality of engineers. Not every engineering school is comparable, but you know, broadly speaking your point is certainly valid. There are other countries, Germany would be one of them, the -- China, India that place more emphasis on science and technology education. Will that be enough to solve the problem? Is there a glass ceiling for example?
MS. MAYER: Well, I think -- I don't think there's a glass ceiling. But just to go a little bit further, more specifically on computer science, there are lots of people who are interested in sciences and math who don't pursue computer science. So this just looks something like this. If you look at advanced placement course across the U.S., each year about 200,000 seniors take the advanced placement calculus test. About 14,000 seniors take the advanced placement computer science test. And so if you assume that most people who are good at math might also be interested in computers, the question is why are only 7 percent of those that are really advanced in math pursuing computer science?
And we need to work to actually grow that overall pie, right? We should get to a state where there's 200,000 graduating seniors taking that advanced placement test. And they've also done studies on companies like Google, and Facebook, and Twitter, and other companies that show that early exposure to computer science before you actually get to college is something that a lot of professional computer scientists ultimately have. Something like 95 to 98 percent of these software engineers of these companies had at least done some coding by the time they graduate from school.
So we need to get focused on that. And I do think making sure that that is palatable to girls in high school, and make sure that there's not stigmas around it, I think that, you know, that comes from one, people seeing how technology plays in their life everyday, a multiplicity of role models, not even one role model that's just saying like, hey, there's all kinds of successful women in technology. And you know, one's a jock, and one is, you know, interested in the arts, and like that you don't have to necessarily give up your personal interests. I think a lot of people think about the, you know, the pocket protecting pasty blue glasses in front of the computer, up all night, and say, oh, is that what I'm getting into if I get into computer science?
And I think that's not true, and that's something we need to fight against. That said, I think we're finally starting to turn some of the tide here. Just last week Stanford came out with their statistic that they now -- that computer science is now the biggest major.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is that right?
MS. MAYER: So for years it was economics, or it was psychology. And so computer science, as of this spring, is the largest major at Stanford, which I think is a great sign. But my strategy would be to grow the pie overall, right? If we produce more computer scientists, and we produce more engineers --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: And including people who are skilled in verbal skills, right? That's also another fallacy --
MS. MAYER: That's right.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: -- that only math geniuses should do this --
MS. MAYER: Yeah.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: -- where studies show people actually need good verbal skills to be good programmers.
MS. MAYER: Yeah, the studies do show that, for example, programming ability -- yes, there are some elements that are quantitative and mathematical. So some amount of math background helps, but what distinguishes good programmers from great programmers is verbal ability. It actually correlates much more highly to verbal SAT scores than it does to mathematical SAT scores.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Well, then let me offer a challenge to you to change Google itself, that when I visited the Googleplex over the many years, there's usually a very difficult software puzzle -- a mathematical- based puzzle hanging over the bathroom stall or the urinal. I've yet to see a word puzzle or a riddle of any kind. So maybe you can bring that about it in your drive to bring about verbal skills.
MS. MAYER: They're
scientists, right? (Laughter)
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: exactly. You know, one other
all fun for computer
Right, they're all fun,
topic -- in terms of work- life balance as well, I think, you know, Sheryl Sandberg
of Facebook has sort of sparked a discussion amongst people in Silicon Valley on what is -- even really broader than Silicon Valley on work-life balance. What's your take on that notion, if I may ask?
MS. MAYER: Well, I mean, I often say that, you know, I don't really believe in balance. I do think that there's this -- a concept of rhythm. I think that one of the challenges, especially for Silicon Valley, is that the notion -- the typical notion of balance just doesn't apply, right? You're dealing with a lot of 20-something programmers, you know, and talking to them about three meals-a-day, time at home with the family, 8-hours of sleep at night, and this just does not -- it's just not relevant to them.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: Like, you know, some of them want less sleep. Some of them like, you know, are happy, you know, they want to show up at work at 2:00 in the afternoon and code until, you know, 5:00 in the morning. That's fine, right? I mean, they just have a very different notion of what matters to them. And so you know, for those people and for myself, I've taken a different approach which is to say, you know, a lot of the common notions of balance don't apply, what does apply is making sure that you avoid resentment. I think that ultimately what causes burnout is this notion of, wow, I worked 80 hours last week, or a 100 hours last week, or I slept under my desk. And I didn't even get to do this one thing that I really wanted to do.
And so a lot of times I see people on my team, or even for myself, if I see this sort of -- that feeling
of -- wow, it feels like that person is getting a little frayed around the edges, asking them -- I even said -- talking to them about balance, asked them to define their rhythm, say, you know, think about what is -- you can't have everything that you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. And figuring out what those are, and then really protecting them.
And so to the 20-something programmer, you know, most of the guys on my team, Nathan came back and said, Tuesday night dinners. And I said, well, tell me about Tuesday night dinner. And he said, well, there's a group of eight friends, we get together every Tuesday night. We have a pot luck, we rotate between people's houses. And if I just skip Tuesday night dinner or worse, if I have to cancel it when it's supposed to be at my house, he's like - - the whole rest of the week he's like, what am I doing here? Why wouldn't I just leave early tonight? I didn't even get to go to Tuesday night dinner.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: And I was like, okay, well, then Nathan, then it's your job just to never miss Tuesday night dinner again. I have a soccer mom, Katy, whose engineers were in Bangalore, India. And she had three small children under the age of five, and she kept doing conference calls at 1:00 in the morning. But then I said, Katy, you know, I'm kind of worried.
And she came back and thought about it, and she said, honestly don't worry about the 1:00 a.m. calls to Bangalore. I don't mind them in the slightest. She said, what I do mind is being that parent, that parent who is late for the soccer game, or that parent who misses the recital, or you know, where my kids see me walk in late. And I said, okay, well, then it's our -- it's my job to help you just never be late for that because that will help you, you know, keep your energy up for those late --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: So the leadership comes in acknowledging what's important to your employees.
MS. MAYER: Exactly, and so just saying --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: -- you know, what is your rhythm. And for each person it's different. And throughout life it changes, right? What you really value, what matters to you changes at different moments. And I think that's one of the reasons why some of the common notions of balance just don't make sense in the Silicon Valley concept.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: And so I think that the notion of rhythm, and understanding what kind of is -- what's your rhythm, and what do you need to keep going and not feel resentful I think is much more relevant.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Great. I'm going to come to the audience for questions in just a moment, so please get your questions together, and let me ask the microphones to be ready. Just while people are collecting their thoughts, we're on leadership, I would be remiss as a journalist if I didn't ask what's going on with Larry Page? He's lost his voice, people are worried, what's going --he's rarely been at a lack for words over the years. So give us the scoop.
MS. MAYER: Yeah, well, Larry has lost his voice. And he is working to recover it. That said, he is still -- is very much in giving the strategic directions and running the company on a day-to-day basis.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is this running some kind of special brain scanning device -- doing a pilot to see how you can communicate without verbal --?
MS. MAYER: No, but I have a feeling -- he's always been a very fast typist, and I have a feeling this is making him maybe even faster.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Very good. I think was it Sergey who said recently that this will make him an even better CEO because he's going to have to choose his words very carefully.
MS. MAYER: Yes. (Laughter)
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Perhaps that's what will happen. Let's see, I see a lady's hand here, right near the front, and we'll cross the aisle in a moment. Please, just a basic thing, identify yourself, and if you could make it a short and sharp, preferably witty question we'd really appreciate it.
MS. McMILLAN: Sure. Catherine McMillan (phonetic) from Boston.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is your microphone on?
MS. McMILLAN: I attended a talk recently. And the assertion at this talk I went to was e-mail will be obsolete in 5 years. Could you comment on that?
MS. MAYER: I do think that one of the interesting things that I am seeing, like both in Jakarta, and here, and just with different generations is that people are using how they message each other, be it text message, be it tweets, be it, you know, messages on social networks, e-mail in just a very -- in a very different
way. That said, I think people always tend to, you know, overestimate the short term and underestimate the long term, right? So I think that how fast the shift in communication styles and patterns will change is probably longer than the 5-year horizon.
And I also just think for a lot of people e-mail is so much a part of their workflow, in terms of how companies get things done, in terms of how people get things done. I'm not sure that there's a transformation that's that fast. I do think that there's very interesting communication patterns that are cropping up using a number of new tools and devices, so.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is it fundamentally driven by young people, or is that not the right way to put it? Is it --
MS. MAYER: I think it's a lot of times driven overall by people who are experiencing -- they're coming into a technological world where all these technologies are already available, and which just changes your viewpoint. MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: Right? If it's something that you learned to use later on in life, you know, I remember, I first had a camera phone. At one point, you know, I'd gotten rear ended, and I remember we called the police, they came, we of course had pulled off to the side of the road. And he said, well, how are the cars? And it wasn't until I think I got like probably 2003, 2004 -- it wasn't until I got my car drive away, I was like, oh, wait, I had a camera right in my phone, I didn't use it.
Not that we use camera phones all the time, but I think when you get that technology later you don't think about it. Where today's new generation are coming online, like, they know they have a camera in their pocket, and it's always on, and they know they have a video camera, like, their ability to say, hey, I want to show someone else exactly what I'm seeing right now, or I want to get in touch with this person, I want to interrupt them or I don't want to interrupt them, right? I think all of those tools are just that much more fluid for that generation.
So I think a lot of it is coming from young people. That's why I think a lot of it also comes from just what devices are available. So for example, from my time in Jakarta, there's a lot more feature phones there, and so you know, there I think they're using a lot less video chat and photos, and they're using a lot more of things like Twitter, which are ultimately text-based because it's easier to use on a feature phone.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Yeah.
MS. HOLBERG: My name is Karen Holberg (phonetic). I'm a scientist from Argentina. You said that the information in the Internet is based on trust and you're trying to give the best possible information. My concern regards how to get the best possible information on knowledge, for example, and not base the search on popularity, but how to rate the quality of knowledge, and how to give the best knowledge possible, and not mislead young people looking for, for example scientific data. MS. MAYER: Sure. Well, I think there has been a commonly mis-held belief that Google ranks based on popularity. That's not actually the way we rank. Even PageRank, our original cornerstone technology was based on authoritativeness. So it tried to look at who is authoritative on which particular topic, as opposed to just who is most popular, which website got the most views. It was based on the notion that if you linked to someone, you linked to them because they're an authority, and because you respect them and that was that link base piece.
Today, Google search uses more than 250 different factors, including different things like local connectivity analysis, or what we call LCA, which looks for pockets of experts on the web that are heavily linking to each other and therefore causes us to increase the relevance of anything that's happening inside of that pocket, right? So you can find, for example, the quantum physicists and realize that what they are publishing in the papers and things that they are linking to are that much more authoritative than people just referencing quantum physics, and ultimately how those increase. And so those types of signals are things that are already baked into the search.
And that said, it's not perfect. That's why I think that, you know, I think to me search is a science that's going to stretch over multi-hundreds of years. It already has in a large part, even before the Internet. But even Internet search will be a multi-hundred-year game. And you know, we are in the 1600s for physics or the 1800s for biology, and in terms of really understanding who's authoritative, what things mean, what the best possible answer is, we're doing a good job, but there's much more nuance to it and there's much more that we'll be doing in the future.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Let's come to this side. Maybe the gentlemen on the far right -- my far right? There we go.
SPEAKER: Hello, my name is (inaudible). I have already started preparing for a world without drivers, and I have started taking up my cars in office. Should I hurry up or can I take my time with that?
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Presumably for those who don't know, which I can't imagine is anyone, Google is pioneering self-drive cars. And so how soon can we expect to be driven around?
MS. MAYER: Well, we have some driver-less cars. They are operating. They drive on various California freeways, and also some surface streets. And so we've now -- I forget, I think we've published the number. We've driven hundreds of thousands of miles using the cars --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Safely.
MS. MAYER: That said -- and safely. Actually, the one accident that's occurred with one of the cars was when it was in manual mode ironically.
MS. MAYER: And so it turns out, you know, the cars are very safe. That said, really, we know this is something -- it's a very ambitious project. It's very early, making sure that it does exactly what we want it to do and in all possible situations. And really making sure that it meets its goals is something that we take really seriously. So I don't think we've released a particular date in terms of when they'll be available. The technology is advancing all the time.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is it fair to say that regulations mean that it's likely to appear other than the U.S. first, that the U.S. is unlikely to be the first market?
MS. MAYER: I think that that's possible. I also think that, you know, there might be specific commercial uses. So selfishly in my role on Google Maps, like I would really love it if the Street View cars, we could ultimately do an experiment with that, where they have a very set pattern that they need to drive in order to get the imagery from a city. We know a lot about the traffic conditions that they're in. And so we might be able to have some much more narrow, limited use cases --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: -- earlier on as opposed to just the general sell-it-to-a-consumer-and-go-anywhere. So I think that what you'll see is, right now we're in research phase. You'll probably see some pointed commercial applications that are still -- more constrained in terms of the overall problem space, and then hopefully a widening to the whole problem space.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Great. Let's go to this gentleman here.
MR. EDINBURGH: I'm (inaudible) Edinburgh, Washington, D.C. Google knows more about me than my wife does. So I wanted to know are you likely to do identity certification so that everybody else trusts that I am who I say I am. And then the other thing this is, you at one point were going into health services, you know, keeping health data, et cetera. How likely is that to be revived?
MS. MAYER: Well, I'm curious as to how you're using Google that we know more about you than your wife because my husband certainly knows a lot more about me than Google does. So I mean I do generally think that people tend to overestimate how much information Google really has about them, which is one of the reasons why it's interesting to say --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Maybe he doesn't talk to his
MS. MAYER: -- to say that -- you know, if you go to say the Google Dashboard, which is a product we have that shows you all of the information Google has across all of our services. When we first announced it people said, oh my gosh, like, you know, how much information will be there, and then they would go up there and they would see, yes, there is a fair amount. But it's a lot less information than people actually thought.
That said, I do think that identity is playing a bigger and bigger role on the web. I think that we're starting to see a movement away from anonymity. People want to understand who wrote this review, who made this comment, what's my relation to them, what's their authority on this topic. And I think that that's something that's very real.
And it's one of the reasons why social networks, because they have an implicit identity model, where you know who people are, and you know who your friends are, and you know how they are connected to each other is something that's been really powerful. And so Google+, our social effort, aims to really try and build that identity model because we want people to understand, you know, who -- if someone is online, and why they can or can't trust that information.
So I do think that there will be -- I'm not sure there'll be a certification, or is it just a matter of social validation, right? Like you say, oh, okay, I know three people who know this person, or I can see that, you know, four of their friends are also experts in this particular area. I think that gives you some notion of how to judge the information that they're also contributing, especially when we were in this world of such heavy user-generated contribution.
On the health piece, Google Health is something that we launched, I believe, in about 2007. We -- our idea was -- again, like we've always believed that end- users should own their data, both on Google and in other spaces. And Google Health was our way of saying, hey, why don't people have their health records online, why don't they belong to them? They should be portable between doctors. They should be in a standard format.
And it's something that we worked really hard on. I do think it was just ahead of its time. It was just very difficult for people to get their records in a standardized form online and we ended up having few users of it who were able to really use it to its full potential. So I remain hopeful that it will happen at some time. But we have pulled back our efforts, particularly on Google Health.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: You know, Marissa, if I can jump in on this. I covered health for a number of years for my magazine, and I remember talking to your team at Google Health over the years of enthusiasm. And then I began to see this -- the creeping sort of frustration, and at some point perhaps even disillusionment. And is it fair to say that this was a failure, that this may be Google's biggest failure?
MS. MAYER: I'm not sure. I mean, I think that we've -- over the years we've failed a lot. There's a lot of things that we've learned a lot from. And I think that failure isn't something that we want to be afraid of. Failure is something that we want to pick up and move on from. I think that in the case of Google Health it was a failure.
I do think that, you know, we hopefully have learned from it. I think that towards the end of the project, as we analyzed it, we realized that -- you know, we were like, well, wait, why do we care that people have access to their user records online? And we realized what we really wanted was we wanted people to be able to be healthier. But I mean who cares if you can carry your bits around with you, right? Like if you really -- it really should come down to are you ultimately healthier at the end of the day. And we realized like --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Why do you care about that?
MS. MAYER: Well, I just think that, you know, we want overall improved quality of life for people. I mean, I think that technology ultimately should help do that. And we said, you know, is making health records portable really the right way to do that, or should we be helping people get more motivated around physical activity, right? I mean, I think there's all kinds of -- you know, Google isn't working on it in particular, but there's all kinds of interesting technologies, like job (inaudible) that are trying to do the quantified self, and help you understand a lot more about your patterns. To me that seems to be a lot more likely to lead to a healthier outcome overall.
We also started taking some of the people in our organization who are more focused and interested in health, we actually employed a number of medical doctors who are also great technologists, and we had them start to focus on different applications. So for example, one of the things that we worked on is something called Google Flu Trends, and can we actually use search behaviors in mass, anonymized, to try and understand where people are unhealthy.
And so for example, we started looking at searches and it turns out you can tell based on common searches people do, for symptoms, based on what times of day they search. Are they searching from what seems to be like home and residential IP addresses or business IP addresses, are they home sick or not. We actually could with I think it's like now three-nines of accuracy, we have a correlation. So we're 0.996 percent -- 0.996 correlation factor with the flu reports that are coming out of the National Institutes of Health. So they publish it --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Not only that, I think you're able to do so maybe a week before the CDC is able to --
MS. MAYER: That's right, and so the records that are coming out show this incredibly high correlation. And so we think this is something that can really help with, you know, the outbreaks of disease, help people ultimately avoid places where they may come in contact with viruses they don't want to come to contact with --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Right.
MS. MAYER: -- things like that. So there's many different ways to help people on health. And I think that our failure on health records started, you know, helping us think about how we ultimately might help users be healthier with the data and services we already have.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: I've been neglectful of the back row, so let me go to the lady there.
MS. PORGES: Thank you. Shelly Porges, director of the global entrepreneurship program at the Department of State. I was so glad to hear you saying that you've recently been to Jakarta, which is where I'm leaving as soon as I leave Aspen. And I wondered what Google is doing to survey innovation around the world, and I wanted to invite you to join us on one of our entrepreneurship delegations that we have taken to numbers of countries to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in key countries around the world.
MS. MAYER: Sure. We aren't doing anything formal, though I will say, you know, the social project managers and I visited a number of incubators, lots of startups. Across all those countries, I think in total we had about 40 different company and/or incubator visits. We probably came in contact with more than 100 different startups.
We also went to Startup Asia, which was hosted in Jakarta, while we were there. And so you know, I think that we're very interested in innovation. I think exposing some of the product managers who are ultimately designing and building products at Google end services, including things like Google app engine, things that are designed for developers is, you know, exposing them to that, and what people are trying to build and what some of the hurdles are is really interesting, right?
I mean, for example, we have Google Play. Our marketplace for apps on Android is something that's going really well. But it only accepts currencies in certain countries. It's very easy here in the U.S. to say, well, like I can buy my apps, I can buy my media, no problem.
And yet in some of the countries we visited we don't yet accept that currency in Google Play. And that was their number-one ask. They were like, look, we want to build apps for Android, but we want it to be something that's economically beneficial for us.
And it was really interesting to see -- like I know my response to that was -- that was the thing that really surprised me. I think it was something that surprised a lot of the associates too in terms of really understanding how, you know, the economic impact in some of the product decisions we've been making, prioritizations, how that actually speeds up innovation in parts of the world or doesn't.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Let's go to the front row.
MR. GOODMAN: Hi, Mark Goodman (phonetic), Aspen, Colorado. It seems to me that Google and Apple are the two strongest companies in the tech world. How do you foresee the evolution between competition and growth in both hardware and software, and cloud computing? How do you foresee that evolving and playing out? MS. MAYER: Well, I mean, I think that it's -- I
don't know that it's fair to say those are the two strongest companies. There's a lot of great companies out there doing very interesting things. For example, I would highlight Amazon, Facebook.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: But you're both 500-pound
MS. MAYER: I do think that in the mobile space, because we're providing the two -- basically the two large mobile platforms that support smartphones in the form of Android and iOS, there is a real battle playing out there for users, for innovations --
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: They just put maps in there,
MS. MAYER: They have not -- so today Google Maps powers both Android phones as well as iOS devices. However, they have announced that with iOS 6, which is due sometime in the fall, they'll be moving to their own mapping technology. So I do think that basically being able to provide a great user experience is something that both companies are striving to do.
And I personally think that it's really healthy to have this level of competition, when you see, you know, how easy can you make it develop an iPhone app versus an Android app, right, which one do people tend to gravitate towards first? As a result what happens overall with innovation in terms of things people can do now they couldn't do a year ago, I think all of that is really exciting. And the fact that there's two big players in here that are working to make their platforms even easier to code to, and make their platforms that much more accessible in terms of end-users buying apps, participating, using mobile technology. I think all that's very, very positive.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: Is it fair to say that there's a fundamental philosophical difference between the two companies? Apple is obviously famous for its so-called walled garden, right? You buy into the technology, and once you're inside the walled garden you're meant to be safe, and their flowers are beautiful, and the air is fresh. But you can only live within that ecosystem, very tight ecosystem.
I think the Android idea is more open-platform. And do you tend to attract -- you may disagree with this characterization, but many people have put it this way, do you think people will self-select, that is there's a different kind of audience with the two different companies?
MS. MAYER: I mean, I think it's sort of a spectrum from philosophical to tactical. I think at our core, both companies, we both want to provide the best possible user experience, right, and the question just is how do you achieve that. Do you achieve that through being more open, through -- or having open-source code, through providing, you know, support for lots of different hardware platforms, or do you only have one hardware platform that you design for, right? I think all of those are tactics in terms of how do you achieve the best possible end-product and experience for end users. And I think that either on a philosophical level or a tactical level, depending on how you look at it, the companies disagree there. But the end goal is the same.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: We have just a couple of minutes. If there's a burning question -- I see a hand there on the aisle. Let's come to the gentleman.
JASON: Hi there. My name is Jason, I live in Los Angeles. And if you were to take the perspective of a extraterrestrial, highly intelligent, what misperceptions of the earth would they have if all they had access to was Google Earth?
JASON: As mirror isn't showing
world actually is?
in what are the blind spots that this us, isn't revealing about what the
MS. MAYER: Well, that's really interesting. We like to think that we do a good job of it. But that said, it's not easy. You end up in situations where, you know, I've learned just so much more about geometry and physics in this role, it's really quite remarkable -- and cloud cover.
It turns out, you know, for a while -- now we are getting some of our own homegrown imagery of it. But for example I remember like looking at all the different licenses, because sometimes we license imagery from different providers. I think it was Sweden, it was just, you know, extraordinarily expensive compared to all other European countries on a per-square kilometer price. And we couldn't -- it was like why is that?
Why is Sweden so much more expensive? Is it just because there's only one provider, and no, there's multiple providers, but they're all like a lot more expensive than other countries because of cloud cover. So the odds that you've get a good picture, right, are just lower.
There's also interesting things where -- the way the satellites orbit, they orbit over the poles, and they make, you know, sort of like -- it's almost like a ball of yarn, but it turns out in that the satellites take about 4 days to go around the globe, which means you get, you know, 90 revolutions around the globe a year. It means that we can cover the poles really, really well because basically we get 90 pictures of those and the areas around them. At the equator there are some spots where really we're only directly overhead four times a year.
So if you're starting to say, you know, we've got four chances to get this photo, and if there's cloud cover, or rain, or not sun, like, you know, that's a big problem. And you can start to see things, like for example when Osama Bin Laden was found last year, everyone immediately wanted to see the pictures. And the amazing thing is Google Earth did have it, and you could actually go back.
We have a historical function. You could actually playback and see, okay, you know, there's nothing there, then there's a big square, then there's a big fence, now there's a big compound, now the city grows out around. A lot of people were like, wait, like how did he end up in the middle of a city. And the answer was, well, the compound was built and the city grew around it. And you can see that all on Google Earth.
But even just that day, like trying to get the satellite, you know, we actually had to literally take a camera and redirect the angle to even just get a blurry side angle of what it looked like on that particular day, and there's a lot of challenges that way. And so my guess is, you know, there's probably even more there. But I do think that, you know, the pictures are overall really rich, but a lot of it comes down to what are some of the obstacles in terms of getting great pictures. And that those aren't necessarily even just satellite pictures, but also Street View pictures. There are some countries where we haven't been able to drive Street View. Interestingly one of the misunderstood things
about Street View is -- yes, part of what Street View is helping people see what does this look like from right in front of it, you know, what does this restaurant look like, what does that look like. The other reason that we drive for Street View is because it helps us make our maps that much more accurate, right? We can say, okay, this is a one-way street, or you know, this is a four-lane road. And so we can actually, by driving it, we can get a lot more information that makes our maps that much more accurate.
And when we -- someone says, hey, this business isn't on this side of the road, it's on the other side of the road, we can pull up a Street View image, verify it, moderate that, add editors' -- we have millions of people submitting edits and changes to Google Maps, end-users everyday, and so we have moderators looking at that, try and figure out what's true.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: And now that you have Zagats integrated into it, our intelligent alien will know where to eat presumably for dinner.
(Laugher) MS. MAYER: Yes. MR. VAITHEESWARAN: I'm afraid we're out of
time, we're actually over time. Please join me in thanking Marissa for being so gracious. Thanks a bunch.
MS. MAYER: Thank you very much. (Applause)