Vic Gundotra and Sergey Brin took the stage at Web 2.0 Summit to speak with John Battelle in a candid half-hour interview on all things Google. Users will be allowed to use pseudonyms soon, as Google plans to relax their controversial real names policy. They’ve just become certified as an identity provider by the U.S. government and this may be in keeping with those requirements.
Other takeaways: support for Google Apps users and brand tools are in the works, Brin is apparently so hooked on Google+ his wife had to step in, and don’t expect to see Google back in the health space any time soon. Not surprisingly, Gundotra did take a few good jabs at Facebook, as well.
Vic & Sergey on Google+ Adoption and Addiction
Gundotra noted that they are surprised that less than a month after opening Google+ to the public, there are over 40 million users (4 percent of Google’s total user base) on board. When asked whether those are active users, he replied, “Well, they signed up, and they’re using it.”
Brin claimed that although he hadn’t been active at all in social media before and in fact, just isn’t a very social person. Backstage with Tim O’Reilly, though, he told the story of how Google+ is just so engaging it’s changed his entire outlook. “I was really kind of surprised, myself...” he began. “I found myself really, pretty quickly, addicted! My wife was complaining, ‘Get off Google Plus!’ because I was just having fun posting both publicly as well as just sharing to individual circles.”
I think we’re supposed to take from Brin that Google+ is just so addictive and awesome that even those who can’t stand social media are being converted. That may very well be the case among those who have a vested interest in its success... though as we learned earlier this month, many of Google’s managers don’t seem to be active in the space at all, although Eric Schmidt finally joined earlier this month. Brin himself had posted just 15 public posts in the three months of the study period, hardly enough to consider sending him to rehab quite yet.
Brin on Google+: “I Was Wrong”
Early on in the interview, Brin seemed to dig himself into a big of a hole, but Gundotra was having none of it. Brin said he had “argued vigorously” with Gundotra and the Google+ team about their relationships and sharing models, leading Battelle to ask if he had disagreed with how the product was designed? “But I was wrong,” Brin answered quickly; as he tried to speak on, both Battelle and Gundotra jumped in, with Gundotra taking steering the conversation back into safer territory.
“Google Plus wouldn’t have existed had it not been for Sergey’s support.” He credits Brin with designing some of the teams favorite Google+ elements, like Hangouts. Battelle says that while Google+ seems to work for people like Gundotra and Brin, whose Circles naturally consist of other Googlers and techies, no one in his world is on Google+, save those he follows already on Twitter.
While the general public may be slow to get on to Google+, Gundotra feels Google+ has the advantage of time to build a user base and, he points out, the general public are already on Google. They’ll come around.
Within a few days, promised Gundotra, Google Apps support is coming. Brand tools are in the works, though the wait will be a bit longer. A developers platform is coming; this isn’t expected in the coming months, though.
Google+ Accredited by U.S. Government as an Identity Provider; Will Allow Pseudonyms
Gundotra asked that people be patient as the team tries to work out the best way to work out nicknames and pseudonyms, but the change is coming.
The U.S. government has been working with entities in the private sector on the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). An October 14th White House blog post reveals that Google has “recently” had their credentialing solutions certified to meet federal security and privacy requirements. This means Google is now a qualified identity provider for some federal applications.
Gundotra took jabs at Facebook’s Open Graph and privacy/oversharing at Web 2.0 Summit, saying, “There is a reason every thought in your head does not come out of your mouth.” Even so, they may have a more difficult time convincing users that Google+ is the more secure, private option as they’ve been working hand in hand with the government to create an Identity Ecosystem and are now an accredited identity agency.
Sergey on Driverless Vehicles: Why? “Because We Can.”
Speaking with O’Reilly on why Google went outside their realm to create an autonomous vehicle, Brin answered in a way that would suffice for just about everything Google does: “At a high level, we’re doing it because we can and I think it’ll really affect the world dramatically.”
He points to the problem of transportation for disabled drivers, or those too young or too old to drive as one motivation for the project. Other potential benefits, he says, may be reduced accidents, increased sharing in urban areas, and the ability for a car to drop you off rather than having to be parked and take up space.
Don’t Expect Google to Get Back Into the Health Space
When Google announced the phasing out of Google Health this summer, SEW columnist Dean Stephens offered a few potential reasons for the closure. Though the official line was that consumers just hadn’t adopted the service as expected, Stephens pointed to a lack of leadership, Larry Page’s lack of enthusiasm for the project, and inadequate support from health IT companies as other potential reasons they killed Google Health.
Brin offered a little more insight in his backstage interview, when asked whether Google would venture into the health field again.
“Perhaps we should participate, but there are tremendous national and international policy issues with healthcare in terms of who pays, where the incentives are lined up, what are the regulatory barriers...”
For example, the requirement that doctors input medical record information as opposed to the patients themselves was a productivity killer, he said. Overall, he doesn’t feel that health care is primarily a technology issue; don’t expect to see another Google health initiative any time soon.