Saturday, 23 July 2011

Bradley Horowitz and Vic Gundotra Interview With Techcrunch

Miss the TechCrunch Q&A with Bradley Horowitz (Google's VP Product) and  Vic Gundotra (Google's VP Social)? Transcribed some of the most interesting quotes below.

Why is Google+ called a "project"?
VG: Project we think implies a longer term effort. We think project is more inclusive. We're going to build this thing together with the community, with various parts of Google, and we're pretty excited about it.

Are you the fathers of Google+?
BH: This project involved many, many people, a lot of talented people on the team that have been pouring their enthusiasm, their passion into this project for a long time. Vic and I have been honored to be part of that team, and sort of shepherd it along; there's a role for us on that team, I think, but the contributions of the team itself are what make the product sing.

What is the focus of Google+?
BH: Putting people first. Understanding that the Web is more than a Web of pages, or even a Web of apps, it's a Web of people. People is the fabric that connects us together. The pages and the apps are really artifacts. If we understand people, who you know, what you care about, those kinds of things, we can provide a great service to you, across all that Google does. So it's not just Google+ itself, but understanding who the user is will make a better search, will make a better maps, will make a better Chrome and Android. So that was the basic premise - in understanding people, we could return tremendous value to our users.

So people come before the algorithm?
VG: We think a basic human need is the need to connect with others. And one of the best ways to connect with others is to share something with them. And today that sharing is happening online. But when we look at how sharing happens online, we think in many ways it's broken. Many of the nuances that we have in the real world, looking at somebody, making eye contact with them, adjusting the volume of our voice to a whisper when it's confidential, all these subtleties, the richness that we have in real life is very much lost in the online world. We're given very harsh choices, like limit your communication to "this long" and it all has to be public. Or we have to bucket everybody, all your relationships, into "these are my friends." So we think there's tremendous room for innovation to get the online world to more closely resemble the richness of how we really share and connect with people.

Why should an ordinary person, a regular Internet user, be on Google+? What can you offer that other services like Facebook and Twitter don't?
BH: There are many points of differentiation in the product. And as you pointed out, we haven't even launched yet. We have a limited field trial to market. We are humbled and overwhelmed by the response. When we say limited field trial, I think a lot of people apply the word limited to the size of the audience, whereas we think of limited as limited in functionality. For instance, it has been noticed that we don't have business profiles as part of the system. We have not launched the sum total of what we intend to launch. In fact, as we have said, this is a project that is very long term. So there are many more pieces of functionality that are on the way. We're certainly accelerating their launch in response to the enthusiasm we're seeing in the market. But we didn't expect, frankly, and this isn't posturing, we did not expect this kind of interest this soon. And so many of the things that would make the product comfortable to someone who isn't a technophile or in Silicon Valley are not yet in the product, but they're coming.

What's the thinking behind Hangouts?
VG: We thought, why is it -- considering we have cameras on virtually all of our devices. We carry our devices all over the place. We have high speed networks. Then we asked our friends and family, do you do video chat with your family? It was amazing that most people said no. Very, very few people used video chat. And when we analyzed it, we found there were 3 primary reasons: number 1, group video chat costs money and it's expensive, and people didn't want to pay. Number 2, it's hard to set up, calling your dad to have him install this software, get past the virus protection, and having him configure it, it's just too much of a hurdle. But the biggest issue, it was socially awkward. It was really awkward to have some free time at 10 o'clock at night, send a message to some friends and say, hey, do you want to start a video chat? What if your friend isn't dressed correctly? What if it makes her feel awkward? What if she says no? Then you may feel rejected. So we worked on the social dynamics. And what Hangouts does, it allows you, in a very nice way, it's not socially awkward, to say, hey I'm hanging out on my porch. I'm available, if you're available too, you can join. And as friends join you, as more and more people join you in your front yard, on your porch, your neighbors can see that and can join you, and say, 'Oh, it's Vic, talking to Bradley, and Lisa's there, and I'm going to join in too, now I feel comfortable.' So the dynamic we started to create is unlike many of these other services. Lower the barrier and make it fun.

Can you talk about your embrace of privacy with Google+?
BH: For us, privacy isn't something buried six panels deep on some setting that you can set and forget. The model itself inspires trust. The fact that anytime I post something, I get to choose who gets to see it. Anytime I comment on something, I can see who's in the room and understand the audience that I'm addressing. These sorts of things are comforting to people, and they've been absent from tools. And I think people haven't even recognized why they're uncomfortable sharing something until the light is shone on these and you can actually understand these basic principles.

How can people get involved in Google+?
VG: First of all, the folks who have been giving us feedback on Google+, thank you. Our team has been paying serious attention, responding to as much as it can, and you can really be involved by helping to guide the project by giving us your viewpoint. In terms of getting a job at Google, we're always looking for talented people. One of our biggest challenges is finding qualified people that can contribute to our project. If you have an interest in working with Google, we're interested in hearing from you."

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