This article was published on December 10, 2008

Marissa Mayer; Up Close and Personal

Marissa Mayer; Up Close and Personal
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
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Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Keynote from Marissa Mayer at Google I/O 2008 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!Marissa Mayer is the second Google big shot who gives acte de presence at Le Web. After Nikesh Arora
SVP, Google and President, EMEA Operations it’s up to the Google Vice President Search Products and User Experience. She’ll be interviewed by a man who has already seated the comfortable white couches when he interviewed the MySpace COO.

Mayer has an impressive track record. She joined Google in 1999 as Google’s first female engineer (and employee number 1 she explained during the Q&A) and led the user interface and web server teams at that time. Her efforts have included designing and developing Google’s search interface, internationalizing the site to more than 100 languages, defining Google News, Gmail, and Orkut, and launching more than 100 features and products on Not to mention the several Artificial Intelligence patents she has filed.

Arrington’s first question was at Loic: “Will there be enough food for people today”
His second question: “Who has internet connectivity today?”


Then the interview takes off. Marissa has news today. Googles Zeitgeist will be launched with a more global focus showing global trends which can be viewed per country too.

The second product (unannounced until now) are more themes for iGoogle. Euh, okay. Themes. very exciting.

Then the conversation shifts to Chrome. Marissa gives an update on their goals: stability, more operating systems, etc. No word on what market size they have now.

On Betas: software can be in beta but has to move out of beta soon. Web services are different and might stay in beta for years. For chrome it is very important to get out of beta soon.

On Google Search Wiki: Arrington goes into a rant on how awful it is. Marissa explains the concept and highlights the benefits. Arrington talks about the spam comments. They see it as a more personal way to search. They are now able to enhance results because you vote up or down existing results. Why not let people opt out, arrington asks. Marissa thinks that option will appear. Arrington wants to know when that option will go live. Beginning of next year Marissa promises. They might one day use aggregated votes to influence results. But not too soon. 

On Market share: Arrington says “Search is horrible now”. So how is Google going to improve? What is next? What is the next level of share? What is the future of search? Marissa answer that competition is good and she likes it. There are lots of ways to improve search: they seem to focus on different ways of accessing search input. Via voice, from you car, from your phone, stuff like that. They also want to offer more than just the 10 best results but actually answer the question the user has. Moving away from keyword searches and improving on understanding what people want seem to be key there.

On visual recognition: Arrington asks: Is there a secret search engine that does everything (better search, recognition etc) which Google is holding back? Marissa just smiles. :-)

On personalization: they get best results by tracking what you clicked and combining that with your location. The scoial aspect is another important point. Everything you might ask during a conference in another country are social questions (where to eat, drink sleep) and using your social network for that will greatly increase quality of results.

On local search: Arrington: there is no local search that works. She answers that local search is a big thing for Google. Ecommerce is great but buying local is better for everything. Better for local economies, the environment and your connection to your local communities. They want to expand into that and see a huge opportunity in local search.

After that we had a few questions (using iPhone search with different accents, how do you grow Google with so many people there,  ) from the audience which were very interesting but not interesting enough for me to repeat here.

My general perception of the interview is that Marissa was more open about Google than we have seen her in other interviews. Also less aggressive in protecting Google’s ideas and more open to criticism. Marissa even talked, although vaguely, about future products and services something which she always seemed to stay away from. She even told a personal story about what she felt the first time she walked into a cyber cafe and noticed someone using ‘her’ search engine. Great stuff!

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