Liz Gannes

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Larry Page Speaks (Yes, He Speaks!) on Regulation and Other Topics (Video)

Larry Page is back from his vocal-cord-recovery hiatus, and he answered questions on Tuesday at the company’s Zeitgeist Americas partner and customer conference in Arizona.

Page, whose rested voice seemed much improved, was more candid than usual, giving some nuance to his views on topics like regulation, mission-driven businesses, payments, education, social search and lots of other things.

For instance, here’s his retort to recent criticism of Google’s unified privacy policy:

“Virtually everything that we want to do, I think, is somewhat at odds with locking down all your information for uses that you haven’t contemplated yet. We don’t actually know how the Internet is going to work 10 years from now. So I think it’s a mistake to start carving out large classes of things that you don’t really understand yet, that you don’t want people to do.”

On the iOS maps controversy: Page said it was validation for people to notice “we’ve worked hard for these seven years.” He said it’s likely that Google will release another iOS mapping app of its own.

On innovating in hardware and software at the same time: It’s a lot better than it was in the pre-smartphone era. For instance, with Sergey Brin’s Google Glass Project, “every time I use it, I feel like I’m living in the future.”

How’s his voice healing? “Still a little hoarse, but I’m here, so I’m happy with it.”

More on regulation: “Overregulation of the Internet and restriction of what people can do is a big risk for us.” Page noted that before Google united its privacy policies, the “super-powerful, amazing” Google Now product would not have been possible, because Google wasn’t allowed to combine information across products.

Later, Page added that he’s excited about further opportunities for these contextual applications and personal assistants like Google Now. “There’s a lot of things we spend time on today that we’ll be able to automate and do a lot better.”

On YouTube: There’s potential for business growth, yes, but it’s also about making the world better by turning all those hours of entertainment into something more engaging.

On apps versus Web on mobile: People are too hung up on this distinction, Page said. Google does both, and it’s all getting blurred. Once Chrome is fully on Android, people will use their phones just like their desktop computers.

On intellectual property: He’s optimistic that people will be able to make money from content online. Right now it’s mostly through advertising, but there will be other ways, too.

On employee retention: For Google, it’s about setting goals high, having sound ethics, giving people ownership … and free food doesn’t hurt.

On Google’s role in payments: It’s all about phones. Google is working hard on this.

In the context of an answer about the future of education, Page gave a personal anecdote about how online education (and playing hooky!) was actually his personal preference: “When I was at Stanford, I just watched all my classes on video, because that’s how the computer science department did it. I’d never go to class. The day before the exam, I’d watch all my classes, and then, hopefully, I passed the exam. And it worked pretty well for me.”

On social and search: Page said that just like maps, social is not a separate dimension of search. That’s why Google is investing in Google+.

Finally, someone asked, “Are you having fun?” Page answered yes, and talked up Google’s social mission and its willingness and capability to take risks.

Here’s the full video:

More videos from the conference are here.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik