According to Nielsen/NetRatings, Inc.'s survey results released in January 2006, Google Search accounted for 46.3% of all searches in the US. With what aims, where does Google, Inc. head for after growing rapidly in only seven years and a few months since its foundation? Nikkei Electronics interviewed Norio Murakami, President of Google Japan Inc.
(Interviewer: Hirotaka Itou, Nikkei Electronics)
--The number of Google's employees has reportedly expanded to almost 5,700 only in a little longer than seven years since its foundation.
What do you think are the factors behind the great growth?
Murakami: Many factors are behind the growth, but if I were to choose, there are two key factors. One is the firm, stable axis of the company. Google declares its specific mission clearly as "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." This solid axis, or corporate motto, is what lies behind our growth.
The axis does not fluctuate because of our technologies. This can be regarded as the second factor. Our famous "PageRank," for example, is one of the core technologies that enhance our search engine. In addition, Google does not settle for the existing technologies, partly because the company was originally founded by engineers. We keep on reminding ourselves each other that the company's core is its technologies when we develop them. We therefore employ only the best human resources when recruiting.
--The number of employees has been increasing rapidly in these several years. Do you make any effort to maintain your corporate culture as it is?
Murakami: To sum up, our corporate culture is "indifferent optimism." As you indicated, it is likely that the larger the workforce gets, the thinner a corporate culture grows. Many companies must have experienced it. Hence, we make every effort to understand the engineer before employing him. It all comes down to the fact that we want to enjoy working with him. At Google, technical qualification is not the only criterion for employing. We try to find out whether the person can adapt to our corporate culture.
--Google is reported to take a long time before employing a person. What process does a selection go through?
Murakami: Basically, engineers who are expected to get involved with the same job interview the person at first. Final interview takes place in the US, of course. An interview may extend to several months because it takes place in both Japan and the US. At the end of an interview, the interviewer calm and ask himself that "I am currently standing at Narita International Airport with this engineer. We are stuck in the airport due to some trouble. Now I must spend a whole day alone with this engineer at the airport. Can I enjoy the day with him under these circumstances?"
I believe it will be difficult for a person to be employed if any of the engineers who have interviewed him gives him a severe score, because we all ask ourselves throughout an interview if we can enjoy working with him.
--Google has many unique products such as Google Earth and Picassa. Why do you provide such software without charge?
Murakami: First of all, let me explain about our basic policy. That is our philosophy that we offer services for general consumers for free. Instead, we have established a structure that delivers us solid advertisement sales. We always follow through this policy.
This is because we cannot realize what our services are supposed to be, if we start earning money from general consumers. Our key focus would shift to how we can make money. On the contrary, we make every effort to educate our employees only to consider what services draw general consumers. That is why we do not charge for Picassa, Google Earth and other applications. It is our belief that advertisement will come along in some way, if we offer services that attract general consumers.
--What do you comment on an opinion that Google depends too much on sales income from advertisement?
Murakami: I believe the indication is not appropriate. Internet advertisement currently makes up only a small slice in the whole advertisement market. Japan's advertisement market size has moved around the ¥6 trillion level for the last few years. In FY2004, for example, Internet ad only accounted for about 3% or ¥180 billion of it. Furthermore, listing ad that we are good at does not even constitute a large stake of the ¥180 billion. We have just acquired no more than a tiny share in the overall advertisement market.
--What do you think the search engine will transform into in the near future?
Murakami: I guess personalization will be the main stream. We want to make our search engine able to analyze and display precise information that the user is after, like "You have searched such keywords thus far and you have tendency to click such websites when searching this keyword," for example. This is only if we are permitted to analyze personal search history, of course. To help users easily find specific information they are looking for - that must be the goal ahead of the search engine.