Schmidt: I screwed up over social networking

Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google for the past 10 years, made a public mea culpa for the company's failure to crack social networking, and for its ceding control of swaths of the internet to Facebook.

"A CEO should take responsibility," he said, in a confessional interview at a technology conference. "I screwed up."

Mr Schmidt stood down from the day-to-day running of the search engine giant earlier this year, but has kept the title of chairman and a role as a roving ambassador for the company. His candid assessment of his period at the helm came as the company made a new push into social media yesterday with its Google Offers service.

People will be able to sign up to receive specially targeted discounts and deals at local businesses, in a service modelled on the successful Groupon business that Google tried and failed to acquire last year.

Google, which built its business by selling advertisements against anonymous search queries typed into its website, has been trying to encourage users to tell it more about themselves, so it can target more and better advertisements or deals at them.

"Facebook has done a number of things that I admire," Mr Schmidt said. "For years I've said we've missed something, which is identity... In the online world you need to know who you are dealing with."

And he added: "Three years ago I wrote memos talking about this general problem. I knew that I had to do something and I failed to do it."

Facebook began as a closed website where users were able to share their thoughts and pictures with friends, and has expanded to become a way of sharing a user's activity across the web. Other websites now allow people to log in using their Facebook identity.

Mr Schmidt said it would be better for competition and for easing privacy concerns if users did not concentrate their online activity through one single Facebook profile – but whether internet users will choose Google as a second online profile remains to be seen. Google Buzz, an attempt to build a social network from the address books of Google's Gmail email users, backfired last year. Google Offers is a new attempt to encourage internet users to build a social profile on Google, as is the new "+1" service, which allows users to rate and recommend traditional Google search results. These social features are ways "to make our own products better" rather than an attempt to go head-to-head against Facebook, Mr Schmidt said.

In the expansive interview on stage at the AllThingsD conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal blog, Mr Schmidt revealed that Google had repeatedly tried to do partnership deals with Facebook – including a deal that might have given the search engine access to the personal material contained in Facebook – but had been rebuffed. "We tried very hard to partner with Facebook," he said. "They were unwilling to do the deal."

In April, the chief executive post passed to Larry Page, one of Google's two founders, after Mr Schmidt and the board decided – in the words of the chairman at the time – that "adult supervision [was] no longer needed". Mr Page will focus on developing Google products, including new social media services and Google's Android and Chrome operating systems for smartphones and personal computers.

Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon are reshaping the consumer experience on the internet, just as Microsoft reshaped it on the personal computer two decades ago, Mr Schmidt said. "We have never had four companies growing at the scale that those four are in aggregate."

News
i100'Geography can be tough'
News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

DevOps Engineer - Linux, Shell, Bash, Solaris, UNIX, Salt-Stack

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...

Trade Desk FIX Analyst - (FIX, SQL, Equities, Support)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: An award-win...

DevOps Engineer - (Linux, Shell, Bash)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer - (Linux, Shell, Bash)DevOps Eng...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis