IO2008: Rough notes from Marissa Mayer Day 2 Keynote at Google IO

Continued from Yesterday (day 1): Rough notes from Selected Sessions at Google IO Day 1.

Marissa Mayer Keynote: A Glimpse Under the Hood at Google

· Showed iGoogle and talked about how Google Gadgets are a great way to get broad distribution and are a form of advertising.

· Search is number 2 most used application (after email)

· The ordinary and the everyday

· Why is search page so simple?

· Variation of Occam’s Razor: “the simple design is probably right”

· Sergey did it and it was because “there was nobody else to do it and he doesn’t do HTML”

· Described process of answering a query (700 to 1,000 machines in .16 seconds):

· This time of day we’re busy so the query will likely go to one data center and likely get bounced to another (must be a simplification of what really happens – load ballancing)

· Mixer

· Google Web Server

· Ads + Websearch (300 to 400 systems)

· Back to mixer

· Back to Web server

· Back to load balancer

· Split A/B Testing:

· We given a subset of users a different user experience. Web services allow very detailed views and to iterate very quickly and evolve rapidly.

· Example: amount of white space under Google logo on results page?

· This test showed convincingly that less white space rather than more (produces more usage and more revenue)

· Example: yellow or blue as background for paid adds

· Yellow produced both more satisfaction and more revenue.

· “If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will” – Sam Walton

· But you need to test rather than ask since they often don’t know.

· Example: would you like 10, 20, or 30 results. Users unanimously wanted 30.

· But 10 did way better in A/B testing (30 was 20% worse) due to lower latency of 10 results

· 30 is about twice the latency of 10 (I would have expected the other overheads to dominate. Suggests there is another solution waiting to be found here).

· Example: Maps was 120k for launch page. We took 30 to 40k out. Got a proportional increase in usage.

· Example: Google Video uploads used to be 1 day to watch while YouTube offered “Watch it now”. Much more compelling.

· Urgent can drown out important

· Users go from unskilled to skilled searchers very fast (under 1 month). Consequently it’s better to optimize for expert since most are and novices get there fast due to fast feedback loop.

· The lesson is to think longer term at all levels in design.

· Think beyond the current development horizon. 10 years for major products and services.

· Example: Universal search vs vertical search. Users want verticals now but what they really want is universal search. They just want to find the answer they are searching for.

· Goog-411: don’t know if we can make money off this but it helps us develop voice recognition. Applications of voice recognition are monetizable so, even if Goog-411 doesn’t yield revenue, other applications will.

· International content:

· 50% of the web is English but only aobut 1% of the web is Arabic

· Conclusion: take an Arabic search, translate find relevant pages, then translate the result. Opens up MUCH more content and dramatically improves the results for an Arabic user.

· Larry Paige: ”A Healthy Disrespect for the Impossible” opens up many possibilities.

· Showed examples of how search is not generally “solvable” but getting to 90 to 95% has HUGE benefit. Search is a hard and unconstrained problem. Same with health records.

· Recommendation: Be Scrappy & revel in constraints

· Google operates in 140 countries and 110 languages. Described the complexity of pulling out text strings from a web site, sending out to translation, dealing with multiple string versions, etc.

· Betters solution: let the users help with the translated content. If you don’t see your language, help us do it. There are now ¼ million users helping with translation from all over the world.

· Interesting little Easter egg: one of the languages on the Google home page is “Bork! Bork! Bork!” – it’s the Swedish chef from the Muppets

· Interesting little example: they took 11k Googler’s to Indiana Jones last week

· Marissa went through a bunch of examples of taking on the impossible and brainstorming possible solutions and showing that some just exercised their thinking and others produced cool products/solutions. Explained that 20% time is just another way of exercising the brain (“Imagination as a muscle”). And Orkut, Google News, and during one period 50% of their new products, were from 20% time.

· Random note: What you last searched for is the best context signal for the current search.

James Hamilton, Windows Live Platform Services
Bldg RedW-D/2072, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, 98052
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