Marissa Mayer is dubbed “the gatekeeper of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) products.” Ultimately, it falls to her to ensure that the internet giant remains as agile and innovative as it was a decade ago.
“Now, when new people come in [to Google] who say their products are ‘not good enough for the Google name’ you have to tell them that the Google name was built on building stuff, throwing it out there, getting feedback, seeing how it works, ramping it up, making it a success and then managing resource afterwards,” she said at SXSW.
What you end up with, then, is a proliferation of products. This is where Google has fallen short, Mayer admitted.
“Some of our products should be features, like Latitude and Google Hotpot,” she said. “One of the things we need to do more is merge these products into core technologies, consolidate into Maps or Places. There’s probably more than one product [Latitude and Hotpot could fit into] but we still need to condense somewhat.”
Mayer, a Stanford University graduate who joined the Mountain View company almost 12 years ago, also admitted that Google Maps needs some form of customer support. (Late last year, Nicaragua refused to withdraw troops from a disputed parcel of land along its border with Costa Rica after Google Maps wrongly labeled it Nicaraguan territory.) “We do need to have some support there, and step up our customer service,” Mayer said.
About 40% of Google Maps usage is local, according to Mayer, with 150 million people using the mobile Google Maps. Location-based services, including new releases of Maps for mobile, check-ins, deals and augmented reality, are evolving into quintessentially Google products. The world of “contextual discovery” – organising information, reviews and deals around a given location – is the local play on Google’s longest-standing ambition.
Asked by the Guardian how Google manages to assuage privacy fears with cutting-edge consumer products, Mayer said that its Street View technology had gotten “better and better at blurring” licence plates and offering other opt-outs.
Mayer said Google is “transparent” about the data it needs to inform its products, adding: “There are actually a lot of places that have a lot of data about you that people don’t know. I read the other week that credit card companies know with 98% accuracy two years before that you’re going to get divorced – that’s crazy.
“But it means that there’s things that you don’t even know about, like changes in your spouse’s buying power. The real question is: because that data’s always been there but now it’s been recorded, the question is how are they handling it?”
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.