Eric Schmidt may not be Google’s CEO anymore now that Larry Page is in the saddle, but Schmidt, currently the executive chairman of the search company, clearly still views Google through a leader’s eye — and that includes the company’s screwups.
Speaking at the D9 conference, Schmidt opened up about Google’s poor showing in social media, which has given rise to criticism as failures like Orkut, Wave, and Buzz have piled up. When asked what his greatest regret was as CEO of the company this is what he pointed to:
Tellingly, Schmidt said the social problem Google is grappling with today is largely his fault. He said he recently looked up memos he wrote four years ago about Google needing to address online identity. “I clearly knew that I had to do something, and I failed to do it,” he said. “A CEO should take responsibility. I screwed up.”
Though Facebook has emerged as a bitter rival to Google in winning ad dollars, top engineers, and hearts and minds, with dirty tactics not out of the question, Schmidt praised Facebook for its role in de-anonymizing the Internet: “[Facebook is] the first generally available way of disambiguating identity. Historically, on the Internet such a fundamental service wouldn’t be owned by a single company. I think the industry would benefit from an alternative to that….Identity is incredibly useful because in the online world you need to know who you are dealing with.”