Google has never been great with social networks.
In a recent podcast interview with economist Tyler Cowen, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said this was mostly his fault.
Schmidt was asked about the reason for Google’s missteps with social networks — specifically Google Groups.
“Well, first place, I need to take responsibility for that failure,” Schmidt said referring to Google Groups, a product that most people have only used to create email groups but was initially thought of as a social network. “There were plenty of things that went unwell, but I think that in my CEO-ship, that was probably the one that I missed the biggest.”
Cowen proposed the idea that perhaps Google didn’t have the right DNA as a company to create the next, big social network.
“My answer is because we didn’t use it, that we were of the age where we were more comfortable with telephones and email and that kind of stuff, and this was emerging,” said Schmidt, who served as the company’s top exec between 2001 and 2011. “And there really was a slightly younger generation that was really driving it. The stuff was invented well past when I was in college.”
Schmidt completed his undergraduate degree at Princeton in 1976.
“Because we didn’t collectively use it, I suspect we didn’t fully understand how to do it,” he said.
Google+, perhaps the company’s most aggressive attempt to enter the elite social network class, was launched in June 2011, months after Schmidt turned over CEO duties to Larry Page that January. But there were several other social networking misfires, including the ill-fated Google Buzz and Google Wave.
One of the few bright spots in Google’s history of social woes was its 2006 acquisition of YouTube.
“Today we have quite a powerful social network embedded inside of YouTube, but I think it would be fair to say that the rise of Facebook, etc., occurred on my watch,” Schmidt said.
Interestingly, Cowen stayed clear of asking Schmidt about the bombshell New York Times article published in late October that detailed Google’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases and helped to incite the recent, company-wide walkouts.
Schmidt was cited in the report for hiring a former mistress to be a consultant for the company while he was CEO.
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