There would be two distinct internets in the world within the next decade – one that would be led by the United States and the other by China, predicted Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and executive chairman of its parent company, Alphabet.
In reply to a question by economist Tyler Cowen at a private event in San Francisco organized by the investment firm Village Global VC, Schmidt said: “I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America.”
In recent times, the strategy of Google as propounded by the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai, for China has drawn criticisms and therefore Schmidt’s predictions were aptly placed in that context.
There have been reports that “Project Dragonfly” is being prepared by Google, which is a censored, more restricted version of its search engine – and which is being prepared and developed so that Google is able to pass through the strict regulations for foreign to internet companies operating in China. According to the reports, the controversial parts of the project include a clause for suppressing search results with the power of even booting them off the first page as well as incorporating a way to stop the search engine from blocking and showing results for sensitive search strings such as “peaceful protests.”
Pichain was lobbied recently by hundreds of Google employees demanding greater transparency and they also signed a presented a signed letter which said that the reported project by the company raised “urgent moral and ethical issues.”
Pichai has said that Google has been “very open about our desire to do more in China,” and that the team “has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now,” and considering “many options,” but is nowhere near launching in China.
Chinese tech products, services and adoption, especially in mobile payments were lauded by Schmidt in a separate discussion between Schmidt and several start-up founders. For example, he pointed out that no register is maintained by Starbucks in China. Online medium is used by customers to order before hand and while picking up the food, they make the payments with their phones.
Replying to a question about whether tech companies have given anything substantial and good to the world, asked by a business development leader with Facebook, Ime Archebong, Schmidt replied: “The judge of this is others, not us. Self-referential conversations about ‘Do I feel good about what I’m doing?’ are not very helpful. The judge is outside.”
Entrepreneurs were also urged by Schmidt to conceive and make products that are not only additive but also valuable for users. Not enough companies “measure the right things” he also said. Short-term revenue growth and satisfying shareholders are the focus of too many companies. Such companies should rather focus on what’s best for their users, society and the long-term benefit of their companies.
Schmidt had taken over the role of Google’s CEO from its co-founder Larry Page in 2001 and was remained in the post till 2011.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)