Monday, December 29, 2008
Looking back, looking forward
It's hard to believe that another spectacular year is already coming to a close. It seems like just yesterday I was waxing nostalgic about our achievements in 2007. Here are just a few highlights from 2008:
There's no place like home
When I first joined Google in 2005, we didn't have a permanent office in D.C., which made for a quasi-nomadic lifestyle. So take it from me, it was great to welcome everyone to the grand opening of our permanent Washington office in January. Since then we've welcomed literally thousands of guests - from state finalists and regional Doodle4Google winners to Hispanic College Fund scholars - for dozens of events large and small. (Not to be outdone, the Federal division of Google's Enterprise Sales group moved into their own new office in nearby Reston, VA this year.)
Our new space has been the perfect place to host "Google D.C. Talks," our series of panel discussions on technology policy for the broader Washington community. Topics have ranged from the state of the Internet economy to digital natives, and in November we launched a three-part series of "Talks" focusing on the 2009 technology policy agenda.
Keeping busy at the FCC
It was a busy year at the Federal Communications Commission. In March the FCC announced the results of its 700 MHZ spectrum auction. Google didn't pick up any spectrum licenses, but our bidding helped drive the auction past the $4.6 billion reserve price, triggering two key openness conditions: open access and open devices. Then in November, the FCC voted 5-0 to open up the "white spaces" spectrum for wireless broadband service for the public, paving the way for affordable, high-speed wireless Internet across the United States - in other words, "Wi-Fi on steroids."
In a very short time the wireless world has transformed from a tightly closed ecosystem to one that's becoming more and more open. It's been gratifying to see the progress that has been made, and exciting to think about the work that still needs to be done.
The Google/YouTube election
The Internet emerged as a clear winner in this year's presidential election, with Google and YouTube leading the way. Millions of Americans watched thousands of videos of Barack Obama and John McCain on YouTube. They used Google's Voter Info site to find out where to vote, how to register, and how to contact local election officials. Google and YouTube were out in force at the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention, and on Election Day, users flocked to Google Maps as real-time election results rolled in.
President-elect Obama has pledged to use the Web as a major communications tool -- he's already broadcasting his weekly radio address on YouTube. It will be interesting to watch how he'll use the Internet to communicate with citizens once he takes office.
Yahoo ads deal
There were disappointments for us this year, too. In June we announced a nonexclusive ads deal that would have allowed Yahoo to show more relevant ads for searches that currently generate few or no advertisements. We spent a lot of time explaining the benefits of the deal, but it became clear that government regulators and certain advertisers still had concerns. Rather than become distracted by a protracted legal battle, we decided to end the agreement in November and instead focus on continuing to deliver innovative products for our users.
Googlers on the Hill
Last but not least, co-founder Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt spent some quality time in D.C. this year. Larry hit Capitol Hill in May and September to push for "white spaces," and in November Eric talked about the economy and clean energy. And several Googlers testified before Congress this year on issues like small business, privacy, free expression, competition, and energy efficiency: David Fischer, Jane Horvath, Nicole Wong, David Drummond, and Dan Reicher.
As 2008 made clear, the world of tech policy is fast-paced and constantly evolving. With a new President and Congress coming to Washington in 2009, it's an exciting time to be working on these issues.
From our team to all of you, happy holidays and warm wishes for the new year.