Google executives took slightly contradictory stances this afternoon when asked about Facebook. Perhaps the message was: We’re looking at Facebook, but we’re not, you know, worried or anything.
It seems like a problem for Google is that so much of Facebook’s data is hidden from search engines. As Google’s Marissa Mayer (who previously led the company’s search experience but recently switched to the location team) said at the TechCrunch50 conference last month, “There is a lot of content that is being locked in.” To make matters worse (again, from Google’s perspective), Facebook recently announced a deal to use social data to improve the results in Microsoft’s competing Bing search engine.
One of the analysts on today’s conference call about Google’s third-quarter earnings asked whether it will be a problem if Facebook’s data continues to be largely hidden from Google. Nikesh Arora, president of global sales and business development, said that’s not a big concern, because “the Web continues to grow at such a blazing pace” that any site that keeps its data private will be “completely swamped by the Internet.”
However, chief executive Eric Schmidt (pictured) then added that Google is “always concerned” about sites that aren’t accessible via search. From both a “religious and business perspective,” Google believes that websites shouldn’t wall themselves off, he said.
Earlier in the call, Schmidt also answered a question about how Google is able to index real-time and social data. He declined to offer any details but said real-time and social data is included in the “complex signals” that Google uses in its rankings, and that Google is developing new ways for users to “give us that sort of information” — presumably these are the social features that Google has been hinting at.