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谷歌魔力会持续多久? How long will Google's magic last?

It flourished during the first phase of the internet. The next one may be tougher


Eurocops(注1) say: “Don’t be evil.”

“GOOGLE is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one,” wrote Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the search firm’s founders, in a letter to investors ahead of its stockmarket flotation in 2004. Since then, Google has burnished its reputation as one of the quirkiest companies on the planet. This year alone it has raised eyebrows by taking a stake in a wind-energy project off the east coast of America and by testing self-driving cars, which have already covered over 140,000 miles (225,000km) on the country’s roads.
“谷歌不是一家传统企业。我们也不打算变成传统企业,”谷歌两位创始人Larry Page与Sergey Brin,在2004公司上市前写给投资者的一封信里,如此表示。打那以后,谷歌被誉为“地球上最难捉摸的公司”,而它一直在为这一美名增光添彩。单是今年,谷歌就干了一连串引人侧目的事,譬如,入股美国东海岸的一个风能项目,测试自动驾驶汽车,这种车已在美国公路上跑了14万英里(22.5万公里)。

Google has been able to afford such flights of fancy thanks to its amazingly successful online-search business. This has produced handsome returns for the firm’s investors, who have seen the company transform itself in the别作恶 Don't be evil. space of a mere 12 years from a tiny start-up into a behemoth with a $180 billion market capitalisation that sprawls across a vast headquarters in Silicon Valley known as the Googleplex. Google also stretches across the web like a giant spider, with a leg in everything from online search and e-mail to social networking and web-based software applications, or apps.

Much of its growth has been organic, but Google has also splashed out on some sizeable acquisitions. In 2006 it paid $1.7 billion for YouTube, a website that lets people post videos of their children, kittens and Lady Gaga impersonations. The following year it snapped up DoubleClick, an online-advertising network, for $3.1 billion. More deals are likely. Google is bidding for Groupon, a trendy e-commerce business, using some of the $33 billion sitting in its coffers.
其发展大部分是内生的,但谷歌也投入重金展开巨额收购。2006年,该公司斥资17亿美元收购了视频分享网站YouTube,用户可在该网站上发布自个孩子、宠物的录像和Lady Gaga的模仿视频。次年,谷歌又花31亿美元抢购了在线广告网络DoubleClick。今后很可能会出现更多并购交易。谷歌正利用330亿美元现金储备,竞购一家流行的电子商务企业——团购网站Groupon。

All this has turned Google into a force to be reckoned with. But now the champion of the unorthodox is faced with two conventional business challenges. The first involves placating regulators, who fret that it may be abusing its considerable power. On November 30th the European Union announced a formal investigation into claims that Google has been manipulating search results to give an unfair advantage to its own services—a charge the firm vigorously denies. In America, Google faces a similar investigation in Texas and is also battling with a bunch of online-travel companies who have been lobbying the government to veto its recent purchase of ITA Software, a company that provides data about flights.
这一切,都让谷歌变成了一支不容小觑的力量。但如今,这家不走寻常路的成功企业,却面临两个传统的商业挑战。首先是安抚那些担心谷歌滥用权力的监管者。11月30日,欧盟宣布对谷歌展开正式调查,以确定谷歌是否操纵搜索结果,为其自身服务提供不公平的优势——谷歌严词否认了这项指控。在美国,谷歌在德克萨斯州面临类似调查。此外,在最近对航班数据提供商ITA Software的收购中,谷歌还要应对一大帮游说政府反对这笔交易的企业。

The other challenge facing Google is how to find new sources of growth. In spite of all the experiments it has launched, the firm is still heavily dependent on search-related advertising. Last year this accounted for almost all of its $24 billion of revenue and $6.5 billion of profit. Acquisitions such as YouTube have deepened rather than reduced the firm’s dependence on advertising. Steve Ballmer, the boss of Google’s arch-rival Microsoft, has derided the search company for being “a one-trick pony”.
谷歌面临的另一大挑战,是如何找到新的增长来源。尽管其开展了多项实验,但依然十分依赖搜索广告业务。谷歌去年240亿美元收入与65亿美元利润,几乎全部来源于此。诸如YouTube之类的并购案,非但没有降低谷歌对广告的依赖,反而加深了这一趋势。作为谷歌的劲敌,微软老板Steve Ballmer,甚至嘲笑这家搜索公司“一招鲜,吃遍天”。

Ironically, investors’ biggest worry is that Google will end up like Microsoft, which has failed to find big new sources of revenue and profit to replace those from its two ageing ponies, the Windows operating system and the Office suite of business software. That explains why Google’s share price has stagnated. “The market seems to believe this could be like Microsoft version two,” says Mark Mahaney, an analyst at Citigroup. News of the formal EU antitrust enquiry will no doubt invite further comparisons with Mr Ballmer’s firm, which fought a long and bruising battle with European regulators.
颇具讽刺意味的是,投资者最大的担忧在于,谷歌最终会落得跟微软一样,无法找到新的重要收入与利润来源,代替Windows操作系统与Office办公软件套装这个日益陈旧的招数。这也解释了谷歌股价停滞不前的原因。花旗集团分析师Mark Mahaney称,“市场似乎认为这家公司会成为微软第二。”欧盟就反垄断正式质询谷歌的消息,无疑会导致人们进一步将其与微软对比,Ballmer先生的公司就曾与欧洲监管者展开过一场旷日持久的殊死斗争。

Is such a comparison fair? Those who think it is point to several changes that could damage Google. The first is the rise of new ways in which people can find information online. They include social networks such as Facebook, which saw traffic to its site in America surpass that to Google’s sites earlier this year (see chart 1), and apps offered by Apple and other firms that help people find information without using a web browser.

Appalled by walled gardens(注2)

Another cause for concern is that firms such as Facebook and Apple are hoarding customer data, thereby making them inaccessible to Google’s search engine. The rise of such “walled gardens” on the web clearly bothers Google’s top brass. “Two years ago I would have told you this isn’t a problem,” says Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive. “Now I will tell you it is a threat.” Google recently clashed publicly and caustically with Facebook over the latter’s data practices, warning potential users that the social network had become “a data dead end”.
另一个担忧的原因在于,Facebook及苹果等公司都在囤积用户数据,使得谷歌的搜索引擎无法访问。这种网上“围墙花园”兴起,显然令谷歌高层不安。 “两年前,我或许会告诉你,这不是个问题”,谷歌CEO Eric Schmidt称,“但现在我会对你说,这是个威胁。”谷歌最近就与Facebook公开起了冲突,并挖苦后者的数据处理,甚至警告潜在用户,这种社交网络已变成了“数据的死胡同”。

The search firm is seeing barriers go up elsewhere too. Take media companies, which are now thinking twice before licensing content to Google or making it freely available on the web. The biggest producers of television content in America are wary of supplying programming to new internet-enabled television services such as Google TV. And the rush towards tablet computers by newspaper companies hungry for new sources of revenue means that many of them are withdrawing free content from the internet.
这家搜索公司也在其他领域碰到了障碍。以媒体公司为例,他们现在与谷歌签订内容授权合同,或在网上投放免费内容时,都会三思。在向Google TV等互联网电视服务提供节目时,美国最大的电视内容制造商,也会小心翼翼。一直渴求新收入来源的报业公司,则在积极涌向平板电脑领域,这也表明他们中的许多企业正从互联网上撤下免费内容。

Google could also suffer from any backlash against companies that are perceived to have violated users’ privacy online. If governments tighten rules in response, they could make it harder for the firm to carry on minting money from ads. And pressure for action is growing: on December 1st America’s Federal Trade Commission said it favoured a plan to allow consumers to choose whether or not their web-surfing habits are tracked by others.

Eurocops say: “Don’t be evil.”

Vexed in the Googleplex

Lastly, there are problems inside the Googleplex itself. The company has lost a number of stars, such as Omar Hamoui, the founder of AdMob, a mobile-advertising company that Google acquired last year, and Lars Rasmussen, who led a project called Wave to create a new kind of online collaborative tool. Mr Rasmussen recently moved to Facebook, complaining that it had become impossible to get things done at Google because of the bureaucracy at the company, which now boasts 23,000 employees.
最后,谷歌内部也存在问题。该公司已失去了Omar Hamoui和Lars Rasmussen等明星员工。前者是谷歌去年收购的移动广告公司AdMob的创始人,后者是网络协作工具Wave项目的负责人。Rasmussen先生最近跳槽到Facebook,他抱怨谷歌官僚主义盛行,无法做事。谷歌现在自诩拥有2.3万名员工。

Admittedly, Mr Rasmussen may still be sore that Google shuttered his project, which flopped. But his complaint resonates with some Xooglers (the nickname for former Google employees), who say decision-making has become painfully slow as the firm has grown. Jon Holman, an executive recruiter, reckons Google is going through what he calls “a Darwinian evolution” that could make it harder to attract top talent in future.
无可否认,Rasmussen先生或许仍对谷歌关闭他的失败项目耿耿于怀。不过他的抱怨,也确实引发了部分Xoogler(谷歌前雇员的昵称)共鸣,他们都宣称,随着谷歌发展壮大,决策效率已慢得令人痛苦不堪。一家人力资源公司的高管Jon Holman,认为谷歌正经历其所谓的“达尔文进化”,使之未来越来越难吸引顶尖人才。

Does all this mean that Google’s glory days are over? Don’t bet on it. True, the firm’s revenue growth slowed from 56% in 2007 to 9% last year, but that was still respectable considering that the global economy fell howling off a cliff. And there are signs that the company is picking up steam again: its third-quarter revenue rose by 23% to $7.3 billion, which beat most analysts’ expectations.

Moreover, Google is well placed to benefit from several important trends. One is the rapid growth in the amount of data being produced worldwide, which provide the raw material on which Google’s search engine feasts. For instance, YouTube is now taking in 35 hours-worth of video content every minute of the day, up from about six hours-worth in June 2007. That suggests there is still likely to be a big role for a general-purpose search engine, even if people do use apps and social networks more often to get information.

Google also stands to gain as more advertising moves to the web. Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, finds that Americans spend 28% of their media time online, yet only 13% of total ad spending is devoted to the internet. If ads ultimately catch up with eyeballs, an extra $50 billion-worth of advertising could be shifted online each year, Morgan Stanley estimates.

Then there is the rise of the mobile web, which looks as if it will form the cornerstone of Google’s second act. At the heart of that act lies Android, the firm’s smartphone operating system, which it lets telecoms firms and phone-makers use for nothing. Some critics have hammered Google for giving Android away when other companies such as Microsoft charge for their operating systems. But the firm wants as many people as possible to adopt Android, which acts as a “platform” that encourages them to explore other Google services, including e-mail and search.

This approach seems to be working. From practically nothing a couple of years ago, Android now accounts for an impressive 26% of the market, rivalling Apple’s popular iPhone (see chart 2). To support it, Google has been developing its own library of online apps, and it is looking at other ways to please smartphone users, such as e-commerce. The firm also hopes that an operating system it has developed around its lightning-fast web browser, Chrome, will prove popular. This might be ideal for powering netbooks (small laptop computers), for example.

Your phone is watching you

Google is particularly excited about the commercial prospects for its mobile activities because smartphones make possible revolutionary developments in areas such as voice-commanded search (you say “holidays in Spain” and your handset finds you a villa on the Costa del Sol). If this technology catches on, it should drive up the total number of searches conducted. Moreover, because a mobile phone knows where you are, Google will be able to send you ads for a shop or restaurant only a few paces away. Such ads are expected to lead to lots of sales, so Google will be able to charge a premium for them. This may explain why Google is so keen on a company like Groupon. The rumoured price tag sounds excessive, but it would bring Google some badly needed muscle in local search, where it is relatively weak.

Google has also been building up its activities in online display advertising, which is a very different business from the more straightforward ads that it serves up alongside search results. Display ads tend to be more complex than search ads and are designed primarily to enhance a company’s brand rather than to clinch a sale. Google’s market share in this business is tiny, but Susan Wojcicki, who oversees DoubleClick and other operations, reckons there is “a lot of friction in the system” that it can still remove.
谷歌也一直在打造网络展示广告业务,这与其根据搜索结果所提供的更为简单的广告业务,截然不同。展示广告往往比搜索广告更复杂,其设计目的主要是提升公司品牌,而不是达成生意。谷歌这方面的市场份额微不足道,但负责DoubleClick公司及其他业务的Susan Wojcicki认为,谷歌仍可以克服“该系统中的很多阻力。”

Indeed, there are already encouraging signs that Google’s big bets on mobile phones and display advertising are starting to bear fruit. It recently revealed that mobile advertising is now on track to generate $1 billion a year in revenue. And it reckons that display ads will bring in about $2.5 billion. Analysts estimate that roughly half of this amount will come from ads on YouTube.

Even as it looks for a second act, Google has been investing heavily in its first one, which accounts for roughly two out of every three online queries in America and handles some 2 billion searches a day. Earlier this year the firm unveiled Google Instant, an enhancement that displays search results before users finish typing a query, shaving two to five seconds from the average search. By helping users find information faster, the company is betting they will conduct more searches. And every time they do, Google can ping carefully targeted ads at them.
尽管谷歌正在寻找“第二春”,但也未减少对“第一春”网络搜索业务的投入。大体而言,该业务占据美国搜索市场三分之二的份额,一天要处理约20亿次搜索。今年初,该公司推出了功能增强的Google Instant即时搜索业务,可在用户输完搜索提问前,即时显示搜索结果。平均每次搜索,能帮用户省时2至5秒。谷歌打赌,通过帮助用户更快找到信息,将引导更多搜索提问。而每当用户搜索信息时,谷歌就可以向其定向投放精准广告。

Boy billionaires at play

Looking ahead, Google executives depict a world in which the firm not only helps people to find information they are looking for, but delivers it to them before they know they need it. To do this, it will use data about them which they have given Google permission to use. For instance, such a “serendipity engine” could alert someone to the publication of a new book by one of their favourite authors. Creating these capabilities will be hugely difficult technically, but Udi Manber, who oversees Google’s search activities, says his team is inspired by “doing things that are on the cusp of the possible”.
展望未来,谷歌高管描绘了这样一个世界:该公司今后不仅可帮用户找到信息,还可在用户意识到自己需求前,为其提供信息。为做到这一点,谷歌将使用用户授权的数据。例如,推出一款“好运引擎(serendipity engine)”,当用户喜欢的作家有新书出版时,可提醒其注意。这种功能需要非常艰深的技术,不过谷歌搜索业务负责人Udi Manber表示,其团队因 “从事可能处于尖端地位的事业”,而深受激励。

All this suggests that Google’s one-trick pony is really more of a thoroughbred. And the company’s nurturing of its mobile business and its success in display advertising indicates that there is plenty of life left in it yet. Google is also trying to get to grips with areas of weakness, such as social networking. Rather than try to create a competitor to Facebook, it plans to introduce a “social layer” across its existing products in the coming months. So, for example, people using YouTube with such a layer in place will be able to see what their friends have been watching on the service, assuming Google has been given permission to share such data.
这一切表明,谷歌“一招鲜吃遍天”的本事,真的相当优良。而该公司对移动业务的培育及其在展示广告业务上的成功,表明谷歌仍保有很强的生命力。谷歌也一直试图应对其薄弱领域,如社交网络。但谷歌并未设法打造一款与Facebook竞争的产品,而是计划在未来数月,横跨其现有的各类产品推出一个“社交层”。 例如,当用户借助该社交层使用YouTube时,便可以看到其好友一直在观看哪些YouTube视频。当然,前提是用户允许谷歌分享这类数据。

The sheer number of projects running at Google at any one time raises the question of whether the company may be trying to do too many things at once. In some ways, Google represents the internet-era equivalent of Bell Labs or Xerox PARC—legendary corporate research outfits that shaped the evolution of technology in earlier periods. The difference is that most of Google’s novel ideas come from people embedded in the company’s core operations rather than cloistered in a stand-alone brains trust.
谷歌同时运作大量项目,引发了外界质疑,怀疑其是否可同时做过多事情。在某些方面,谷歌就像是互联网时代的贝尔实验室(Bell Labs)或施乐帕洛阿尔托研究所(Xerox PARC)——这两家传奇性的企业研究机构,孕育了早期的技术革命。区别在于,谷歌多数奇思妙想,都来自其核心业务的团队成员,而非隐居在独立智囊团中的“世外高人”。

The firm’s senior executives argue that the ferocious rate of experimentation they encourage is precisely why Google will avoid the sclerosis that typically sets in when a firm gets too big. “Every McKinsey consultant will tell me I’m spreading things too thin,” says Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s head of product management. “But you only win if you innovate faster than the players in the rest of the system.”
谷歌高层表明,正是由于积极支持开展实验,才使谷歌能够避免企业成长壮大后一般都会遭遇的僵化症状。谷歌产品管理经理Jonathan Rosenberg称,“每个麦肯锡顾问都会告诉我,我们的业务摊得太开。但只有比系统其它领域的对手更快创新,才能获胜。”

To keep winning, the firm will need to hang on to its remarkable talent pool. Google has been so successful partly because it has created a kind of paradise for software engineers, which offers perks such as massages, free gourmet meals and the like. But competition for talent in Silicon Valley is now reaching fever pitch. Facebook, in particular, has been a merciless poacher from Google. Not only does it pinch some of Google’s best geeks; it even pinched one of its best cooks.

Google says its attrition rate has not changed in seven years, but it has clearly been rattled by some of the most recent departures. Last month the company gave all of its workers a 10% pay rise plus a $1,000 bonus. And it is rumoured to have made multi-million-dollar counter-offers(注3) to keep especially valuable personnel from jumping to Facebook or elsewhere. This has sent a clear signal to rivals that it intends to fight to keep its most valuable assets. The firm has also been using acquisitions of small businesses to bring in new ones, as well as to beef up its expertise in certain areas. Its purchases this year include Slide, which makes social-networking software, and Social Deck, which makes social games for mobile devices.
谷歌称其员工流失率七年未变,不过最近几次人员离职,显然令其不安。该公司上月给全体员工加薪10%,外加千元红包。有传言称,谷歌甚至为某些收到挖角要约、有特别价值的员工提供数百万美元奖金,以防止他们跳槽到Facebook或其他公司。这向其对手传递了一个明确信号,谷歌打算奋力保住其最有价值的资产。该公司一直在利用小型公司并购来网罗新人才,并提升其在某些特定领域的专业能力。比方说今年,谷歌收购的Side和Social Deck分别从事社交网络软件与移动社交游戏开发。

Google is also making a rather conventional move to create business units whose heads have more autonomy over the way their operations are run. The aim is to hang on to talented folk who might otherwise leave and do their own thing. Andy Rubin, the tech whizz who oversees the Android empire, reckons Google can be a start-up that is home to many other start-ups run by the entrepreneurially minded. The firm has also launched a venture-capital arm that can take stakes in businesses that Xooglers might set up.
谷歌也在采取十分传统的措施,设立新的业务部门,赋予部门主管更多的经营运作方式自主权,目的是防止优秀员工离职创业。管理Android帝国的技术专家Andy Rubin认为,谷歌将成为一个创业企业,能容纳很多靠企业思想运作的创业企业。该公司也开设了风险资本部门,能持股Xooglers创立的企业。

Dynamos and dinosaurs

But money and decision-making power alone won’t secure the services of the smartest software types, who want work not only to reward them but also to inspire them. That is why projects such as green energy and driverless cars matter so much. Some of these ventures may seem like long shots, but that is the point. People work for Google in part because it uses technology in cool ways that might make a real difference to humanity. “Ambition is a very important part of our culture,” says Mr Brin, “and the depth of science you can do at Google is [like] nowhere else in the world.”

Google’s quirkiness is embodied in a bronze replica of a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, nicknamed Stan, which stands near the entrance to a building in the Googleplex. It might seem a bizarre symbol for a high-tech powerhouse. But Stan is a salutary reminder that the internet dynamo needs to keep evolving fast if it is to avoid becoming a digital dinosaur.

中文译名为《欧洲警察》,是荷兰的独立工作室CrazyFoot使用Croteam的Serious引擎制作的第三人称射击游戏,玩家控制一队精锐的欧洲警察,执行任务,粉碎罪恶。这里暗指欧盟对谷歌展开的反垄断调查,把欧盟比作“欧洲警察”,同时谷歌公司的宗旨是“Don't be evil.”即“不作恶”,TE的幽默俏皮真是无处不在。

注2:walled gardens
A walled garden is an analogy used in various senses in information technology. In the telecommunications and media industries, a "walled garden" refers to a carrier's or service provider's control over applications, content, and media on platforms (such as mobile devices) and restriction of convenient access to non-approved applications or content. For example, in telecommunications, the services and applications accessible on any device on a given wireless network were historically tightly controlled by the mobile operators. The mobile operators determined which applications from which developers were available on a device's home portal or home page. This has long been a central issue constraining the telecommunications sector, as developers face huge hurdles in getting their applications onto devices and into the hands of end users.
More generally, a walled garden refers to a closed or exclusive set of information services provided for users. This is in contrast to giving consumers open access to applications and content.
Another use of the term refers to quarantining malware-infected computers which exhibit symptoms of botnet activity in such a way that the user can still access tools to disinfect the machine, usually with a Web browser.
The term can also refer to a situation in which an unauthenticated user is given access to a limited environment for the purpose of setting up an account. After the account is established, the user is allowed out of the walled garden. Some walled gardens are created and maintained by the use of firmware upgrades that wall out alternatives (e.g., Apple Inc. iPhone hacks).
Alternatively, a walled garden can be information that has few authors and rich interlinkage, but a paucity of links to and from its surrounding information network..

英英解释为:an offer or proposal made to offset or substitute for an earlier offer made by another.
受盘人不同意发盘中的交易条件而提出修改或变更的意见, 称为还盘(Counter Offer)。在法律上叫反要约。 还盘实际上是受盘人以发盘人的地位发出的一个新盘。原发盘人成为新盘的受盘人。 还盘又是受盘人对发盘的拒绝,发盘因对方还盘而失效,原发盘人不再受其约束。还盘可以在双方之间反复进行,还盘的内容通常仅陈述需变更或增添的条件,对双方同意的交易条件毋需重复。