Google backslides

Paul Kaputska, the Google apologist who writes for GigaOm, puts on an amazing display of intellectual flexibility in denying the remarks made by one of Google’s top engineers yesterday. First a Google press release, then Kapustka’s own words:

“Some remarks from Vincent Dureau’s well-received speech at the Cable Europe Congress were quoted out of context in news reports,” said a Google spokesperson Friday. The further background explanation from Google is that Dureau was responding to a question and was trying to address a potential bottleneck Google does see, which they say exists between Google’s own content-delivery infrastructure and the cable set-top box in your home.

Google’s infrastructure scales just fine, they said, and there is no problem watching TV on the Web. Despite what you may have read.

Vincent Dureau was quoted accurately, he was addressing a real problem, and Reuters put the remarks in context:

Google instead offered to work together with cable operators to combine its technology for searching for video and TV footage and its tailored advertising with the cable networks’ high-quality delivery of shows.

The issue is that OTA TV, cable, and satellite use a broadcast model – one stream per program – while Internet TV tends to use a unicast model, which is one stream per consumer. The unicast model is fine as long as Internet TV is limited to 100,000 people watching five-minute, low-def clips on YouTube, but if 20 million people want to watch Survivor on the Internet at the same time, it would collapse. That’s a mathematical fact.

So Google proposes to build direct links from their massive server complexes to the cable systems that bypass the Internet and conform to the more efficient broadcast model. AT&T is running into problems with its U-Verse system that indicate this is a real problem, not something drummed up by the enemies of freedom who want to censor Daily Kos in order to keep the Republican hegemon in power (or whatever the cheerleaders for net neutrality regulations are claiming today.)

Net neutrality is faith-based network engineering, and it’s encouraging to know that at least some of the engineers at Google haven’t drunk that particular Kool-Aid.

This is the technical equivalent of Micheal Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe as a politician accidentally telling the truth. Google is such a creature of public opinion now that too much truth can only harm its monopoly position, hence the backsliding by the PR department.

UPDATE: There are some very interesting comments at GigaOm on this fiasco, and the readers aren’t buying Kapustka’s Googlespin:

Vincent Dureau, the executive quoted, was just hired from OpenTV. He was the CTO there. I don’t think he was quoted out of context.
Omar Javaid on February 10th, 2007 at 12:41 PM

Dureau was right first time – ask any network engineer – he just got slapped for telling the truth.

The PR tried to change the discussion from “the net is broken for TV” to “our TV infrastructure is k3wl!” It may be, but that’s not what Dureau was talking about. It’s sad to see GigaOM buying the spin, and shilling for Google.
Paul M on February 11th, 2007 at 3:47 AM

when this story broke, I couldn’t help but think about all Google’s datacenters and fiber backhaul and exactly what their plans are – PBS’s Robert Cringely has one idea, which is that Google knows that the web’s infrastructure is headed for a bandwidth-crunch and is positioning itself as a caching gatekeeper –

in that case, certainly their position on net neutrality hasn’t reversed – it just looks like a smart business play – tie ISPs’ hands and then cash in on the infrastructure they’ve amassed
Thomas on February 11th, 2007 at 8:32 PM


2 thoughts on “Google backslides”

  1. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a war going on between Google TV and Vint Cerf. NN appears to be Cerf’s attempt to extend his fifteen minutes, but the TV guys have to know it’s crap.

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