One year later

About a year ago, in the summer of 2010, while visiting Microsoft, and knowing that they had been worried about the rise of Google, I asked people at Microsoft why they didn’t just make their Bing database available to the general public. Giving people direct access to the underlying database is something that Google literally cannot do, since hoarding that reverse index of the entire Web is Google’s treasure — the one thing to which they cannot give away access.

But Microsoft is primarily a tools company. If they said “hey world, here’s our inverse index, use it to your heart’s content, using our software tools written in C# and managed code,” then lots of really smart people would use those tools and that database to write their own search algorithms. It would be a game changer, and Microsoft’s software would be at the very center of the new game.

The highest ranking Microsoft Vice President I spoke to about this told me “That’s a very interesting idea, but it’s above my pay grade.”

And so I dropped it. Maybe, I figured, something like that would be above everybody’s pay grade. Besides, this year I’ve gotten to know some very cool people at Google, so my personal loyalties have become more diverse.

When I recently visited Microsoft, one year later, I didn’t even bother to mention it.

One Response to “One year later”

  1. Li-Yi Wei says:

    After staying in the corporate world for a little bit while, I soon realized that the mentality of high level management, especially for big companies, is to maintain their status quo.

    The more actions they do, the more mistakes they are likely to make, and the more likely their fat paychecks are to suffer. This is especially true for more brilliant and radical ideas, like opening up the search index.

    This is why innovations are much more likely to come from startups. They have everything to gain and little to lose by betting big.

    A while ago some high level management asked my personal opinions about how to rejuvenate the company. My theory is that it will be much more effective to fund 10 little startups/spinoffs than 1 big project within existing organizations.

    But you can guess the result; I also didn’t bother to mention it again. =D

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