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Google: Don't make us pay for Google News content

Possible French and German laws requiring Google News payments to publishers would "break the freedom of the Internet" and ultimately hurt the news business, Google's search chief says.

Ben Gomes, Google's vice president in charge of search, speaking at LeWeb 2012.
Ben Gomes, Google's vice president in charge of search, speaking at LeWeb 2012.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

PARIS -- Some in France and Germany want laws requiring Google to pay for the content it hosts on Google News, usually snippets of text with a link to the site where it was published. But Google, unsurprisingly, thinks that's a rotten idea.

"It's bad for publishers in the long run," said Ben Gomes, the Google vice president in charge of search, speaking here at the LeWeb conference. "The concern is with laws like this, is it clamps down on what you can do, because it breaks the freedom of the Internet."

Instead, he said, publishers should find other ways to make money online.

"There are issues we need to deal with. We need to experiment more with other business models that will make these news businesses more profitable in the online world," he said.

Gomes offered one helpful suggestion: Google's AdSense technology, which places ads on Web sites based on their content. Google shares resulting revenue with advertisers. "Seven billion dollars goes to publishers based on that," Gomes said. Another suggestion also served Google's interests: sell magazines through Google Play.

Gomes also outlined Google's aspirations for search. Here it is, in a couple of words: Star Trek.

Google is striving for a future in which it understands what people search for with the same degree of sophistication as Star Trek's computers. You simply ask the computer what you want, and it delivers the information.

Google is taking "baby steps" in this direction, Gomes said, though arguably it's already in the science-fiction realm by the standards of the information retrieval and computing industry of a few years ago.

Google's Knowledge Graph
Google's knowledge graph Google

Among the elements Google is working on now to deliver that service: speech recognition that actually works; natural language processing to comprehend what the words mean; and the Knowledge Graph (newly expanded to work in seven additional languages) that understands the nature of various entities and their relationships to other entities.

Right now the Knowledge Graph produces a box of information and links related to various search terms, but it sticks to the facts. A tricky part of Google's future will be adapting that information to a person's particular interests.

One reason that situation is tricky is deciding whether Google should show information that people are known to be interested in -- a phenomenon that worriers call the "filter bubble" -- or should show a broader selection of information.

"We are dealing with objective facts" today, Gomes said. Regarding a personalized knowledge graph, he said, "Clearly that's an area we will have to deal with in the future."