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Investor doesn't see browser in Google's future

Board member John Doerr discusses the future of the search giant--and the Web itself.

SAN FRANCISCO--Google board member and investor John Doerr said Tuesday that despite speculation, the search giant would not enter the Web browser market, but he predicted others would.

"Browsers are going to come back...We'll see a lot of innovation," said Doerr, speaking to a roomful of attendees at the Web 2.0 conference here. He added that as new browsers come onto the market, Google's application protocol interfaces and advertising network will be there to plug into and support them.

Doerr later joked, however, that just because he was on the board of Google didn't necessarily mean he knew what they were doing.

Though reluctant to talk in depth about Google's future or IPO, Doerr commented on where the company will likely go, including making more information searchable, growing internationally and becoming "the Google who knows you."

Doerr was interviewed on stage during the first evening of the Web 2.0 conference, a gathering for Internet executives to ponder the Web's next phase of development after the boom-and-bust cycle of the late 1990s. Many executives from the Internet's early days (or version 1.0 as the conference would have it)'s Jeff Bezos,'s Mark Cuban, Idealab's Bill Gross--were here to give their visions of the future and new technologies that will harken it.

Bezos, in an earlier presentation, said that the Internet's early development was about making sites useful to consumers, but now it's about making the Web useful to computers. He was referring to software known as Web services, which allow incompatible systems to communicate or exchange information. Web services have played an increasingly important role in helping the online retailer expand its business and ring sales outside of its retail network.

For example, Amazon's new search venture is built by several application protocol interfaces that tap into Amazon's own "search inside the book" feature. Amazon started a Web services division two years ago and it now has more than 65,000 registered users who tap into its retail database.

"The ability to build very thin front end (businesses) and use them to tap into these powerful back ends, I'm very interested in that. You'll see a huge amount of creativity unleashed there," Bezos said.

Doerr said that he believed that many services of the first iteration of the Web were being reinvented now, much in the way Google reinvented search while many other Internet portals abandoned search R&D in the late 1990s. "Most of the old Web-based services are in the process of being systemized reinvented, even the browser," he said.

More broadly, Doerr said he thought of the next phases of Internet development in terms of the scientific theory known as string theory, which posits that there are seven parallel universes. The "near" Web represents the PC; the "far" Web stands for television; the "here" Web represents mobile devices; the "business to business" Web for XML, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and other backend technologies; and the "weird" Web is for 3D experiences or virtual worlds that could be developed. Doerr said he had yet to come up with the seventh.

One area for growing business interest would be targeted services for the explosive "near" Web, such as social services and tracking services, Doerr said.

When asked about his early investment in Google and the company's recent $1.7 billion IPO, he called himself lucky. Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, characterized his investment in 1999 as a long shot given that Google had $220,000 in revenue and was founded by two Stanford University dropouts. Despite a conflagration of negative media during the IPO process and of the shares, Doerr said he felt it was a success. "It worked well, the high point of course was that $1.7 billion was raised."

He did say that he believed the Securities and Exchange Commission should re-examine the quiet period rules, because of several published reports in the media that quoted unnamed financial sources with an interest in deflating the stock before the IPO date, among other distortions.

Doerr also commented on recent censure of Google by China by saying that he knows the company tries to be a "search engine for democracy," but it is a hard problem. He said he suspected that the problem will grow less as time passes.