Marissa Mayer at LeWeb: Google+ Was a Pleasant Surprise


Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for local, as well as maps and location services, was interviewed by Crunchfund’s MG Siegler on stage at the LeWeb conference in Paris this morning. This wide-ranging interview touched upon everything from Google+ check-ins, Latitude, mobile maps, Android and Mayer’s own role at Google.

Mayer’s Role at Google Today

Mayer has long been one of the most visible faces of Google’s executive team (and a regular guest at LeWeb), though last year, her role shifted from being in charge of search products to a focus on location products. Asked about this title switch by Siegler, Mayer noted that titles don’t matter much to her but that she cares more about what the focuses on. While this is obviously a very political answer, quite a few pundits at the time wondered whether Mayer wasn’t actually demoted in this move.

Google+: A Pleasant Surprise

Google+, said Mayer, was a “pleasant surprise.” She stressed that Google learned a lot from its first failed social products like Wave and Buzz. She also noted that Google tried not to over-hype Google+ and launch it slowly (though one could argue that a product with millions of users isn’t really in a “field test”).  To her, the fact that the company placed a stronger emphasis on design with Google+ is also a major factor in the product’s success.

Google+ Check-In Deals Coming Next Week

Asked about Google’s recently leaked Google+ check-in deals, Mayer argued that check-ins are a useful feature for the company’s users. “We think there are interesting ways we can monetize this, but also ways to help our users safe money.” The check-in feature is now slated for launch next week.

According to Mayer, Google is also still working on its other location features outside of Google+, too, including Latitude. New features for Latitude are currently still in the works, so chances are this tool won’t be the next victim of Google’s spring cleaning campaign.

Google’s View of the Location Space as a Whole

As for the location space as a whole, Mayer noted that she thinks there is still a lot of competition in local, even as Facebook and Gowalla have now bowed out of some aspects of it. To her, it’s natural that there will be some long-term winners and losers and that it’s inevitable that some companies will drop of the radar.

To Google, maps are among the most-used features on phones. Since June 2011, Google has been seeing more maps usage on mobile devices than on the web every day (until then, mobile usage only surpassed the desktop on weekends sometimes).

11:17 am

Street View Goes Indoors: Google Announces Business Photos


During her keynote at the Social Loco conference today, Google’s Marissa Mayer announced a new addition to Places: Google Business Photos. This new feature essentially brings Street View indoors and will give users a view of the inside of select stores. There are a few caveats here, though: this feature isn’t live yet and businesses will have to apply for photo shoots. For now, Google is also only looking for businesses in a select number of cities, including the Bay Area, Orange County, Phoenix, San Antonio and St. Petersburg in the U.S., Paris and London in Europa, as well as select cities in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

I first heard rumors about this feature more than a year ago. At that time, though, Google was supposedly taking pictures at businesses in New York, a city that isn’t currently on Google’s list.

As of now, no images are available on Google Places yet, but according to Mayer, the first images should go online next week.

No Chains Need Apply

According to Google’s FAQ, the company will focus on businesses that are searched for most regularly. As for the types of businesses, Google is looking for restaurants, hotels, retail shops and “other storefront businesses.” Interestingly, Google also notes that it isn’t interested in taking photos at chain establishments (as well as legal and medical businesses).

Unlike Street View, where Google can produce thousands of images by just driving through a city, this new project sounds quite labor intensive. As Jason Kincaid notes on TechCrunch, it comes as a surprise that Google isn’t allowing businesses to take their own pictures, though maybe that will come at a later point and Google is just trying to keep the quality of these images as high as possible right now.

10:49 am