The Friday Interview: John Herlihy, Google

2 Jun 2006

John Herlihy (pictured) is European director of Google’s online sales and marketing division in Ireland.

Having spent the previous 12 years working in Silicon Valley, you would have had a front-row seat to the changing nature of the net. Where do you see Google’s role in the next 12 years?

The reality is that we are still in the early stages of a great journey. We are a search company but are evolving into a platform to organise the world’s information. Today search has only 9-10pc of the world’s online information in indices. We are facilitating other ways to capture information such as images, locations and maps. A book I recommend people read is The World Is Flat by Thomas L Friedman. He says we are collapsing information. What he means is we are all more ‘connected’. If you are a farmer and are thousands of miles from your market, in the past the middlemen made all the money. With text messaging, the farmer can now get all the latest price information and cut out the middlemen.

Google appears to be constantly researching and testing new services. As search becomes more widespread and new companies like and enter the fray, what shape will the web take?

User-generated content is certainly setting the tone. In the past a media organisation decided the day’s news agenda or broadcast information to the user. Today it is different with new mechanisms for people themselves to publish. A garage band that may never generate its own material but records a spoof video of a song could be the most popular thing on that week. The reality is that convergence and the web is becoming a communications vehicle for all media.

In Ireland Google employs 750 people and growing. Can Ireland meet the skills supply needs of an organisation like Google?

Supply of skilled graduates is a huge worry for this country. There aren’t enough engineers coming out. Russia is churning out engineering masters and PhD graduates by the barrel-full and that results in real research and development (R&D). Google is really about innovation around the customer. We tend to put out products that aren’t finished because we believe the customer knows more than us and this informs our R&D efforts. It is arrogant of companies to delay launches of products until they believe the product is perfect.

By John Kennedy

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