Blog Post

Google: Web is OK for TV (despite what you may have read)

Does Google really think the Internet, as well as its own infrastructure, isn’t up to the task of delivering Web TV? That’s the impression you might have been left with had you read any permutations of a Reuters story out of Amsterdam from a couple days ago, which claimed that a Google exec said those very things.

Usually the story was packaged with a link-seeking headline like USA Today’s, which claimed Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV or PC Magazine’s Internet Not Designed for TV, Google Warns. Over an even better ominous riff: Will Web TV Kill the Internet.

Given Google’s out-front stance on topics like network neutrality and its $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube — two things that would seem at odds with such a claim — you would think such a story would set off alarm bells among editors. Instead, the story was widely picked up without any questioning.

So let us do the honors. Turns out — as we suspected — there were a few points lost in translation, at least according to Googlers we spoke to.

“Some remarks from Vincent Dureau’s well-received speech at the Cable Europe Congress were quoted out of context in news reports,” said a Google spokesperson Friday. The further background explanation from Google is that Dureau was responding to a question and was trying to address a potential bottleneck Google does see, which they say exists between Google’s own content-delivery infrastructure and the cable set-top box in your home.

Google’s infrastructure scales just fine, they said, and there is no problem watching TV on the Web. Despite what you may have read.

Giving Google the benefit of the doubt for now, it’s easy to see how Dureau’s quote in the story — “The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect” — could fit into the company’s claimed meaning; that since Google doesn’t reach all the way into homes (or even into the cable plant), it can’t scale across those boundaries to ensure quality of service.

Giving the Reuters writer the benefit of the doubt, it’s also easy to see how Dureau’s quotes could have been construed to mean exactly what was written. Without being there, or understanding the full context the question was asked in, it’s hard to tell exactly what bit of wisdom Dureau was trying to impart. And we know from experience, press conferences and Q&A sessions are never an exact science. So, these things happen.

But anyone with a bit of knowledge of Google’s operations should have known that something didn’t smell right — if Google were to suddenly change course on network neutrality or Web TV, it would probably pick a more prominent place and person to make the announcement, no slight to Mr. Dureau intended. What would be best, of course, would be an online video of the event, so everyone could parse the raw data for themselves. Here, we’ll allow Google to have a bit more say on the matter:

“Google’s position on net neutrality remains the same: only an open Internet that is free of restrictions will continue to provide the services that consumers demand, including advanced video service,” said a spokesperson. “We believe that cable TV providers and broadband carriers have an important role to play in providing those services to consumers in the future.”

17 Responses to “Google: Web is OK for TV (despite what you may have read)”

  1. Robert Stone

    Google brings up a good point. However, it is more appplicable to mobile video and mobile multimedia. MobiTV, Verizon and CNN all had big news this week regarding their mobile television rollouts.

    However, the big pink elephant in the room that no one is talking about is the inability of the WIRELESS networks to scale and met this issue. Today’s wireless and cellular networks are not able to even meet the demands of voice and data. What happens when billions of new users start doing real time video and real time multimedia?

    How pissed off are you going to be when the video breaks up or you drop the connection just as the winning goal gets scored? There are a bunch of companies working to fix this problem – to ensure scalability of the next generation wireless architecture. Check out companies like Kontron, Artesyn and Enea

  2. Jesse Kopelman

    MnZ, that is a good point and I find it perfectly reasonable to be against specific “Net Neutrality” legislation. What I have a problem with is being against the true concept of Net Neutrality.

  3. There is a big difference between IPTV as proposed by major telecoms and TV-Over-Internet — the former having nothing to do with the Internet at all. Trying to conflate the two to make an anti-Net Neutrality case is laughable.

    Jesse, I have read the proposed Net Neutrality bills, and most do tend to conflate the two issues.

  4. Jesse Kopelman

    Some of you anti-Net Neutrality guys are so full of crap. Why would you want to do broadcast over the Internet? Most people already have a choice of three broadcast providers: free over-the-air, cable, and satellite. There’s hardly a business case for new entrants that involves the Internet. The point of TV-over-Internet is not so that we can all tune in at 9 pm on Thursday to watch CSI from a different service provider but so that we can watch programs on demand. The idea is to have a different business model than broadcast. There is a big difference between IPTV as proposed by major telecoms and TV-Over-Internet — the former having nothing to do with the Internet at all. Trying to conflate the two to make an anti-Net Neutrality case is laughable. Net Neutrality is about how a network handles Internet packets, period.

  5. when this story broke, I couldn’t help but think about all Google’s datacenters and fiber backhaul and exactly what their plans are – PBS’s Robert Cringely has one idea, which is that Google knows that the web’s infrastructure is headed for a bandwidth-crunch and is positioning itself as a caching gatekeeper –

    in that case, certainly their position on net neutrality hasn’t reversed – it just looks like a smart business play – tie ISPs’ hands and then cash in on the infrastructure they’ve amassed

  6. Dureau was right first time – ask any network engineer – he just got slapped for telling the truth.

    The PR tried to change the discussion from “the net is broken for TV” to “our TV infrastructure is k3wl!” It may be, but that’s not what Dureau was talking about. It’s sad to see GigaOM buying the spin, and shilling for Google.

  7. Guy Inkorea

    I live in Korea and we have just had what the company told us is internet TV installed. I gotta tell you, it ain’t no picnic! Our 100MB rated service was great until the installation. 2.8 MB/s p2p downloads – uploads not far behind.
    The problem is the Hanaro supplied router is killing our speed and quality! Bad configuration? Then someone ought to teach the Hanaro team how because at this time, they are still scratching their heads.
    It seems as though Hanaro has decided volume is better than quality of service, pumping as much info through as it can and eventually the right info will arrive intact.
    Picture quality is fine but the ads they run while waiting for the show to download kind drive me nuts!

  8. I just visited Surewest today in Sacramento and they are offering HDTV over IP today. Surewest is the company formerly known as Roseville Telecom and offers it in areas where they have fiber to the home. Since they are a combo CLEC, MSO, ISP and have fiber to the homes it is just a matter of transporting the HDTV IP packets over their LOCAL infrastructure of a couple head ends, where the content is converted to IP, tied into their fiber network. For VoIP, HDTV over IP, inet and all the ancillary stuff like hosted mail, etc it costs $300 a month which I didn’t think was too bad of a deal considering they supply the CPE, which connects to the fiber and then distributes in the homes via a switch of some sort, and manage/upgrade it as they need to.

  9. I agree with Mr. Bennett in that, Google’s comments make perfect sense if Google’s real intention isn’t to confront IPTV, but to sidestep it altogether:

    “So Google proposes to build direct links from their massive server complexes to the cable systems that bypass the Internet and conform to the more efficient broadcast model.”

    Cable Television indexed and monetized by Google, baby!

    My only question is how is jumping into bed with the Cable Companies and bypassing the Internet to deliver advanced video content – not just drinking another, different kind of “faith-based network engineering kool-aid?”

    Even in this “Goo-Tube” future, The lines between the Cable Network and the Internet would invariably erode and we should remember that cable companies have virtually no oversight and are anything but “net-neutral” and “open” networks.

    Ideally, wouldn’t it be better to Innovate with IPTV than to Placate to CATV?

  10. Google can still have a video business where they sell directly to Cablecos, just as ESPN does with its ESPN 360 super-custom IPTV service. Google’s head of TV technology understands the issues just fine, it’s the PR department that’s falling down on the job.

  11. Vincent Dureau was quoted accurately, he was addressing a real problem, and Reuters put the remarks in context: Google instead offered to work together with cable operators to combine its technology for searching for video and TV footage and its tailored advertising with the cable networks’ high-quality delivery of shows.

    The issue is that OTA TV, cable, and satellite use a broadcast model – one stream per program – while Internet TV tends to use a unicast model, which is one stream per consumer. The unicast model is fine as long as Internet TV is limited to 100,000 people watching five-minute, low-def clips on YouTube, but if 20 million people want to watch Survivor on the Internet at the same time, it would collapse. That’s a mathematical fact.

    So Google proposes to build direct links from their massive server complexes to the cable systems that bypass the Internet and conform to the more efficient broadcast model. AT&T is running into problems with its U-Verse system that indicate this is a real problem, not something drummed up by the enemies of freedom who want to censor Daily Kos in order to keep the Republican hegemon in power (or whatever the cheerleaders for net neutrality regulations are claiming today.)

    Net neutrality is faith-based network engineering, and it’s encouraging to know that at least some of the engineers at Google haven’t drunk that particular Kool-Aid.

  12. Thanks for this level-headed clarification. This seems a particularly screwy week for MSM to jump into stories that don’t pass the logic test. There have been a number over on the political side of the news, as well as tech announcements. Scoop pressure on the internets is collapsing time and deadlines beyond the point where editorial judgment can intervene. Meme chasing is getting very undiggnified.

    Some folks need to learn to relax, take deep breaths and make some phone calls before going live with nonsense.