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.”