2010年8月29日 星期日

Software War Pits Oracle vs. Google

Free open-source software began with high-technology tinkerers and researchers. Sharing code and ideas was their priority, not profits. In the tech industry, they were sometimes compared to socialists and communists.

Those days are long gone. Some of the communal idealism remains, but as open-source software is used more by big technology companies including I.B.M., Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Google andApple — even Microsoft — it has also become a weapon in corporate warfare.

An unusually public salvo came this month, when Oracle sued Google, accusing it of copyright and patent infringement. Oracle claims that Google’s Android operating system for smartphones and other mobile devices is illegally using ideas and code from Java, a set of software tools initially developed bySun Microsystems in 1995. Oracle bought Sun in January,

Google denies the charges against Android, which is also open-source software, saying that it built the operating system and its own Java tools without using Sun’s intellectual property.

Google instead sees the suit as a move by Oracle to re-establish corporate control of Java, something that Sun’s executives were reluctant to do. “This action is not against Android per se but against any Java development not sanctioned by Oracle,” said Kent Walker, general counsel of Google. “The lawsuit is trying to put the genie back in the bottle.”

With open-source software, programmers can view the underlying source code and make modifications and fix bugs, as long as they abide by certain rules. Open-source programs are typically distributed free.

An estimated three-quarters of all open-source software is chugging away in service of the profit-seeking corporate world. It is used, in the form of the Linux operating system or the Apache Web server, to run data centers that power the Web.

Every company deploys open source differently as a tool to cut costs or as a weapon to gain an advantage over rivals.

The corporate battles are fought with software programmers who contribute to open-source programs, in the marketplace with sales campaigns and in standards bodies that govern open-source projects. The Oracle-Google clash is the exceptional case that ended up in court.

Their confrontation, according to Douglas Lea, a computer scientist at the State University of New York at Oswego, is a new front in what he calls “the open-source proxy wars,” in which big companies use open source to gain an upper hand in the commercial marketplace.

“It’s not so much good companies and bad companies in this kind of situation,” said Mr. Lea, a member of the executive committee of the Java Community Process, a group that defines Java features and standards. “These companies compete viciously and have different interests. And in this case, you have two corporations that champion different forms of open source.”

The roots of the Oracle suit go back well before Oracle acquired Sun. After Sun made Java open source in 2006 to broaden its adoption, its strategy was to let developers and companies freely use the Java technology deployed in data centers. Google was a major participant in contributing features and shaping standards for this so-called big Java in the Java Community Process, where Sun (now Oracle) retains the status of first among equals.

But Sun decided it would make money in the fast-growing field of cellphones with a set of software tools tailored for that market, called Java Micro Edition. This “small Java” is free for most developers, but Sun negotiates commercial licenses for big companies that want to make their own products. Licensees include Nokia, Research In Motion, Motorola, LG, Samsung, Vodafone and T-Mobile.

These licenses are individually negotiated, typically involve payments of tens of millions of dollars a year, and allow companies to modify code and not make those changes public, said a lawyer involved in rounds of these negotiations, who asked not to be named because the contracts were private.

Google took a different course in the cellphone business. In 2007, it founded the Open Handset Alliance and was joined by several cellphone makers and telecommunications companies. Its Android software is open source, under a different licensing model, and outside Oracle’s control.

“The dispute between Oracle and Google is really about control — Google’s ability to control the evolution of the Android technology,” said John Rizzo, vice president for technology strategy for the Aplix Corporation, which makes Java-based software tools. Aplix is a member of both the Open Handset Alliance and the Java Community Process.

Still, Google and Sun held talks over the last three years about reaching an agreement, but they made little progress. Sun prepared the basis of the lawsuit that Oracle eventually filed, and identified the seven patents that Oracle accuses Google of infringing, said a former Sun manager, who asked not to be identified because of the suit.

Sun eventually chose not to sue Google, the former Sun manager said, because it decided a patent lawsuit would undercut the company’s open-source efforts under Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s chief executive who resigned in February after the Oracle acquisition.

In 2005, Sun released an open-source version of its Solaris operating system, which is used in data centers. Software patents are controversial, especially among open-source developers. If Sun filed a patent suit, the former manager said, Mr. Schwartz feared the move would alienate many open-source enthusiasts and potential customers, from Silicon Valley start-ups to governments around the world that are pursuing open-source initiatives.

The legal preparations were led by Noreen Krall, Sun’s former chief intellectual property counsel. Ms. Krall joined Apple this year as its senior director for intellectual property law and litigation. In March, Apple sued the cellphone maker HTC, saying its Android-based phone infringed on patents for Apple’s iPhone. Google was not sued, but Google issued a statement saying “we stand behind” the Android operating system and its industry partners.

With its purchase of Sun, “Oracle acquired a lawsuit it could bring,” said Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia who advises on free and open-source software projects. And Oracle’s chief executive, Lawrence J. Ellison, Professor Moglen added, is “taking advantage of this asset at a time when others are interested in fighting Android.” Mr. Ellison is a close friend of Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs.

Oracle is mainly a traditional commercial software company, making its money selling software licenses. Oracle supports Linux, but as a way to reduce the total hardware and software costs to customers using its database software, the company’s profit-making jewel. Oracle is pulling back from OpenSolaris.

For its part, Google is not in the traditional software business. Its model mimics broadcast television — its services (including software) are free, and it makes money on advertising.

The noncombatants — open-source developers — are hoping for an armistice between Oracle and Google, or at least a swift resolution to remove the uncertainty.

“It’s really hard to predict the consequences of big companies being nasty to each other,” said Mr. Lea, the university computer scientist

2010年8月15日 星期日

Google Plan Disillusions Some Allies

Google Plan Disillusions Some Allies

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Groups protested Google’s recent moves that they believe will adversely affect net neutrality.

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday at lunchtime, as Google employees dined al fresco, a hundred protesters descended on the company’s Silicon Valley campus. A group called the Raging Grannies sang a song called “The Battle Hymn for the Internet,” and others carried signs reading, “Google is evil if the price is right.”

PRNewsPhoto/Verizon Wireless

From left, Andy Rubin of Google, John Stratton of Verizon Wireless and Eric Schmidt of Google.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A protest at Google in Mountain View, Calif., against a Google-Verizon proposal on Internet access.

They were there to complain about what they saw as Google’s about-face on how Internet access should be regulated and to deliver a petition with about 300,000 signatures.

Several of the groups at the protest, like MoveOn.org and Free Press, once saw Google as their top corporate ally in the fight for net neutrality — the principle that the Internet should be a level playing field, with all applications and services treated equally.

But a week ago, Google stunned many of its allies by crossing the aisle and teaming up with Verizon Communications to propose that net neutrality rules should not apply to wireless access and to outline rules for the wired Internet that critics say are riddled with loopholes.

Google’s compromise with Verizon is the latest collision between idealism and pragmatism at the company, which has long promoted the idea that its mission, organizing the world’s information, is for the public good, as underscored by its unofficial motto: “Don’t be evil.”

Some say that as Google has grown up and become a large multinational company, it has been forced to start weighing its business interests against the more idealistic leanings of its founders and many of its employees.

“I don’t know that Google pondered the moral decision this time,” said Jordan Rohan, an Internet and digital media analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “I think the business decision to cooperate with Verizon superseded the other complications and side effects that it may cause.”

Google strongly defends its proposal with Verizon, saying it does not violate net neutrality principles and, if adopted by regulators, would protect wired Internet access more than it is protected now.

“We don’t view this as a retreat at all,” Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, said in an interview. “Google believes very strongly in net neutrality.”

But the proposal left Google’s former allies, as well as many other technology and media companies, feeling disappointed and even betrayed. The risk, they say, is that without adequate regulation, Internet access companies could exercise too much control over what their customers can do online, or how quickly they can gain access to certain content. They could charge companies for faster access to consumers, hurting smaller players and innovation.

“Google has been the most reliable corporate ally to the public interest community,” said Josh Silver, president of Free Press, an advocacy group. “That is why their sellout on net neutrality is so stunning.”

The proposal from Google and Verizon was all the more surprising to some advocates because it was released just as broader talks brokered by the Federal Communications Commission were close to producing a draft compromise agreement, according to three people briefed on the talks, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because the talks were supposed to be confidential.

Unlike the Google-Verizon proposal, the agreement would have imposed some rules on wireless Internet, these people said.

“We were very close,” said one person briefed on the talks. Both the F.C.C. and Google declined to comment on those discussions. After reports of a Google-Verizon deal emerged, the F.C.C. called off the talks, which in addition to those two companies included AT&T, a cable industry group, Skype and the Open Internet Coalition.

Though Google has long said that it thinks openness rules should be applied broadly to Internet access, the company was persuaded that wireless is different because it is evolving rapidly and there is more competition, Mr. Davidson said. Wireless carriers say they need more leeway to manage their networks because it is difficult and expensive for them to add more capacity.

The shift was also a pragmatic compromise to get “broader support, in this case from Verizon and hopefully others,” he said.

Still, Google’s new position on net neutrality represents a scaling back of the company’s ambitious goals. When Google began building a presence in Washington in 2005, net neutrality was one of the first issues it embraced. And over the years, Google’s drive to open up the wireless industry became a corporate mission, backed by the company’s financial might.

In 2007, Google made a $4.7 billion bid in a government auction of wireless airwaves. The company’s goal was not to win the auction, but to raise the price above a threshold that would set off rules forcing openness on the airwaves. Verizon won the auction and soon plans to deploy a high-speed network that will be bound by those rules.

In January, Google introduced its own phone, the Nexus One, and opened an online store to distribute it. By selling directly to consumers, Google was challenging the control that wireless carriers have over the distribution of phones, especially in the United States. But Google quietly killed the Nexus One and the phone store this year.

Analysts say Google’s new, more conciliatory approach to the wireless industry was born of necessity.

Verizon offers a number of smartphones that run the Android software from Google, and Verizon is handling growing amounts of data flowing through its network to and from those phones. The volume will only increase as new mobile devices are developed and people use them to watch movies and do other bandwidth-intensive activities. Meanwhile, Google is looking to the mobile Web to feed much of its future growth.

“This is about Google becoming friendlier with the wireless industry so that more Google searches are conducted on wireless devices,” Mr. Rohan said. If wireless was exempted from net neutrality rules, Verizon could limit the use of some applications and spend less money improving its network, or get paid by Web companies for delivering content.

Some people see echoes of Google’s decision to go into China in 2006. In that case, after a lengthy internal debate, Google put aside its aversion to censorship and decided to enter what quickly became the world’s largest Internet market. Google has since pulled its search engine out of mainland China after online attacks that originated there, but the decision to do business there tarnished the company’s reputation among human rights advocates and disappointed many employees.

“I don’t fault Google and Verizon for striking a deal,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and a longtime supporter of net neutrality. “A large private company is always going to operate in its own interest, and for anyone to believe otherwise would be naïve.”

Professor Crawford, who is critical of the proposal, said the F.C.C.’s lack of action on access rules pushed Google to seek a compromise. “Google had no choice but to cooperate with the friendliest carrier it can find, which is Verizon,” she said.

But disappointed consumers and advocates seem to be holding Google to a different standard, in large part because of the image it created.

“If the world of business is an ugly world full of rats, they’ve managed to create a bushy tail for themselves and come across as a very, very cute rat with terms like ‘Do no evil,’ ” said Scott Galloway, professor of brand strategy at the Stern School of Business at New York University. “The downside of that is that people have expectations that they’re going to fight these quixotic battles, and the bottom line is their obligation to their shareholders.”

Not all believe that Google has betrayed its principles. Some longtime Silicon Valley chroniclers say they still think Google is trying to do the right thing, not only for itself, but also for the Internet as a whole.

“I would rather have a company like Google that means to do no evil and is struggling with compromises on these hard issues than a company that doesn’t see a struggle,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive of the technology publisher O’Reilly Media. “Most companies don’t even see things in those terms.”

Ashlee Vance contributed reporting from Mountain View, Calif.

2010年8月11日 星期三

the vision statement is revising

谷歌公司(Google Inc.)一份七頁的機密“願景陳述”文件可以看出﹐這家信息時代的巨頭正在仔細琢磨一個基本問題:守著大量有關人們上網活動的數據﹐谷歌在從這個寶藏獲利方面應該走多遠。


包 括這幾個想法在內﹐文件討論了各種大大小小的想法(上面第三個想法被打入“愚蠢”(wacky)之列)。這份被《華爾街日報》看到的文件﹐是谷歌興趣廣告 部門的高級產品經理韋恩伯格(Aitan Weinberg)在2008年年底編制的。和十幾位谷歌前任和現任員工接受採訪時的陳述一樣﹐這份願景陳述文件對谷歌力保自己信息經濟先鋒地位的努力提 供了一種坦白、自省的寫照。

谷歌正在挺進自己未曾涉足的用戶隱私領域。它在過去有所克制﹐沒有大規模地利用它手中有關網民的數據賺錢﹐擔心這樣做會招致不滿。但由於跟蹤人們上網行為並出售相關數據的競爭對手迅速湧現﹐加上Facebook Inc.的成長﹐谷歌被迫開始轉變。



上個月﹐在被一位記者問到谷歌有關其數據的計劃時﹐谷歌創始人之一佩奇(Larry Page)回答說﹐我們正在非常迅速地行動﹔數據有很多新的用途﹐對消費者受到損害的擔心是沒有根據的﹔人們總是很容易對可能發生的事情感到擔心﹐對不對?

隨 著谷歌做出改變﹐它可能會裹挾整個互聯網世界隨它前行。在用戶數量首屈一指的情況下﹐它比其他任何互聯網企業都更有能力把定向投放廣告的新方式變為主流方 法。這家公司還積極參與一些經常在內部制定新的隱私慣例的行業組織﹐這些組織的此類舉動旨在阻止國會出台隱私權方面的監管法規。美國聯邦貿易委員會 (Federal Trade Commission)去年說﹐只要企業向用戶披露它們的隱私慣例等內容﹐它們在這一領域是可以實現自我監管的。

Associated Press



BlueKai Inc.和eXelate Media Ltd.等微型公司已經在提供這樣一些服務﹐迫使谷歌追上來。《華爾街日報》一項名為“他們知道哪些”(What They Know)的調查﹐就旨在考察這類數據不斷增多的交易﹐及其對個人隱私造成的後果。

谷 歌有意在這方面的某些技術上落後於人。在創始人布林(Sergey Brin)和佩奇的強烈堅持下﹐谷歌多年來秉持廣為人知的非正式口號“不作惡”(Don't Be Evil)﹐沒有使用任何手段在網民不知情的情況下跟蹤他們的上網行為。但《華爾街日報》對谷歌十幾位現任和前任員工的採訪顯示﹐布林和佩奇已經逐步地認 定﹐他們可以在不利用網民的情況下開始從公司自己所掌握的數據當中獲取利益。

谷歌隱私工程的負責人惠滕(Alma Whitten)今年6月接受採訪時說﹐兩位創始人相信﹐他們是在提升網民的體驗﹐對用戶有利的東西﹐對廣告客戶也有利。





Associated Press





很 少有在線公司具備像谷歌那樣瞭解用戶的能力。以住在曼哈頓東村的26歲男演員阿里•布蘭德(Ari Brand)為例。谷歌可以知道他花733美元買了一台平板電視﹐因為他把自己的預算上傳到了在線文字處理器和表格軟件Google Docs上。谷歌可以訪問他通過Gmail發送的2.3萬封電子郵件。谷歌還存儲了布蘭德的谷歌搜索信息。







這 樣的政策打擊了谷歌的展示廣告銷售﹐廣告有效性下降。沒有廣告cookie﹐谷歌僅僅可以根據一個網頁的名字或內容銷售相關廣告。比如﹐在有關鞋類的頁面 上放置一個鞋類廣告。這就是所謂的“內容”定位﹐很多廣告客戶認為它沒有“行為”定位有效。行為定位會識別具體的用戶和他們的興趣。

在谷歌內部各方就此爭論不休之際﹐有個機會出現了。在網站上放置展示廣告的巨頭DoubleClick掛牌出售﹐而谷歌主要競爭對手微軟(Microsoft Corp.)在覬覦這項業務。








韋恩伯格是2008 年出版的《願景陳述》的作者﹐他從DoubleClick加入谷歌。他及幾位產品經理和營銷高管開始討論谷歌更積極鎖定廣告目標的方法。













Jessica E. Vascellaro

A confidential, seven-page Google Inc. 'vision statement' shows the information-age giant in a deep round of soul-searching over a basic question: How far should it go in profiting from its crown jewels -- the vast trove of data it possesses about people's activities?

Should it tap more of what it knows about Gmail users? Should it build a vast 'trading platform' for buying and selling Web data? Should it let people pay to not see any ads at all?

These and other ideas big and small -- the third one was listed under 'wacky' -- are discussed in the document, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and compiled in late 2008 by Aitan Weinberg, a senior product manager for interest-based advertising. Along with interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, the vision statement offers a candid, introspective look at Google's fight to remain at the vanguard of the information economy.

Google is pushing into uncharted privacy territory for the company. Until recently, it refrained from aggressively cashing in on its own data about Internet users, fearing a backlash. But the rapid emergence of scrappy rivals who track people's online activities and sell that data, along with Facebook Inc.'s growth, is forcing a shift.

A person familiar with the matter called the vision statement a 'brainstorming document' and said it wasn't presented to senior executives. Some of its ideas are 'complete non-starters,' this person said.

Still, several have been implemented. Among them: Last year, Google for the first time started collecting a new type of data about the websites people visit, and using it to track and show them ads across the Internet.

'We are moving very fast,' said Google co-founder Larry Page last month in response to a reporter's question about Google's plans for its data. 'There are lots of new uses for the data. Worries about harming consumers are 'hypothetical,' he added. 'It is always easy to be fearful of what could happen, right?'

As Google changes, it's likely bring the rest of the online world with it. With more users that any other Internet company, it has an unparalleled ability to make new ad-targeting methods mainstream. The company also actively participates in trade groups that regularly craft new privacy practices among themselves in hopes of thwarting legislation. The Federal Trade Commission said last year that the field can regulate itself as long as companies disclose their practices to users, among other things.

Google is overwhelmingly important to online privacy. Roughly 75% of global Internet users, or 943.8 million people, used its services in June, more than any other Web company, according to comScore.

Google's vision statement describes the company's immense search database as 'the BEST source of users' interests found on the Internet,' during a discussion of ways to make ads more relevant to users. 'No other player could compete,' it says. Later, the document warns that some ideas range from 'safe' to 'not' safe.

The most aggressive ideas would put Google at the cutting edge of the business of tracking people online to profit from their actions. A data-trading marketplace, for instance, would allow personal information from many sources -- including Google -- to be combined and used for highly personalized tracking of individuals.

Tiny companies like BlueKai Inc. and eXelate Media Ltd. already offer some of these services, pressuring Google to match them. A Wall Street Journal investigation, 'What They Know,' is examining the widening trade in this kind of data and the consequences for individual privacy.

Google trails in some of these techniques by choice. Famous for its unofficial corporate motto, 'Don't Be Evil,' for years it resisted using any method to track people online without their knowledge at the fierce insistence of founders and Sergey Brin and Mr. Page. But the two men have gradually decided they can begin exploiting the data their company controls, without exploiting consumers, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees.

The founders believe they're improving the Internet user's experience, said Alma Whitten, who leads Google's privacy engineering, in a June interview. 'What's good for the consumer is good for the advertiser.'

A recent Journal examination of the proliferation of online tracking found that Google's tracking code appeared on 45 of the 50 most popular U.S. websites. (For details on those findings, go to WSJ.com/WTK.)

The 2008 vision statement, along with a dozen other internal documents reviewed by the Journal, tell the inside story of how Google dragged its feet while its founders' views evolved.

Selling ads is Google's big money-maker, but the online-ad business is broadening away from Google's sweet spot, selling ads tied to the search-engine terms people use. Instead, advertisers want to target people based on more specific personal information such as hobbies, income, illnesses or circles of friends.

The changes at Google reflect a power realignment online. For years, the strongest companies on the Internet were the ones with the most visitor traffic. Today, the power resides with those which have the richest data and are the savviest about using it.

That has propelled Internet ad companies into an arms race so swift that even Google fears being left behind. One slide from an internal presentation in mid-2008, which was reviewed by the Journal, is headlined bluntly: 'Get in the Game.'

That particular slide describes the importance of breaking into the lucrative business of selling 'display' ads, which are larger ads with pictures, as opposed to smaller text ads. Today, Google still trails market leader Yahoo in U.S. display-ad revenue, according to analysts.

Google still leads the Internet pack overall, of course. Its revenue, $23.7 billion in 2009, is more than three times Yahoo's, its closest competitor. Its online advertising business is growing faster than those of its publicly held U.S. rivals.

But Google's revenue growth has slowed dramatically. And social-networking powerhouse Facebook is a widening threat with its ability to sell highly targeted ads to its more than 500 million users.

Facebook fears run deep at Google, which is designing its own social-networking service. In a sign of how quickly things change, Google's 2008 vision statement scarcely mentioned social networks.

Few online companies have the potential to know as much about its users as Google. Consider 26-year-old Ari Brand, an actor living in Manhattan's East Village. Google could see that he paid $733 for a flat-screen TV, because he uploaded his budget to Google Docs, an online word processor and spreadsheet. It has access to the 23,000 emails he's sent through Gmail. Google also saves Mr. Brand's Google searches.

Significantly, however, Google doesn't mix those separate pots of personal data. For instance, it doesn't use data gleaned from a person's Gmail account to target ads to that person elsewhere online. Google's computers do, however, scan Gmail messages to place contextual ads next to the emails themselves.

Google also says much of its data can't be tied to a person by name.

Executives long considered the privacy risks too great relative to the business rewards. According to people familiar with Google's thinking, they felt the company was being held to a higher standard than less well-known firms, and preferred to let more aggressive rivals test the boundaries.

Concerns about antitrust scrutiny also heightened the risk of finding new ways to profit from Google's exclusive data.

As recently as 2006 or so, Google's sights weren't set on Facebook -- they were set on AOL and Yahoo, which together controlled roughly 40% of the display-ad business, analysts say.

One big obstacle in winning more of that business was Google founder Mr. Page, who objected to letting Google install 'cookies' on people's computers for purposes of targeting ads. Cookies are little text files that can, among other things, be used to help track people's activities online to show them ads targeted to their interests.

Those policies hurt Google's display-ad sales and made its ads less effective. Without the advertising cookies, Google could sell ads based only on the name or content of a page -- for instance, putting a shoe ad on a page about shoes. That's known as 'contextual' targeting, and many advertisers consider it less effective than 'behavioral' targeting, which identifies specific users and their interests.

As factions inside Google fought over the issue, an opportunity arose. DoubleClick Inc., a giant in the business of placing display ads on websites, put itself up for sale -- and Google archrival Microsoft Corp. was circling.

Google executives were leery of the way DoubleClick used cookies to track people online, on the principle that many users had no idea they were being tracked, people familiar with the situation say.

But an acquisition of DoubleClick would instantly bring in display-advertising expertise and clients, they thought.

In 2007, Google agreed to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. At the time, some employees joked Google had to spend billions just to get Mr. Page to like cookies, people familiar with the matter say.

Google and DoubleClick executives huddled decide how to blend the two companies' products. They had a lot of ground to make up.

According to a resulting presentation slide, dated July 2008 -- the one headlined 'Get in the Game' -- Google offered fewer ways to measure an ad's effectiveness than Atlas, a rival owned by Microsoft. And Google had none of the behavioral-targeting capacities of AOL's Tacoda unit -- meaning it couldn't target ads to people based on websites they visited.

Google executives finally agreed it was cookie time. As a result, every page where Google sold a display ad began installing DoubleClick cookies on users' computers.

For the first time, Google had the ability to deliver ads targeted to individual people's computers. But just because it had the ability, Google didn't start using it. There was still too much internal resistance.

Mr. Weinberg, the author of the 2008 'vision statement,' came to Google from DoubleClick. He and a small group of product managers and marketing officials began discussing the ways Google could target ads to people more aggressively.

His memo, stamped 'INTERNAL CONFIDENTIAL,' acknowledged the delicateness of the subject. Audience targeting is 'of a sensitive nature,' it stated in the very first sentence, due to the possibility of 'mis-understanding' among users.

The memo then went on to outline a sweeping vision in which Google could get other websites from around the Internet to share their data with it for the purpose of targeting ads.

The document also says Google could start selling ads across the Web based on the things it knew about people from their Gmail accounts, and also from their use of Google's Checkout service, a PayPal rival.

All of that would be a significant change. Currently, although Google places contextual ads within a user's Gmail account, it doesn't follow that person to other websites with those ads.

The document shows awareness of the privacy implications. Nothing would happen 'without strong consideration of privacy, legal and industry best practices in mind,' it states. A goal should be to limit users' feeling of 'creepiness' from seeing finely targeted ads, it says. By late 2008, Google executives were preparing to launch ads targeted at users' interests. But the specifics still remained controversial.

Tensions erupted during a meeting with about a dozen executives at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters about 18 months ago when Messrs. Page and Brin shouted at each other over how aggressively Google should move into targeting, according to a person who had knowledge of the meeting. 'It was awkward,' this person said. 'It was like watching your parents fight.'

Mr. Brin was more reluctant than Mr. Page, this person said. Eventually, he acquiesced and plans for Google to sell ads targeted to people's interests went ahead.

Google launched the new advertising product, 'interest-based ads' in March 2009. The service, currently available only to a limited group of advertisers, uses cookies to track any time a user visits one of the more than one million sites where Google sells ads.

To offset the founders' concerns about cookies' secretiveness, Google set up a page, www.google.com/ads/preferences, where people can opt out.

Google adopted other vision-statement ideas. Last September, it launched its new ad exchange, which lets advertisers target individual people -- consumers in the market for shoes, for instance -- and buy access to them in real time as they surf the Web. Google takes a cut of each ad sale.

In short, Google is trying to establish itself as the clearinghouse for as many ad transactions as possible, even when those deals don't actually involve consumer data that Google provides or sees.

The further step in that progression would be for Google to become a clearinghouse for everyone's data, too. That idea, also laid out in the vision statement, is still being considered, people familiar with the talks say. That would put Google -- already one of the biggest repositories of consumer data anywhere -- at the center of the trade in other people's data as well.

Google Agonizes On Privacy As Ad World Vaults Ahead