Google Honcho Admits 'I Screwed Up' Against Facebook

Eric Schmidt is sorry he let Facebook walk away with the entire social networking market. The Google chairman and CEO said he knew about the threat several years ago, but didn't address it. Distracted, much?

Here's what Schmidt said about his handling of Facebook, which is close to adding its 700 millionth member and which Google is struggling to catch up to. His comments were made on stage at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference:

"Three years ago I wrote memos talking about this general problem. I knew that I had to do something and I failed to do it. A CEO should take responsibility. I screwed up."

The problem actually began back in 2004, when Google, with Schmidt as CEO, launched its social network Orkut and proceeded to (according to some employees) underuse, undervalue and understaff it. Despite a promising start, Orkut was quickly surpassed by Facebook. Some months or years later, Schmidt drew up his memo and Google realized it had to at least chase Facebook's taillights.

But Google never did offer another serious competitor to Facebook. Schmidt and his lieutenants were busy doing other things. We're guessing that if it wasn't the (problematic) mistresses or jobs and investments for friends and relatives, it might have been, oh, the lunar landing project or the self-driving cars or the windmills or the monorails. But those are just guesses!

[Photo of Schmidt at D via Asa Mathat/All Things Digital]