Google's Eric Schmidt has shouldered the blame for the company's lack of effort in nailing a successful social networking strategy to compete with rival Facebook.
"I clearly knew I had to do something and I failed to do it. The CEO should take responsibility. I screwed up," said Schmidt, who was speaking at the All Things Digital D9 conference yesterday.
Mountain View's chairman, who hung up his chieftain boots in April this year when Google co-founder Larry Page returned to the helm, described the massive boo-boo as one of his biggest regrets during his CEO tenure.
He also admitted that the company stumbled in its attempts to make Facebook a search partner. The social network later tied a deal with Microsoft's Bing.
But even if Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has Mark Zuckerberg's ear, the software giant has no place at Schmidt's top table.
He described Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple as being technology companies that were part of the "Gang of Four".
It was a different story in January when Schmidt said: "Microsoft has more cash, more engineers, more global reach [than Facebook]. We see competition from Microsoft every day."
He added at the time that Facebook wasn't a direct rival because it had no desire "to get into the search business".
At yesterday's conference Schmidt also acknowledged the importance of identity online, which is a thorny subject: Google's ex-CEO has come under fire in the past for making creepy personal data remarks.
Four years ago, the then-Chocolate Factory boss said he had written down in his notebook that identity needed to be addressed by the company, but he failed to adequately respond to his own private missive.
So what of Google's feisty young competitor?
"Facebook's done a number of things which I admire," said Schmidt.
"It's the first generally available way of disambiguating identity. Historically, on the internet such a fundamental service wouldn't be owned by a single company. I think the industry would benefit from an alternative to that... Identity is incredibly useful because in the online world you need to know who you are dealing with."
Which is a bit like saying, "Give me a chunk of that evil genius of yours, Zuck! Please?"
He then echoed previous statements about how better identity improved search results for users.
"[W]e could compute a better answer, because we'll know more about you," he said.
That is, if an individual hasn't already cleansed their ID online to avoid Google shame... Last year Schmidt predicted that erasing a young person's identity so that they are not embarrassed when others Google them would become a common rite of passage in the future. ®