Google has been in the news a lot lately, and that’s not necessarily a good thing (for them).
Basically, due to recent business moves — some that have positioned them, in some eyes, in a threating pose — Google has drawn shall-we-say “interest” from the media and, especially, blogSpace regarding the following three areas (in order of importance, I’d say):
- The acquistion of Pyra, the owner of blogger.com and blogspot.com – There is more speculation than anything about this move, with the pessimists saying they will crush all blogging opponents like MS did to Netscape in the browser market, the optimists just saying “All is well, Sergey will keep it steady…”. Basically, the discussions right now are just speculation. Which, while fun to read, are just that: speculation. We don’t know if this purchase will be a good thing for the Web/blogging/technology in the short or long run. We don’t know. But that’s not preventing some from questioning the purity of Google’s motives. Whatever.
- Google has announced some advertising opportunities for bloggers – This has been roundly criticized thus far, but — as far as I can tell — it’s not something that one has to have on one’s Blogger-based site. It’s a choice, from what I read, it just gives bloggers on Google-owned sites the ability to put them out there and make money if they want. And even if Bloogle does end up forcing users to host ads (even the subtle Google ads), people 1) Have the right to leave, 2) Have to remember that Blogger is free (as in beer). Doesn’t the company have a right to make some money?
- Trademark wars – Yeah, some brilliant Google lawyer sent a letter to an Internet “word watch” site, telling them that the verb “to google” was an infringement on their trademark blabby-blah-blah. *sigh* Yes, I see Google’s point; I understand the frightened nature of the blogerti to this move. It is a very corporate move, which has not been Google modus operendi (sp?). But Google is getting bigger; get over it. There are pluses and minuses. This is a definite minus, but at least it was resolved (some additional text to show that Google is a trademark, ich glaube) in a low-key, out-of-court manner. Sony lost the right to the Walkman name by not doing this sort of follow-through, so I can’t really fault Google beyond my naive hope that, as Rodney King said, “can’t we all just get along??”. Yeah, I don’t like it; I see where it’s necessary to some degree.
OK, lots of speculation, quite a bit of business-type news (lawyers, ad revenue).
The undercurrent I’m sensing in reading a lot of articles and /. remarks is that things are progressing in a fairly typical manner for the old US of A:
Google fit this to a T: Search engines have been around forever (relative to the Web’s age), but Google came in and in a very non-splashy, non-threatening way created a tool that quickly became the best of breed. And it didn’t try to do too much, at least until they had a really good handle on what was its bread-and-butter: Search.
And it did a lot of things correctly that made not only the common man like it, but those who were technically inclined: They had an “dot.com” flippancy (its Pigeon Rank April Fool’s release was/is a classic); they appeared to care about the geek – opening their API (for free…yes, and their interest as well…but who cared?); they expanded into areas that sorely needed the expansion, even if it was not apparent at the time (image search, the news section, now something with blogs).
They did a lot right, and little wrong. It was a fast, clean site that delivered accurate, targeted search results. It didn’t have obtrusive ads. It wasn’t a portal. You couldn’t get a “firstname.lastname@example.org” address. They were focused, and they became incredibly successful — and profitable, to boot. How about that?
But now the honeymoon ends.
Google is growing up; it is buying companies.
At the same time, it probably realizes more than the average geek that search algorithms have gotten better as time has gone by (both experience and faster hardware/software), and if it sits on its laurels, it will be left behind. Both Fast and Teoma are ready to eat Google’s lunch if it is lulled into complacency (use both via HotBot, my former favorite search site).
And yes, they are doing — they have to do — some corporate things to stay on top. Things are getting bigger, more complicated and so on.
At the same time, I’ve seen little in Google’s past – nor the very recent past – to indicate that they will be a “resistance is futile!” company.
If for no other reason than it understands that part of its appeal is its appearance — real or imagined, doesn’t matter: perception is reality — of the “cool tool”, of pro-user, of hanging onto the good lessons of the dot-com era (bring in bright people; give direction; get out of the way and let them work and have fun). This is vital to the appeal of Google.
Look at Microsoft. Like it or not, they offer some great tools (bought or built, doesn’t matter to the end user…). While it catches a lot of flack over security and other issues (licensing….), there are good tools there. Visual Studio is great. Visio (yes, recent purchase) is a very good tool that MS is actually making better (better DB integration – will it soon compete with ERWin?).
Yet MS gets slammed for everything. Because – in large part – they are top dog.
If MS offered the same products, same prices as today but trailed, say, Lotus/IBM (office apps) and Novell (networking), it would be a different story.
In America, we tend to kick our companies when they are up.
No, this does not mean that MS is great/innocent/whatever. It’s an example.
And if you believe a word — just a word — of that, compare MS to Google.
Google is not going down the same road as MS. Not going to happen.
For one thing, that road (monopoly, first mover) is closed. Second, Google doesn’t (yet?) have the war chest MS does. Third, things are different today. People have seen what a MS can do, what a Google can do. It’s partly market forces.
Will Google change? Hopefully.
Will Google become less user-centric? Probably. Name me a large, successful company that has not sacrificed some user/customer energy to support the growth of the company (can’t have everything at all times…).
Will Google become MS? Nope. Or — at least — hopefully not. It’s really not in the cards; it doesn’t fit. Apples and oranges.
But some general observations: Google vs. Microsoft (or why Google will not become Microsoft):
- Google brought in grown-ups (such as Eric Schmidt) to run the company; MS has been run by Mr. Gates since inception. (NOTE: This is partly due to the shift in the way things are mentioned above). That’s a healthy sign. Bring in suits to do the suits’ work; let the visionaries keep actually working, not going to meetings. Actually, Bill Gates’ stepping aside and letting Steve Ballmer run the day-to-day was (to me) a healthy sign for that company.
- Google has a history as a user-friendly company; MS has the opposite. Yes, MS delivers a lot (hold your flames; they do have end-to-end solutions and support; your call on if it’s worth squat or not), but not nicely. Google is currently in the position where it never really had to get hard-nosed with customers.
- Google is in services; MS provides services but only to support software sales. Big difference. Can’t compare.
- Google has (thus far) embraced change. MS tried to establish/define the changes. Different, again.
OK, I could go on for hours, and I just may in my mind.
But the bottom line is that Google is catching flack for growing up.
Right now, that’s unfair: Because we don’t really yet know what it has grown into.
I think not an MS-type corporation, but that it will be more corporate. Get over it.
And keep your eye on the Google and call them for every perceived misstep….
That, too, is the American Way.