Google has been the Golden City of Silicon Valley and indeed the whole world wide web for the past several years. The savvy start-up that grew from a garage in Menlo Park to one of the biggest companies in the world in less than a decade is not only a business wunderkind, but a cultural icon whose name has become a verb for finding information on the Internet. Yet as Google’s rise to fame attests, the Internet is a fast and fickle place where a good new idea can change everything.
In a recent interview with Mad Money host Jim Cramer, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google can avoid the flat-line in growth that eventually plagued it’s high tech giant predecessors IBM & Microsoft. Google will accomplish this, Schmidt says, through increasingly targeted advertising, breaking into new businesses and keeping to the mantra of not being “evil.”
Is this a realistic forecast? Can its very size and success be a detriment to Google’s innovation? Can it really conquer new markets? Though the company’s stock has consistently outperformed expectations and grew an impressive 26% last quarter, there are some tell-tale signs that Google’s empire is not immune to the forces of time or economics.
Innovation by Acquisition: By Schmidt’s own admission, Google will need to innovate at a high rate to remain competitive. The company has released several products in the last few years including Gmail, Google Earth, Google Docs (which I am using to type this article), Google Calendar, Knol, and most recently its web browser Chrome. But much, if not the bulk, of the company’s innovation has been generated through acquisitions. While many of the purchases have been a big boon for Google, i.e. DoubleClick is estimated to have brought in $90 million dollars for Google last year, several of the innovative companies acquired have mysteriously entered the ever widening Google black hole. Jaiku, a twitter-like micro-blogging company was purchased in October of 2007 and is still closed to new users. GrandCentral a site the allows you integrate all your phone numbers and voicemail boxes into one account, accessible from the web, had a markedly similar fate. Even Blogger, once the king of blogs, has withered from lack of development and upgrading since being acquired. It now seems doomed to forever live in the shadow of it’s successors Wordpress and Movable Type.
A quick look at this comprehensive list of Google’s acquisitions reveals many great ideas that either are dead in the black hole, being developed by Google, or in use but just not being promoted. It’s hard to say which, but considering how old some of these acquisitions are and how quickly the Internet world moves, even in the best case scenario of “development” Google is proving it simply hasn’t been able integrate and develop it’s acquisitions quickly enough.
2009 promises to be a big year on the media landscape as next stage public adoption of online product will spur tremendous growth. Here are 5 things to watch for:
- Tweet! Twitter explodes and joins the parade - MySpace --> YouTube --> Facebook --> Twitter - as an elite meme that everybody has heard of. In the process it requisitely transforms into a corporate tool and attracts an older demographic cohort.
- Online Advertising Hangs Tough Despite all of the end times rhetoric, online advertising actually increases 10%. The efficiency of the web is wreaking havoc on traditional media. Companies still need to advertise their products and eyeballs are continuing to flock to the web. Bang for the buck and big metrics make web media undeniably compelling.
- The Future Gets Hot The present stinks and people will turn their attention elsewhere. While many will pine for a return to the past they will be forced to look ahead. The doom and gloom of the economic meltdown and global warming combined with the incredible pace of technological change provide a fertile backdrop for projection. ABC's 2100, Discovery's 2057 and plenty of content about the next decade will push this meme to the forefront. Sweet.
A couple of weeks ago I pointed out a new trend that was exemplified by the creation process of the Twitter application Twittority. Where big social media influence blogs like Tech Crunch, Mashable and others have the power to effect what gets created by defining a pain point. This trend was further confirmed a couple of days ago when Rachel Cunliffe's post on Mashable predicted ways in which Twitter would evolve over 2009. In pretty much the same time frame as the Twittority example (overnight), Dan Zarella designed a solution app in response to one those predictions.
Mashable was quick to recognize this effort and tout their status as a product cycle influencer the following day.
The power of web 2.0 is on full display here. The conversation aggregating nature of influence blogs is a major driver and the incipient response of hackers augurs enormous potential. This growing community of "first responders" are enabled by a developing toolkit that facilitates quick and inexpensive solutions.
There was a bit of hubbub in the socialmediasphere about Loic Le Meur's complaint that there was no way to filter Twitter posts by authority, or the number of users suscribing to a particular person's feed. Le Meur's beef was that he and other attendees of his conference had a problem - they couldn't sift through the deluge of Tweets about and from people attending their event to find the signal they were looking for. While signal clarity and information overload is a problem (which I will save for a later post) - what I found most interesting is that less than a day after complaining about the problem, an ambitious group of programmers dug in and created a basic product that addressed this problem.
This is something we will see much more frequently going forward.
TechCrunch and other sites that are leaders in authority and Zeitgeist have the ability to drive conversation, memes and ultimately influence production itself. And the collaborative tools that they make a living reporting on are empowering people to come together quickly and solve problems. This compressed market process is likely to accelerate rapidly in an economy where there are a lot of free agents (read un or under-employed folks) with time, expertise and awareness of these platforms and painpoints. By addressing a zeitgeist problem quickly you have the opportunity to garner a great deal of attention from the community, which can result in elevation of personal brands, team and give the solution you've created a chance to get quick adoption and possibly immediate financial backing.
Email was introduced to the public in the mid 90’s, marking a
big shift in communication efficiency and relegating snail mail to
the handling of American Express ads, magazine subscriptions, and
utility bills. Since then the corporate world has since embraced
it, just as Hallmark cards have been replaced by e-birthday cards.
But with times and the web changing so rapidly in the last decade
email is now increasingly considered an ‘internet app classic’.
A recent article by Alex Iskold at ReadWriteWeb
looks to challengers like Twitter and Facebook to dethrone email sooner
than later. Iskold points out that over the last five years the
shift away from email appears to have be in favor of simplicity.
People who once used emails to keep up with family and friends now
have moved on to IM. Similarly, bloggers use bridge apps like
Twitter that combines the shortness of an IM, with the
get-to-know-you personality of blogs. Even the face of email has
transformed with gmail taking the lead in a jack-of-all-trades
interface combining chat and a word processor. (I’m typing this
post right into Google Docs.)
Looking at the trends of the past, I don’t think email will go
in the way of the Dodo. I think of email’s relationship to its
‘successors’ as radio to television. TV didn’t kill radio, and the
Internet definitely didn’t kill TV. They just did all of their
respective jobs the best. Email is still the perferred way for
corporate communication, and a good number of us still tune into
our favorite radio stations on the freeway. Is email in danger
then? Will savvy web users and bloggers one day ditch email in
favor of Twitter and Gchat?
Only two things are certain. Apps will become more modular and
specialized and there will be cross-platform competition.
For those interested, Mielle Sullivan and I will be live-blogging the Robo Development Conference and Expo tomorrow (Tuesday) in Santa Clara. Check the site for latest breaking robotic news as well as photos and vids from the conference. Also check out our Twitter updates under usernames jheylin and mielle_s.
See you tomorrow!