“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Is Google trying to compete with God?

Posted by direwolff on August 28, 2006

What would you call a entity that today can track all users on Web, know the kinds of conversations many of them are having in e-mail or IM, beginning to help many of them manage their browser’s start page, busy schedules, as well as share and host their spreadsheets and written documents between associates, friends and family, and facilitating users ability to create their own Web sites, online stores, and organize interesting information that they find on the Web? Now what if this same entity then also enabled small companies or departments within large companies, to be able to quickly deploy IT infrastructure without having to do more than to give employees computers with a Web browser? Finally, what if this entity planned to allow you to store as much information as you needed to on their servers mostly for free, but with perhaps a small fee at certain thresholds? Now don’t forget, this entity could now know more about you than any government, and know more about your habits, your personal life and your business life, than even you do.

Hmmm…I think this is all certainly a shot across the bow of the Ever Knowing, God. I’m being facetious of course, Google is a company, but when a company reaches the point where it basically controls or has access to so many points in our lives, then we need to begin to worry about the issues of absolute power (not that worrying about this sort of thing helped us get past putting George W. in for a second term).

Google’s recently released office suite of services for free to businesses under their own domain name, is huge. How can any small business pass that up? Not just because of cost savings, but because of the speed with which they can be operational on the most mundane part of their business (the IT stuff), and start being immediatly productive.

Two things worry me here. First is the number of externalities associated with this move, which are far too numerous to name, but includes the impact this will have on the software industry as a whole. Basically, software companies are becoming media companies since they’ll have to find ways of making money from their “free” applications some how. Even where the model relies on users paying for storage at some point, before they get to that point the companies have to figure out how to stay in business. For those who do not make the transition to sponsorship/advertising models fast enough, certain death is around the corner which could put a lot of technologist on the unemployment ranks sooner rather than later. Same for IT departments of companies, whose skill set will have to be retooled to purely communications facilities management and no longer application support (that’s probably a good thing), this too could be a challenge. Perhaps we may start seeing the cost of programmers dropping substantially in a way that makes the U.S. once again a competitive place to have software development done.

My other and perhaps greater concern is the level and quantity of data that Google is now privy to (and will soon be privy to even more) by virtue of the richness of their offerings, that many people and companies will not be able to pass up. I firmly believe that Google’s greatest innovation has been their use of leverage of their AdSense business model to build a virtually untouchable powerhouse that is quickly moving into other businesses. By providing very useful end-user applications with no barriers to sign-up that builds the right kind of goodwill from the user base, even if their ultimate goal as a company is to monetize this activity in not so obvious ways. By providing an ad network that is self-serve and lets the little guys and the big guys effectively play together that builds goodwill from advertisers and publishers. The result is a richness in the information they begin to know about every one. The leverage has come in the fact that by generating their revenue on AdSense which has certainly reached ubiquity, they can now focus on other services that leverage that but get them into all sorts of other businesses. What’s interesting here is how they have continued to develop many other applications that provide them more and more data about users in ways that stress the value to users rather the economic models that keep the company sustained. Microsoft was smart about how they grew their business using the operating system as the point of leverage, Google is doing so by leveraging AdSense, and given that the true business of the Internet is leads, then Google certainly has found a sustainable model for hopping into other businesses as well.

As a side note, if I were TACODA, Revenue Science or Blue Lithium, I’d be getting worried and perhaps looking for an exit soon, especially there’s anything useful or truly worthwhile in behavioral targeting. I suspect that if there is, Google will launch the premier service in this area given how much information they already have to draw on from all of these sources.

One Response to “Is Google trying to compete with God?”

  1. Ken Berger said

    “Huge”– yes definitely.
    “How can any small business pass that up?”–
    I know I can, and many will. Have to use the gmail interface? pass. No push email for my staff’s mobiles? fuhgetit. Privacy disclosure contents– show stopper.

    It also seems like so far, Google announcing a new product is notable but not always a “game over” for other entrants.

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