Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Where is Google going?

An extremely interesting article looks at Google's history, present and future. The future entails not only rumors about Google acquiring or creating a free email service, but the reasons the future may not be bright for Blogger's owner.

The history: "According to Google legend, Brin and Page didn't hit it off when they first met at Stanford in 1995. Both were doing postgraduate work; Brin, 23, had been assigned to show Page, 24, who had just graduated from the University of Michigan, around the place. As scientists will, they soon found a common interest: how to get the best information out of a sprawling mass of data. And their idea was, why not start with the Web? By January 1996 they were working on the prototype of what became Google, called 'Backrub', because it would determine how authoritative a web site was by looking at the links coming to it from other web pages, and especially from the web pages viewed by others as authoritative."

The present: "But now it is expanding so fast, he says, that it is in danger of losing sight of what we want to do. It has bought a 'blogging' company called Blogger, and set up a 'social software' site called Orkut and now is rumoured to be setting up a free e-mail service. 'I don't see what those have to do with search,' says Sullivan."

The future: "At Forrester, Colony warns: 'How long did it take you to switch to Google? Seconds. How long will it take you to switch out of Google? Seconds.' By contrast, he says, 'all great businesses are built on a monopoly'. And nobody has that in searching. Get it wrong, and the pack will leave footprints all over your back. 'Is Google's search good?' he adds. 'Yes. Is the company worth tens of billions? No.' That's because it's comparatively cheap to set up a new search engine, and Google has well-funded rivals - after all, if two penniless graduates can do it, why not a well-funded company like Microsoft or Yahoo!? Secondly, says Colony, there's the fact that the Web itself is changing. Web 'pages' in the future might have programs on the page, or complex new services that will integrate directly with your computer. (Microsoft has said this is an objective of its next operating system, due in 2006.) 'When that happens, the usefulness of link-based search will wane,' says Colony. 'Simply stated, Google is very much of the times, with no advantage in the internet that lies ahead.'

Take a look at the full article. It's well worth the read and the best analysis I've seen on the Google legend versus the Google reality. The bottom line is: "But you can't take away the fact that they came up with what people wanted. And as long as that stays true, its place in dictionaries is assured."