46 Comments

Summary:

I have been saying this for a while – Google is forgetting its core DNA and instead chasing competition. It isn’t going to end well. Others such as influential publisher & technology observer Tim O’Reilly are starting to wave the red flag as well.

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Updated. I have been saying this for a while – Google is forgetting its core DNAand instead chasing Facebook and other competitors. It isn’t going to end well. Others such as influential publisher & technology observer Tim O’Reilly are starting to wave the red flag as well. In a Google+ post bemoaning the emphasis of “time on site” as a worthwhile metric for an information utility like Google, O’Reilly writes:

Google used to pride itself on the speed with which it helped you find the information you want, and then get out of the way. ‘Time on site’ is a terrible metric for an information utility! — Tim O’Reilly

Tim argues that in chasing Facebook, Google has started to lose its Google-ness and is going to fall into the Yahoo-trap.

There’s a real danger here that Google will fall into the Yahoo! trap, forgetting who they are by pursuing the competition. Yahoo! was a terrific content destination, and lost its way trying to be a search engine.  Might Google be doing the same in trying to become a social destination?

Maybe now Google should pause and listen.

This post was updated at 1:01 pm to clarify the context for O’Reilly’s comments.

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  1. I don’t agree at all, google is trying to include social in search, not become a social destination. There’s a difference between a social layer and a Social destination.

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    1. I totally agree with you. Did everyone’s Google Search, all of sudden become less accurate and less smart? Information is being processed every day and minute because of smart phones and other mobile computing devices. This information is being recorded to Google+; processed for Google Search; and sent back to end-users in multiple point of views or “perspectives.” The human experience is turning into an “algorithm.” IMO, that’s brilliant.

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      1. I agree – regardless of the direction Google focuses on, they still go from strength to strength and continues to improve our user experience.

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  2. Simon Cohen Friday, July 6, 2012

    Not sure the Yahoo! comparison is very apt. That was a company with very little other than user loyalty – all of their strengths were ultimately duplicated or improved upon by others. Google has a lot of IP that is hard to beat (MSFT has spent untold millions trying and remain #2 in search). So while I agree they might be at risk of diversifying too far too fast, I also think the current round of product purges demonstrates that they understand this risk and are trying to address it. They are not, as far as I can see, falling into the Yahoo! trap.

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  3. I’ve never thought Google needed to become “social” in the first place, nor that they could actually take the crown away from Facebook. Even if they do become social, that social signal should only be a tiny percentage at best for their search algorithm – so definitely not something they should bet the company on.

    I also blame the press for pushing them in that direction. Google said from the beginning that they don’t think Facebook is competing with them, but most of the tech press pushed so hard this idea that Google is going to be made obsolete by Facebook, that they eventually believed it themselves.

    Anyway, things like the Knowledge Graph and Google Now are exactly the kind of future and evolution of Google search, that Google needs to pursue, so they haven’t quite lost their direction yet.

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    1. > I also blame the press for pushing them in that direction.

      Great point. As I mentioned in my comment below, Om himself and some of the other Gigaom writers did this quite often and quite loudly.

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      1. AS

        I am going to call you out on this. I have been a biggest critic of the ham-handed way they have approached social. I have been for a long time and will continue to be.

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      2. You didn’t address his point though Om, which is valid. How Google goes about the drive into social is another topic. Here you are criticizing Google for even going into social, after raising the warning flags of how social could kill Google. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

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  4. Competition is a bad thing?

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    1. huh?

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  5. Google isn’t trying to become a social destination, or at least, that’s not ALL they’re trying to do. They’re trying to build a social layer into their Web products, and if they don’t, you bet your @ss they’re going the best way of yahoo. I know that this is an oft way mentioned concept, yet it’s still consistently ignored by tech blog gers. Can we get over the g+ is chasing fb meme already please? At its heart g+ is really about learning more about Google users, so it’s actually supporting they’re core products (search, ads). Plus, this just ignores the big G’s innovative products they’re launching all time like glass etc. Is FB creating stuff like that, or are they just trying to lock they’re users deeper into their walled garden with overated (and ripped off) products like the app center or whatever. Sorry Om, I dig your stuff, but this article feels like it was well thought out.

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    1. Ha, “wasn’t well thought out”. Autocorrect disagrees with me I guess :/

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      1. Lol.

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    2. Actually if you read my last post – I like what they are trying to do with Glasses, Car and also with all this cool back end technologies they built. One thing they are actually doing better: making money from ads. However, I do think their approach to social has been against their core grain and strength – that of being a internet scale utility. Instead of building a destination, it needed to build a simpler, easier equivalent of FB Connect.

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      1. Tried and failed with friend connect for blogs if you recall.

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      2. Ham-handed? I don’t agree. Google+ is actually a good platform. Instead of making it how Google thinks a social network should be, they started by making it as simple as can be, but with all the privacy controls that were missing in Facebook. By listening to what the users wanted it to be and observing what users are actually using it for, Google has been quietly adding features. If you’re judging Google by its relative failure to make Facebook users switch, you’re looking at it the wrong way. Google+ is an experiment at this stage, for Google to learn more about how people use social connections in their day to day lives online. From this knowledge, Google further improves its core search business and extends it with social-enabled tools such as Project Glass.

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  6. > I have been saying this for a while – Google is forgetting its core DNA and instead chasing Facebook and other competitors.

    Not to long ago, you and other Gigaom writers and many other tech writers in general were also saying that FB was going to beat Google (LOL @ that, btw) cuz Google was not able to do anything in the social web, and that was one major chunk of the web that was totally out of reach of Google’s indexing of the Internet and that Google was a loser for not being able to succeed in social, etc. In fact, the way some you guys wrote, including you specifically Om, it sounded like you were pretty much ready to sing Google’s farewell. It would be far too easy to search for previous articles and bring up some interesting quotes.

    So, now that Google is doing something substantial about it, instead of half-hearted attempts like Buzz, you say Google is losing its way! Not surprisingly, most of the people who have been criticizing Google for its G+ efforts are the very same people who used to criticize it for not having a viable social strategy. This is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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    1. AS

      You are essentially conflating Facebook winning and Google copying them. Facebook is winning in social and Google was in the business of helping discover information. It didn’t need a replica of Facebook. I was critical of Buzz and also of Wave, which were half hearted attempts. THe current Google+ is still to prove its utility for me.

      What I wrote about Google – focus on their DNA: infrastructure, information, communication utilities. I have never been critical of Android, their Apps and I have even changed my mind about Chrome OS.

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      1. Om how do you see Chrome OS playing out with regards to Android, and what larger role would it play? Chrome OS was supposed to run the Google TV platform and they changed it with Android a year back, now all that is left is chromebooks from samsung.

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      2. Om,

        Not sure if you understood my previous comments.

        Let me clarify: in the past, you and many other tech writers have criticized Google for not including social data in their search, either through indexing social data from FB, Twitter, etc., or having their own social network. Since the biggest social networks that matter (FB, Twitter) are essentially walled gardens which refuse to share data with Google, Google is building its own social network. What else can Google do if other social networks don’t want to play with it?

        Now that Google is doing something about your previous criticisms, you are turning right around and criticizing Google for trying to do exactly what you wanted it to do in the first place: include social signals into search results. I have read another Gigaom writer (Mathew Ingram) criticize Google for not having social signals in their search results before G+. I have also read the same writer criticize Google FOR including social signals from G+ into search results.

        Hence my conclusion: in the eyes of tech writers, as far as social is concerned, Google is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

        A S

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      3. Another opportunity to address the duplicity and still no answer. What we do get is an I don’t use it or get it, therefore it’s a failure mentality. This seems to be a common form of myopia in the tech writing world.

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  7. Jeremy Toeman Friday, July 6, 2012

    Om, please. Tell me how making spherical streaming media players does NOT fit into the core business of extremely high quality and fast search results?

    Derp.

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    1. Lots of moves made by large players like google, microsoft are not always necessarily to make a profit but to distract their enemies – apple tv being the case here for google

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      1. paul martin Friday, July 6, 2012

        From Aberdeen bonnie Scotland Google TV looked like a 20% project for Eric et al. He was the one that paraded the CEOs at some conference and suffered when it bombed. I imagine Apple TV product execs too must wonder what edge their logo-ed box has over a netbook with YouTube (or ..).
        But such demonstrates the problem for corporate California what people to with new products is not what your product roadmap dictates (or indeed is perceived to be). If Big Brother is going to help me get my job done by showing me companies in my email ads that help me that’s just dandy so I end up sticking in gmail rather than search – who would have predicted that n years ago.

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  8. I don’t think a social network is in Google’s “wheelhouse”, but having insight into your social life is. I definitely thought Google+ as a competitor to Facebook is a failure, but with the release of Google Now, I’m starting to see the value in Google doing a lot more with the limited social information they do have and that will eventually attract more users. GoogleNow provides information without interaction from the user. This is going to be imperative when dealing with Google Glass. Now when we get your friends showing their location in your glasses and restaurants they like being augmented with star ratings as you walk by them, I think Google has retained more of its focus than we perceived. We should always remember that each of their projects are not ends in themselves. Advertising is always the end goal and each of these seemingly unrelated projects are holes that google is lacing together as they tighten the whole thing, slowly and constantly.

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  9. As someone who would love to see Google fail, I’m surprised at myself for disagreeing with you. Social is a service, just like Gmail, Docs, etc. Google doesn’t have to win in any of those categories, just play hard enough to make life suck for the competition. In the meantime they will accumulate enough data to sell me better and better ads. Couple with that the fact that there is really no one who can come close to competing with them at their core business. Bing literally has to incentivize users to get them to search. If there was a strong #2 I would agree with you, but until that happens, sadly, Google can toy around with any other online product with little harm

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  10. Tim Reilly makes no case nor does he present a credible argument of how Google is losing it’s Google-ness. What he does instead, is state a complaint based on something I can’t figure out. I mean…did he not find the answer to his question? Did he get lost when looking for directions? Did he not attend or watch Google IO 2012? Isn’t it obvious the direction Google is taking with Google Now. Someone needs to tell Mr. Reilly that we are talking about technology here. Technology doesn’t just improve, but it also evolves. Google is evolving in that manner. For me, Google hasn’t disappointed me yet.

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