I used to love Google and all the amazing things they did. I’ve been using the Chrome browser since it launched, and I’ve used Gmail accounts exclusively since 2004; I was among those who received a beta invite key.
But as the years go by, Google has gotten more greedy. It’s cliche to bring up their informal motto of “Don’t be evil” but it’s now clear to me that Google’s definition of evil is very different from my own concept of ‘evil’.
It tends to be in business that companies do not change until they are forced into doing so by the market. This means Google will continue to implement things like Panda and Hummingbird that diminish reasons for consumers to even go to a website.
Why go to any sport fan sites if you can get the score from last night’s game at the top of your Google search results? Why go to Yelp if you can see all the review stars at the top of a search for local Austin restaurants?
These changes to Google Search are not done out of a desire to “help users”. These changes are made so that Google doesn’t have to share as much ad revenue with third-party sites that might be using AdSense, or sites like Yelp that sell their own ads.
The internet that was once a huge ocean of interesting places to discover has now become much smaller. Google Search has slowly changed from a map that helped discover interesting content, and into a walled garden that Google exclusively controls.
Google grew itself by using a business model that was a simple proposition: work with us, and we’ll grow together. But that Google is gone, if Hummingbird is any indication. Heck, if your app does too well in the Play store and might compete with their own app, you risk Google yanking it out.
However, something that is often over-looked is that Google is highly vulnerable. It has a very diverse range of products, but only one meaningful revenue stream; AdWords. Google has a near-monopoly in the online advertising world due to the popularity of AdSense, Google Search, Gmail and YouTube; without these platforms Google would be nothing.
If that sounds strange to you, then consider this: Google doesn’t make revenue from the products it sells. It makes money by advertising on content other people make (like emails, videos and websites).
Share-holders find a lot of security in that the Google of today has done well with this model, but I foresee a dramatic shift occurring in the next decade when innovations in search are done by companies that refuse to sell-out to Google.
Worse, Google’s revenue model is based entirely around the sale of personal information to advertisers. Currently Google is facing a lawsuit related to violations of privacy involving Gmail; I expect as more legislation about privacy comes on the books, other behavior of Google will also be challenged in the courts.
But even without the courts, I think the average Joe is getting fed up with Google. Currently they are forcing Gmail and YouTube users to create G+ profiles, and the specific way the integration has been handled has upset many people; myself included.
Google has a policy of keeping everything in beta, and forcing huge changes to the way its products work onto users with little to no advance warning; and often without a clear understanding of how these changes are “better”. They will even kill popular products like Google Reader in a pathetic attempt to shovel users into G+. They are so obsessed with trying to beat Facebook that they are destroying completely unrelated platforms like YouTube in a desperate gamble to make people actually use G+.
I believe some very smart people will eventually get tired of being jerked around by Google to the point they look for how to replace Google’s products with better, more user-friendly ones that are ran by people who truly care about their user-base and aren’t interested in trying to compete with everyone on the internet for business.
How It’ll Probably Happen
How They’ll Get Beaten in Search: Someone is going to make a browser better than Chrome that has a built-in search engine better than Google, which is focused on searching through social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Gmail to deliver its results rather than send spider-bots to crawl the internet. Results will be determined by relevancy to actual people, rather than ranking the site listings on circumstantial (and highly manipulatable) things like Page Rank. Social and location based searching is going to be the future.
Anyway the browser will undoubtedly be optimized for HTML5 and include much-demanded features like split-screen tabbing and voice recognition. I could go on but I don’t feel like giving anymore freebies. I’d actually like to take a stab at this myself.
How They’ll Get Beaten in Video: Someone is going to design a better internet TV platform that doesn’t ask everyone to completely change the way the television industry has worked for over fifty years. Here’s to hoping it’s us. I mean, I’d love to work with Google on this but I’ve been trying for months and getting no interest.
It’ll be interesting to see what will happen in the next few years. I believe that inevitably Google will be knocked down a few notches and forced to realize it’s treated its users and customers poorly. But by the time it does so, it will likely not be capable of the profits it once had.