I think Google has become so mainstream and so ubiquitous in our everday Internet lives that its lost its mojo in some ways. That doesn’t mean it won’t continue to be hugely relevant, hugely profitable, and hugely important. But it does mean that there’s a vacuum that can get filled by others who are small, innovative, new, and exciting.
With respect to Google’s position in the dealmaking universe, Fred has this to say (I’d love to know what informed this rant, but I imagine it’s first hand experience):
And finally, Google is acting like AOL all of a sudden. You can’t do a deal with them without paying respect to their market position. That’s fine and is always the case with a market leader, but it will come back to bite them because the deals they won’t do will get done with others. And some of those deals are going to be important ones that will create new participants in the market who will grow and become more powerful over time.
From Jeff’s post (echoed by Dan Gillmor):
I love Google and what it has done organizing the world’s information and valuing links and taking the cooties off of citizens’ media and changing the culture. But is it time to start fearing Google (with its caching and its opaque ad policy and its opaque news policy) or mock Google (as Fred does, for reverting to banner ads)? Just asking.
It’s hard to be the de factor leader in the tech/media space, and Google is clearly not entirely prepped for the role, at least not yet. But given its success and its stock price, it has no choice. We’re expecting the company to act how we want it to act. The problem, of course, is that we all have different expectations, and we all think we’re right about what the company should do next.
The only thing a company can do in such a spot, it seems to me, is lead. Lead on issues of policy, transparency, open APIs, IP/DRM, and the like. How to do that? Have a clear and consistent voice and vision about where you think the web is going, and what kind of web you want to see built. That requires a confidence and certainty, characteristics which I sense exist in spades at the company, but have not really come out in a full throated way. There seems to be a lot of reacting going on at this moment – reactions to critics, to competitors, to PR flare ups.
It’s scary to lead, to declare where you are going and then head there. It’s even scarier to admit that as a leader you’ve made a mistake. But that’s what we expect of our leaders – that they head somewhere, so we can either follow, or plot our next move to outsmart them and take their place. For now, it seems Google is a reluctant leader – it does not want to declare where it’s going, or what it’s plans are when it gets there. That’s causing consternation and second guessing like Fred and Jeff and Dan’s posts.
Remember when Bill Gates wrote that silly book (1996)? I thought it was ridiculous – it felt obvious and patronizing to me as a self appointed New Media Guy, but it was a statement that he was willing to be a leader. He was willing to hang it out there, to outline a vision of where he saw his industry going. Most of the world backed him on that book, regardless of the sniping from editors at hip tech magazines.
Would the guys at Google ever do such a thing? Should they?
I sense that many of us wish they would. We long for a clear vision on the idea of the Web OS, for example, or the role of search in media distribution and commerce. Is Google getting into VOIP? Word processing? The cable business? Gaming? Movies? We invent endless fantasies about where Google might end up, then pounce on any possible indications that Google is working on making those fantasies real. It’s been fun for a while, but I sense we’re all tiring of the guessing game. And I bet nowhere is that game more tiresome than inside the Googleplex itself. What do you think?