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I Know, I Know. But This Post *Is* About Search and Google, So All Is Well At SearchBlog

By - August 26, 2008

I hear you all. What is Battelle on about, all this music stuff, all this non search stuff? I am sorry, but you have to trust me, it’s going somewhere. I’m following a hunch, of a sorts.

Today some bankers from Piper Jaffrey came by, and they asked me the same question I was asked by two or three reporters who were writing pieces on Google’s 10th anniversary. (When is it, anyway? I am sure it’s this year, depending on how you count…).

Anyway, the question is this: So what’s next? What might unseat Google?

I find the question interesting, mainly for its lack of historical perspective. The answer, I think, is pretty damn easy.

No company will unseat Google (though ultimately, one company will get credit).

Culture will. Unquestionably, inevitably, Google will be surpassed by a cultural shift it will be incapable of exploiting. And that will be OK.

Why am I so certain of this? Well, history, for one. And my own experience, for the other.

Allow me to explain.

It’s my theory that world-changing companies occur when one and only one thing happens: Our culture shifts its relationship to technology. It’s a complex set of parameters that allow for such a shift, but it’s happened three times in my professional life:

1. IBM and DOS. This is when computers became accessible to determined early adopters, and a democratized culture of digital information storage and retrieval began.

2. Microsoft and Windows. As much as I’d like to give this to Steve and the Mac OS, the winner was Gates and Windows. This is when we went from speaking the arcane language of computerese (.exe? .bat?) to the language of “hunt and poke” via a visual interface. A major step forward in how culture relates to information, and therefore, to itself.

3. Google and search. As I have argued many times, search is our latest interface to information, and it’s one based on natural language, albeit typed words, rather than spoken.

So, what might be #4?

Isn’t that the hundred billion dollar question?

I have (my own) pretty clear answer to that. Happy to tell you. But I have to write the post I promised here first. Damn. I really miss having the time to write….


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13 thoughts on “I Know, I Know. But This Post *Is* About Search and Google, So All Is Well At SearchBlog

  1. mary hodder says:

    I think Goog is the Ford of the web. Any color as long as it’s white, with 28 words.

    I think you are right that culture will unseat them, but it will be a million little atomized cultures that can’t all be filtered through one search system, or through one ad system, through one understanding of metadata, through one form of attention.

    Ford still existed in the 50s but so did many others, and Ford is almost entirely now entirely eclipsed now by many more desirable brands now. But Goog is still formidable, and the slowest thing to morph to a point that will allow for the greater ecosystem to take over Goog are people. People always take the longest in each new tech cycle to change or shift, and start wanting/needing/understanding more than Black Model A’s.

  2. mary hodder says:

    I think Goog is the Ford of the web. Any color as long as it’s white, with 28 words.

    I think you are right that culture will unseat them, but it will be a million little atomized cultures that can’t all be filtered through one search system, or through one ad system, through one understanding of metadata, through one form of attention.

    Ford still existed in the 50s but so did many others, and Ford is almost entirely now entirely eclipsed now by many more desirable brands now. But Goog is still formidable, and the slowest thing to morph to a point that will allow for the greater ecosystem to take over Goog are people. People always take the longest in each new tech cycle to change or shift, and start wanting/needing/understanding more than Black Model A’s.

  3. mary hodder says:

    I think Goog is the Ford of the web. Any color as long as it’s white, with 28 words.

    I think you are right that culture will unseat them, but it will be a million little atomized cultures that can’t all be filtered through one search system, or through one ad system, through one understanding of metadata, through one form of attention.

    Ford still existed in the 50s but so did many others, and Ford is almost entirely eclipsed now by many more desirable brands. But Goog is still formidable. The slowest thing to morph to a point that will allow for the greater ecosystem to take over Goog are the people. People always take the longest in each new tech cycle to change or shift, and start wanting/needing/understanding more than what they’ve had for a while.

  4. André says:

    I agree on the point that culture could unseat a company.

    But I think you may moderate your point of view.

    Let me re-use the examples you just used in your post :

    IBM : IBM has now competitors now (what is a good thing, of course !) and its products are no longer seen as a Standard (Remember the “for IBM-Compatible PCs” label we all used to read a decade ago on software boxes) but this brand is still a reference in the corporate world. Some people working with me still want an IBM (or Lenovo) PC or Thinkpad, thinking it is still the one you have to get to make good business… So, IBM has competitors but is still seen as a reference, some kind of must-have.

    Windows : That il a fact : People are affraid by switching from Windows to any other OS… No need to give any other detail. Windows is now a part of our everyday life…

    So, could culture unseat Google ? I don’t think so. I think that, soon or later, we all will abandon IBM and Windows (or, at least, they won’t look as shiny as they do now to everybody’s eyes). Just because they do only what they always did : IBM does PCs and servers, Microsoft does Videogames, some hardware and mainly software. Google does ALL. Google helps you finding every piece of information you may ever need, Google is the one that can make find your way when you can’t find a street, Google can do software, Operating Systems, Portable applications… It seems to people that Google can do everything it wants. And that is what people like you and me, and everyone else think that make culture.

    So, culture is actually not waiting for what innovation will drive to a shift, but for what Google could propose…

    And, remembering what you wrote in ‘The Search’, Google benefits from the image given by its leitmotiv “Don’t be evil”, whereas IBM and Windows do.

    So, I think that even if IBM and Microsoft could, one day, be forgotten by our cultures, I don’t think that Google would disapear that easy…

    (Sorry for any mistake I made in this post, I’m no native english speaker)

  5. nmw says:

    The intersection of technology and culture is the very thing that will make Google (and Facebook, etc.) superfluous.

    Gimme an “L”!

    Gimme an “a”!

    Gimme an “n”!

    Gimme a “g”!

    Gimme a “u”!

    Gimme an “a”!

    Gimme a “g”!

    Gimme an “e”!

    What’s that spell? “Language!” What’s that spell? “Language!” What’s that spell? “Language!” What’s that spell? “Language!” What’s that spell? “Language!”

    http://gaggle.info/miscellaneous/articles/wisdom-of-the-language

    :D nmw

  6. Fiyat says:

    So, could culture unseat Google ? I don’t think so. I think that, soon or later, we all will abandon IBM and Windows (or, at least, they won’t look as shiny as they do now to everybody’s eyes). Just because they do only what they always did : IBM does PCs and servers, Microsoft does Videogames, some hardware and mainly software. Google does ALL. Google helps you finding every piece of information you may ever need, Google is the one that can make find your way when you can’t find a street, Google can do software, Operating Systems, Portable applications… It seems to people that Google can do everything it wants. And that is what people like you and me, and everyone else think that make culture.

  7. jerome peters says:

    It is interesting that you start the post by answering the question “What might unseat Google?”. I absolutely agree with you that its time for search to change and it is being enhanced. You mentioned in your book, The Search, Google wants to harness as much data as possible. Thinking about that, it makes sense that they would provide the search interfaces for that data. So if the next culture shift is speaking to our computers verses typing text it makes sense that Google would provide the interface for doing that. Enter GOOG-411. It may be thought of as a tool for local search now but it could be used as an interface for web search or the technology could be integrated into the web browser interface. Google is already blending their results mixing in search results from various sources including web, blogs, shopping, local, video, images, and other.
    Data will still need to be gathered and matched to people’s queries. Google does this very well. It would benefit to know that humans need more convenient ways of interacting with the world’s information. Timing is everything.

  8. Teddie says:

    If you take it from the registration date of their domain Google.com Googles 10th anniversary was last September.

    http://whois.domaintools.com/google.com

  9. fred wilson says:

    some day soon (i do it all the time now), we’ll ask humans instead of a machine the questions we now ask google

    of course, we’ll use a machine to ask humans those questions

  10. @fred wilson

    Are you referring to human powered search?
    If so how do you feel about mahalo.com?

  11. Shawn says:

    How do you feel about Google possibly giving up free gourmet food to their employees who work so hard?

    http://www.ShawnDrewry.com

  12. mike says:

    what’s wrong with writing the occasional music post? it’s battelleMEDIA.com, not searchblog.com. i actually enjoy on the random rants and outside lands plugs =)

  13. nmw says:

    mike, your *WORDS* are *MUSIC* to my ears: they succinctly express the “Wisdom of the Language”!

    http://gaggle.info/miscellaneous/articles/wisdom-of-the-language

    :D nmw