And We Thought It Would Never Come

Google Calendar is here. Now, I don't want to go on a random walk, but it's time we called a spade a spade. Google is a portal, plain and simple. The company made its name, its brand, and its money on being one thing – a non judgmental service…


Google Calendar is here. Now, I don’t want to go on a random walk, but it’s time we called a spade a spade. Google is a portal, plain and simple. The company made its name, its brand, and its money on being one thing – a non judgmental service that quickly moved you from intent – your search query – to content – someone else’s page. Now, it’s moved quite systematically – with Base, Finance, Mail, and everything else – to being a company that is clearly about monetizing its core revenue asset – AdWords – on anything related. That, my friends, is a portal. It’s a version 2.0 portal, but it’s a portal.

Now, is this a bad thing? Well, depends on your point of view. I think this is inevitable, and the next phase will be about traction with these new services. You don’t have to use Calendar, or Mail, but when you type “GOOG” or “YHOO” into the simple interface of Google these days, your first choice is now a Google page, not someone else’s. That’s a fundamental change, worth noting.

18 thoughts on “And We Thought It Would Never Come”

  1. I guess your “version 2.0” reference was to Jeremy’s post:

    Google is Building Yahoo 2.0
    November 10, 2005

    “When Google Calendar and Google Finance (more in a future post) finally show their faces, I suspect they’ll follow the same pattern. They’ll look like someone sat down and thought “I’m starting with a clean slate, so how would I build a modern version of Yahoo! Calendar, with a newer and more interactive UI, one killer feature, and fixing the various things we’ve learned since Yahoo! Calendar launched many years ago?””

    Google is a portal!


  2. I’m not sure i would call it a version 2.0 portal just yet. It has the potential to be something different but at present i dont see much difference between Yahoo and Google.

    Infact, based on the homepages of both properties and average ‘usage’ Yahoo is in my opinion more Portal 2.0 than Google.

    You are right in pointing out that this is a significant value add (and shift) towards Yahoo by Google.

    Without waving the Yahoo! flag too much i would like to see more coverage from the press of the innovation taking place at Yahoo, with its interaction models. Portals need usage… and Yahoo are doing some exciting things with 360, etc here.

  3. Google calendar is getting crushed right now apparently. I’m getting intermittent time outs and server errors. I’m anxious to try it out, I hope they can fix whatever bottleneck has appeared.

  4. The is-a-portal/not-a-portal debate isn’t terribly relevant anymore. Seems to me that while Google used to just redirect the user to other people’s content, now Google is hosting more of that content.

    This shift started with Gmail, and was confirmed 4/1/05 with the “infinity plus one” announcement. Once you accept Google hosting all your email and providing a killer app to do it, the next steps follow logically — Video, Base, Writely, Calendar … Google Flickr? Hosted Desktop? Google Grid?

    The word “portal” is so imprecise and loaded with negative connotations — walled gardens, lock-in, banner ads, conflict of interest — that the word has lost some of its descriptive power.

    So I don’t know if Google is a portal or not, and it doesn’t really matter to me. I do know that Google is now directly hosting and managing a lot more of my information and not just referring me out to thrid-party search results.

    And that is a major shift that will require competencies that Google is only starting to explore such as personalization, recommendation and fine-grained access control.

  5. Very well said Mahlon. I couldn’t agree more, I also think the portal/non-portal distinction doesn’t help define Google or their strategy.

    I think the press puts WAY too much emphasis on Google’s side projects. John, you should ask Google how many of their 6000+ employees work on Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Finance, Google Base and any other of their side projects and I bet it is less than 10%, with the other 90% working on search or adsense projects. Another experiment would be to ask a 100 Google users what they think Google is and I bet 99 out of 100 will say a search engine. So if Google acts like they are a search company by putting the VAST majority of its resources agaisnt search and consumers see Google as a search engine then perhaps a spade is not a spade.

  6. I don’t know whether or not you can call Google the new Yahoo or not, or whether or not this is a good thing – heck, if you don’t like it, don’t use it. But to be fair, when I type YHOO into my Google toolbar the first two sites listed are Yahoo pages. It isn’t until page three that a google financial page is offered.

  7. Ok, so forget the portal argument, or the spade argument, or whatever. Of bigger concern to me is the fact that, for over half a decade, Google explicitly saw things like chat and finance and horoscopes as diametrically opposed to their singular mission of organizing the world’s information. Now, in just the past year, we have a full reversal of this viewpoint. What did Google see before, that they don’t see now? What do they see now, that they didn’t see before?

    Who cares what we do or don’t call it. What gets me is that there are dozens if not hundreds of ways of improving search itself, before you need to start getting into chat. Take content-based image search for example. Look at what a company like Riya is doing with face detection and recognition, as a way of organizing and searching all your photos by the people in them. IMO, Google should have done that years ago, or if not years ago, then certainly well before they ever did chat.

    Content-based searching of faces is a real search application, beyond straitforward web search. Systems like this have been around in academic research for as long as Google has existed, so they can’t have been unaware of it. Furthermore, it is a type of search that is a perfect candidate for integration into Google Desktop, as many folks have tons of digital snapshots on their computer.

    And yet, they still chose to do chat before doing something like this. I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

  8. John,
    I dont understand when you say “when you type “GOOG” or “YHOO” into the simple interface of Google these days, your first choice is now a Google page, not someone else’s.”

    I mean, yeah there is a quick link to google finance, but its not postured as a result, its separated from the results. The first result in both cases (GOOG abnd YHOO) is in fact a yahoo page. What am I missing here?

  9. JG: Google is branching out into other apps besides search, despite the fact that there are many things left to be done yet in search, because by doing so they can leverage their existing search platform and their name to drive people to those apps. And then they will apply adsense on those apps. And they will make money. By the boatload.

  10. I don’t have a problem with Google going full out and declaring itself a Portal; people’s needs are constantly evolving and what made sense 10 years ago (concentrate only on search results) is not applicable anymore. Besides, the portals of 10 years ago were pretty bad compared with the quality of Web Portals today.

  11. What did Google see before, that they don’t see now?

    Well, they certainly saw making searches simple and relevant (more so than their competitors) when they first launched. They also saw that it was better to build a really good search engine and grow a user base rather than to try to buy a user base through costly acquisitions and monetize it with annoying ads.

    Google is getting into a number of businesses now that are not its core strengths, which may become a problem, especially if it diverts their energies enough that its competitors (in search) start to gain audience (and market) share.

    What do they see now, that they didn’t see before?

    Well, they see competition, and a need to diversify. This is a sign of a maturing company in a maturing industry. Expectations are still quite high; reality may not match.

  12. Google is now like the 1-Stop shop of tools on the internet. I am waiting for them to offer DSL and or Wire Less Service next.

    Maybe a computer operating system??? ponder the possibilities.

  13. This “is it or isn’t a portal” comment is indicative of a sort of general problem of what I’d like to call “Wired Editor disease”.

    You pick a big topic: search, operating systems, web 2.0, etc., and then you attempt to frame it with a big, genre-defining question, like:

    “Is Yahoo more of a media company than Google?”
    “What effect of the Flickrization of Yahoo have on its DNA?”
    “Is Google now a portal?”

    Sometimes these questions have some validity. But other times, it’s like you’re using old concepts and old tools to describe the problem. I would argue that worrying about whether Google is a portal is like worrying about whether George Bush is a Whig. It’s definitely a discussion you can have, but it doesn’t seem to be all that relevant.

  14. Google is different than Yahoo in that they seem to be focusing their solutions on tacit interactions between Google users in addition to the individualized, a la Yahoo portal, content. Taken to it’s logical conclusion, Google will probably end up acquiring or copycatting something like iRadeon’s AppPortal, facing big software vendors like Oracle and Salesforce headon, with an eye towards integrating intracompany search (and of course AdWord$) into the application mix. The implications of this strategic approach should be fairly scary for companies like Salesforce…ie what if Google can pull off the same functionality but not charge any subscriber fees…simply making money off adwords clicks. It’s quite possible…

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