Sometimes the breeze shifts so softly you don’t notice the importance that its change presages. At other times, the gale blows through and you suddenly discover your house is made of straw. Such is the world for Google, these days.
Readers of Grok will know that for some time we have felt Google’s rare moment has passed, just like it did for IBM and Microsoft before it, and like it will one day for Apple and Facebook, and whatever’s next.
While that view remains contrarian, it is no longer unique. However, as a humble blogger, we don’t know whether to be irritated, embarrassed or humiliated when we find that someone else, having arrived at the same insight as you, is just so much more talented at describing and unpacking the story. That’s how we felt reading Mat Honan’s, "The Case Against Google" on Gizmodo over the weekend.
Honan’s is a must read article for those of you who are paid to ponder the great tectonic shifts in strategies and alliances that define our sector. We can’t do the story justice here but perhaps we give can give you enough of the flavour to make it worth the click.
Honan’s argument starts with trust — a critical and often amorphous concept that Google appears to have either forgotten about, or is now hell bent on abandoning in the pursuit of corporate objectives.
The story noted: “A Pew Internet study , conducted just before Google combined its privacy policies (and after it rolled out personalised search results in Search Plus Your World) found that three quarters of people don't want their search results tracked, and two thirds don't even want them personalised based on prior history.”
As you can imagine, that kind overwhelming audience sentiment is unfortunate for an outfit which sells your personalised Web experience. Not that Google seems to be much deterred from its current path. Quite the contrary.
Gizmodo weaves its argument together using several threads. In addition to the trust case, there’s quite a clever insight into the "Don't be Evil" debate. As evil is such a subjective thing, the author argued that Google was always going to get itself into trouble. And of course, interpretations of evil scale at roughly the same rate as its audience numbers. Better then, Honan argued to judge Google against its own definition of evil, which the author does, with the obvious results.
The story also noted Google has been gazumped by the shift from Web to app, spawned to a large extent by rival Apple, and by the emergence of the proprietary Web driven by its other great rival Facebook. Indeed social media has created a whole new class of information that frankly is too personal to expose to the prying algorithms of Google’s spiders.
Remember Google’s raison d'être is "organising the world’s information." And that’s kind of impossible when most of it is walled off in parallel online universes where the Laws of Search do not apply.
Remember the Simpson’s episode where Mensa took over Springfield?
Meanwhile, <i>Business Insider</i> pursues the ‘Google is Doomed’ meme but from a different angle. The article pointed out that Google, through hiring practices, is populated with the kind of pointy headed genius’s that most of us will never be. This is because the company has an engineering culture that worships academic and technical excellence above all else.
The point of the article is that Google is populated by a very specific and rare niche of very brilliant geekoids who do not, by any imagining, represent the kind of mass market consumer Google wants to attract. Indeed so narrow is Google’s world view of excellence, that it has even limited its exposure to the slightly wider pool of genuine exceptionalism.
The story noted: “Like most people who work at Google, Steve Jobs was brilliant, but he likely never would have been able to get hired at Google. The Google hiring algorithm would have taken one look at his flaky educational background and concluded that he would never have amounted to anything. Steve Jobs' genius, in other words, was a sort of genius that Google places little or no value on.”
The real point is that Google may never build the kind of products beloved by its consumers unless it starts hiring people who understand what really makes those consumers tick.
Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.