Why Google Is Not Going Away

Eric Jackson wrote in a Forbes article earlier this week that Google and Facebook might disappear in the next five years. Anything is possible. But his analysis of Google misses the mark.

I’ve written my own critiques of Google. But the big G is more on par with Microsoft, IBM and other perennial brands than with Myspace. Google may have its ups and downs, but it’s not going anywhere.

Here’s why:

Google is a utility, not a toy

Google isn’t just a fun toy. It has become a utility for the vast majority of Internet users. It’s a major driver of commerce for businesses. And it collects and redistributes data in a way that no other tool or site has been able to replicate.

Myspace wasn’t a utility. It was a place where teenagers gathered to trade messages. Bing and Yahoo? They never approached the market share — or the effectiveness — needed to become as important.

Google has become a tool we constantly use. It’s integrated into web browsers and phones, and now it’s testing the waters of wearable computing. It powers the flow of content around the Internet. And it isn’t going anywhere.

Social isn’t a “new way of thinking”

Jackson says that Google’s failure to move into social media (we can debate that) is a major weakness, because social media and the structures it creates are replacing search:

Why has Amazon done so little in social? And Google? Even as they pour billions into the problem, their primary business model which made them successful in the first place seems to override their expansion into some new way of thinking.
There are a few problems with this statement:

  • Social isn’t replacing search. It can’t, any more than a walnut can replace a bicycle. Social and search are completely different: Social media generates content and relationships. Search engines help us sift through content and relationships. There’s very little overlap.
  • Social media isn’t new. It has been around since AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy. Truthfully, it’s been around since humans could communicate. It’s not disruptive. The ways innovators apply it is disruptive. But that application doesn’t threaten Google.
  • Google is desperately clawing at social media because the publicly traded company needs revenue growth, and because it wants to tap social media as another portion of its search algorithm.

Social really does not pose a threat to Google. If Facebook were to introduce a first-rate search engine, that might reduce Google’s market share. But even that wouldn’t drive it out of existence.

People

Even with its post-IPO brain drain, Google has an unparalleled ability to attract and retain top-rate engineers. Google is a unique engineer’s paradise, if you like the environment there. Between its culture and the mountain of cash upon which it sits, Google can have first or second pick of the best talent in the industry.

Until it becomes a truly entrenched, mature corporation with all of the baggage that brings, no one can really touch Google’s talent pool.

What could destroy Google

There is one potential Google-killer out there: Legal action.

Google’s moving into dangerous territory and could end up getting carved up through government action:

  • It dominates search, and isn’t afraid to use that dominance to acquire some competitors, crush others and generally move the industry as it sees fit.
  • It has access to mountains of analytics data across different online channels, and can potentially use that data in ways that should give regulators hives.
  • Its promotion of Google+ seems awfully similar to Microsoft’s promotion of Internet Explorer 2001-2005. It has locked out other social networks when it controls more than 85 percent of the search world. That alone might force antitrust action.

The federal government could, if forced, order Google to break up into separate units around search, social, applications and email. Or it could force the company to completely abandon some initiatives. That would be nearly unprecedented. But then again, so is Google.

Ian Lurie is CEO of Portent Inc., an Internet marketing agency that he founded in 1995. He co-published Web Marketing All-In-One for Dummies and wrote the sections on SEO, blogging, social media and web analytics. He also wrote Conversation Marketing: Internet Marketing Strategies.


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