Google: Another Yahoo?

July 12, 2008

Josh Catone’s essay “Is Google Heading Down the Yahoo Path?” approaches Google in a way that struck me as insightful and novel. The essay appeared on SitePoint, and you must read his analysis here. I think the analysis appeared on July 12, 2008, but it just popped into my news reader.

Yahoo has been a bit unfocused. Mr. Catone points to recent, unrelated initiatives from Google. I won’t rehash his examples. Google has hopped from Knol to Family Guy inspired cartoons.

I identified Google’s spray of beta tests in Google Version 2.0. I included a nifty diagram for my work that showed how Gmail spawned an ecosystem. Today Gmail is a nexus of communication activities, and Google engineers continue to stuff various functions in humble email.

My argument was that beta tests allow users to vote with their clicks. When clicks clump, Google pays attention. In my analysis, the diffusion served three purposes:

  1. Engineers could build something, release it, and watch Darwin’s survival of the fittest in action.
  2. Google finds out which engineers are truly Googley.
  3. Competitors have difficulty getting a fix on what Google’s “real” intentions are.

Mr. Catone quite accurately sees Google adopting some of Yahoo’s characteristics; that is, shifting from competitive disruption to getting lost in the woods with lots of money and digital toys.

I need to think about Mr. Catone’s argument. I am willing to back away from my disruption argument and embrace his “another Yahoo” view, but I need time to revisit some of my primary data.

His argument has some wood behind it.

Stephen Arnold, July 12, 2008

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