Google and Its Yahoo Style Acquisitions

August 25, 2010

I don’t want to beat a dead Googzilla. But Google had a product search service that involved scanning catalogs. That went away, but I interpreted the effort as a way for the Google to learn about scanning, page fix ups, and indexing to an acceptable level of accuracy a page image. Google rolled out Froogle, which I thought was pretty clever. Not as good as the services from or, but I found it helpful for certain types of product research. Froogle was deemed too frisky, so the shopping product was renamed Google Shopping. Along the path of Catalog to Shopping, the Google integrated a shopping cart, which I like more than Amazon’s “one click” approach. Poor Amazon keeps forgetting that I like the one click approach. I get the privilege of going through a bunch of screens, clicking and entering items of data, in order to turn on one click. Then, without further ado, Amazon turns off one click for me. How thoughtful? Google figured out how not to annoy me with its Checkout. In my three Google monographs, I mentioned other features of Google’s shopping capabilities. These ranged from the bar code function to the predictive cuteness disclosed in Google’s open source documents.

I believed and still believe that Google’s in-house technology is  available for the Google to convert the Google Shopping service into a world beater.

Apparently I am wrong.

Google bought which is – care to guess – a shopping service. Point your browser thingy at “Google Buys” for the received wisdom about this deal from Fortune Magazine. Time Warner sure does understand online information, right? Here’s the key passage from the Fortune write up:

I [Fortune’s author] think the ~$100 million+ pick-up is an even bigger indication that Google wants to be an eCommerce platform.  Google won’t be a fulfillment house but they’ll happily take an affiliate cut of links they send to vendors.  And, even if Google casts aside’s affiliate business, Google still stands to make a lot of money advertising against the (30%) higher CPC rates that shopping sites can pull in. From a technology standpoint,’s image recognition/comparison engine can not only power shopping, it can also help in its Image Search product, which just recently saw a significant update.  Google has other experimental products like Goggles that could also benefit from the technology.


My take is different:

  1. Google seems to be buying companies in the hope that the technology, customers, and staff will give Google a turbo boost in a sector in which Apple and Amazon, among others, are doing a darned good job getting my money. I don’t turn to Google’s Shopping service as frequently as I used to. Am I alone? Well, this deal seems to hint that I am not the only person ignoring Mother Google for products.
  2. In the eCommerce sector, Google has not mounted much of a product offering. Google hired an expert in eCommerce, but so far not much except this acquisition. I have seen zero use of the product functionality disclosed in the Guha Programmable Search Engine patent documents. Lots of weapons, no attack of significance that I have experienced.
  3. Google’s in house engineering teams may start to get the idea that their work can’t cut the mustard. Edmond Fallot’s black currant mustard, please! Google’s acquisitions seem to duplicate, not complement, technology Google has disclosed in its technical papers and patent applications. Maybe this stuff Google invented does not work or work in today’s market? Scary.
  4. Google’s customers may be tired of waiting. I know that I don’t think of Google when I am looking for network cables. I go to Amazon, check out its prices, and then run a query across deal sites. A cable is a cable no matter what Monster insists is true.

Bottom-line: Google has cash and has not yet diversified its revenue streams. The old saw no longer cuts for me. The notion that these acquisitions increase Google’s ad revenue does not get the job done. If the online ad market softens due to a bold action from Facebook or a less clumsy offering from Apple, the Google may have to do more than collect companies Yahoo style. Google has to do something. Microsoft Yahoo are now up and jogging.

Maybe Google is a hybrid of the “old” Microsoft and the “pre-Semel” Yahoo? Interesting thought in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, August 25, 2010



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