Google turned 15 a week or so back and got the usual breakfast TV chatter to accompany a beloved family member hitting mid teens. I wonder if search engines should measure their age like dogs… making Google 150 or so. They have certainly done an amazing job of hanging in there. A long time ago I was actually selling against them (back when you could sell search as a service to websites). Google ended that market when they set the price to “free” and started paying sites for their traffic… the rest is history. They have been aided by some monumental mistakes by their largest competitors, and having attained an effective monopoly, they have done an amazing job of using it against their competitors whilst escaping the consequences of monopolistic behavior. Even the Google haters in the EU look like they are going to settle with Big G rather than clamp them in Irons or keel haul them.
I saw a news story today about the “richest dumb guy on earth”, Mark Cuban, and his Quixotic defense against the SEC accusations of insider trading. At issue is a stock sale of Mamma search shares. Mamma is still there (Lord knows how), and there has been a more or less constant drumbeat of Google wanna-bees who have sprouted (often to acclaim) and gone the way of all flesh. The latest “rival” is Blippex out of Germany. That’s not a skin ointment, rather it’s a new search engine. They use a time on site metric to gauge quality (rather than links), and boast a whole 2 million index pages… a few tens of billions behind Google. That’s part of the problem… once you have achieved critical mass, and market dominance, you can afford the crazy tech and money it takes to index the largest thing mankind has ever made. Competing with that is like shouting at thunder.
Something we have definitely seen change and evolve over time is the “evil” factor. Back in the day when search was a whored-out mess of blue links and banner ads, Google adopted “don’t be evil” as their unofficial corporate slogan. Nowadays, not so much. If you take a look at their actions from their brilliant tax planning (which allowed them to pay a whole 1% of taxes on profits in the UK recently), through to pretty consistent problems with the care and keeping of personal data, it’s possible to find evil of some kind in almost every area… if you care to. That’s part of the Google enigma. They can be seen as geniuses, or evil geniuses for the same behavior. If you fundamentally don’t trust big data, they are the Anti-Christ… if you just want the convenience and low cost of all the cool tools they have brought to the party, you probably don’t care.
Either way they are perhaps the greatest success story of the Internet age, and albeit a little late, I’m happy to add my congratulations… Cheers!