Google’s Sergey Brin said that the openness and accessibility that led to the creation of the Internet is under serious threat — and that threat is from none other than Facebook and Apple.
I tend to wonder about motives when a statement from a CEO of one company is directed directly at one or more other companies. So, let’s take a moment and ask why Brin would target Facebook and Apple.
Personally, I think it’s because Google is feeling threatened in the core business that has brought them success — search advertising. Google has a near monopoly on search right now:
Desktop Search Engine Market Share
|Search Engine||Total Market Share|
|Google – Global||79.86%|
|Yahoo – Global||6.79%|
|Ask – Global||0.56%|
|AOL – Global||0.40%|
|Excite – Global||0.02%|
|Lycos – Global||0.01%|
What threats do Facebook and Apple pose to Google’s search business? After all, neither one is even in the search business. Well, that may hold true at the moment, but why wouldn’t they target that business?
Let’s start with the case for Facebook. What does Facebook have that Google doesn’t? Infinitely more personal information about you! They know your Likes, your friends and their likes, the games you play, the content that interests you, your demographics, family — you name it, and they probably know it about you. Google spends vast resources trying to gain information about you that isn’t even close to as personal – or valuable – about you. That’s why they’ve been trying so hard to get Orkut, Wave, or now Google+ to gain some traction. Why? So they can target better ads to you.
People visit Google to find something, then they go there. People live at Facebook. If Facebook could build a search algorithm even close to as accurate as Google’s they would be in an exceptionally strong position to compete in search.
Then, there’s the case for Apple. Apple doesn’t know nearly as much about you as Facebook or even Google does. So, what’s Apple’s advantage? Mobile is the direction everything is moving toward. And, Apple leads the charge. What if Apple didn’t so much want to do what Google does? What if their goal isn’t to be a better search engine? What if they instead want to improve the way we look for things?
Forget about typing in a search query and weeding through ads and nearly infinite search results. Sometimes you find what you want, but often you find what the best SEO efforts bring you instead.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have an interface (showing my Geekiness) like Star Trek’s computer? Ask for what you want. Most often the computer voice would understand you and give you one correct answer. Sometimes the answer would involve choices on your part, but the choices were intelligently derived.
What if Siri isn’t so much a gimmick to get you to buy more iPhones as it is a new way to find what you want?
Give Apple a little time here. I think they’re on to something huge. And so, I believe, does Sergey Brin. The threat isn’t to Internet Freedom. The threat is to Google’s core business.