Coca-Cola has reached a point where their primary competition is water. What is Google's "water"?

by phil on Wednesday Dec 2, 2009 1:32 PM

Google futurism is always interesting. This is the practice of asking, "What should Google do next?"

The New York Times has a interview with some Google futurists, including Ken Auletta: Where Google Goes from Here.

I really like this question:

What Should Google Fear?

But Google is very vulnerable to changes in the currrent Internet search paradigm. You can already see this effect in social media. Earlier this year, Hitwise reported that Facebook drove more traffic to Perez Hilton than Google. In the same report, Hitwise reported that 3.3 percent of all traffic to Web video sites was coming from Facebook. Similarly, my blog,, gets more traffic from Twitter than Google.

Here's a case where tweaking the language of the debate would draw more insight. In particular, I don't think Google is very vulnerable to changes in the current Internet search paradigm. Rather, I think Google is very vulnerable to changes in the current Internet traffic paradigm. How do people get to things on the web? Are they from Twitter, are they from Google Reader, are they from Wikipedia?

This reminds me of what eventually happened to Coca-Cola when they realized their market penetration was so vast, that the only way for them to keep growing and delivering value to shareholders was to figure out how to compete with water.

What if Google searches become a very small aspect of how people use the web? Lazyweb tweeting, for example, can be almost as good: "Hey, does anybody know of a good car insurance company?" A trusted answer comes back to you in <15 minutes, vs. an instant, yet shady, AI answer from Google.

Which raises another question, why do these companies need to be on an inexorable growth path? Isn't that one of the pitfalls of capitalism? For example, take the case of the mobile telecom space. The market's contracting, and what will ultimately happen is that a single upstart will rise up with a better business model that swallows up the shards of the top four dinosaurs. This is great for the upstart, and it is a positive example of capitalism-in-action. On the other hand, why can't any of the Big Three telecoms scale back? Why is it a stark choice between growth or implosion?

Maybe this is what the founders of Google feared when they went public. That they couldn't just make a programmer utopia that just created the most heavenly search engine, regardless of the market demand for it. I wonder if programmers at Google search are getting pissed that their work is being treated as secondary and that the newer and shinier products of Google are getting all the attention and founder's awards.

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