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Old 03-24-2006   #1
dannysullivan
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Who Cares If Google's A Portal

I've joked about Google being a "stealth portal" or Portal 2.0 (Jeremy sez Yahoo 2.0, hehe). It came up again on the Daily SearchCast we did this Tuesday , when talking about Google Finance.

I actually don't have a problem with Google Finance as Google getting all portalish. Sure, it is a portal feature, but as I wrote , it's also very much a search feature, too:

Quote:
But Google Finance is not just a sticky portal feature. Many searches are financial in nature. Offering a finance area is actually firmly within Google's core mission of organizing the world's information.
But Google's certainly doing other things that are more portalish in nature plus stuff I feel is well off the stated mission of:

Quote:
Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
But who cares if Google's going far afield? One of our podcast listeners Spencer Wendt raised this to me, and I think it makes a good discussion. I'll give you his post next, then a reply from me, then I'd love to see what others think. Spencer's also going to get registered here to comment further.
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Old 03-24-2006   #2
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Spencer sent me this:

I sub to your podcasts and have noticed a 'tone' you and many guests have regarding google which I think is some what short sighted and a tad bit slanted.

Where as you all see them as the new 'big brother' out here in the etherlands (somewhat similar to the hinterlands in real life...) that is not the case.

Today's cast you all opened with a poke at 'finance' during which you and your guest lamented on 'how long it took them to get online with the service'??? Next, you all discussed one of their lawsuits where the judge said they had the right to maintain their position. All of this was broken up with comments about related to 'what are they' 'what is their business' plan' or 'this is not the search engine business', etc, etc, etc.

I could continue on as all 20 of the casts that I have listened to end to end have the same 'tone'. I would like to suggest a different tact or a more insightful, objective viewpoint.

First, to view google as a 'search company' is woefully stuck in the '90s. Yes, they launched as a new search tech and yes, they skyrocketed to the premier SE but they have been transforming into a much 'bigger' entity than does 'search'. To their credit, they took a diff approach not yahoo, not overture, not looksmart, but just pure search...which is exactly what endeared them to their customers and built their brand: I/you could trust their results over the comp...we liked their interface...we like them devoid of all the crap that the others (ref'd above) morphed into and we all left.

I find the strategy of tacking into a strong head wind and ending up gaining an advantage in the market flat inspirational...looking back 'an advantage' is a sever understatement; they cold cocked the competition into having to change their strategy...that is great business. And it doesn't really matter if they did it by backing into it or masterminded it under a cloak of 'we're just tech wonks and we don't know what happened' (which I strongly doubt...and so do you!).

Are they a portal? Well in fact, one aspect of their business is, sure! So what, that is something that they do...and again, better than all the others...my yahoo? that is a joke. I don't listen to gwen stefani and I don't need to see her belly button ring de jour pumping in my face in a flash ad while I attempt to see if it's going rain in austin today. I like that about google...don't you...sure! that is what LOTS of people like and again, it's tacking into the wind...successfully fulfilling my want/need as a customer.

Are they attempting to render MS Office obsolete? Hell yes! This couldn't be more clear! And it's a good thing...writely is first, expect something like ZoHo to be next...and on and on and on...until MS Office folks see the rev's heading to the ground like a big 747 with 3 engines out and the 4th on fire...and that is nothing but good. Not just because MS has ladened you and I with apps that are not the best as they don't have to worry about that, they are not innovating to meet the market demands, they are simply tweaking to sustain revenues...so what is a better story: google aiming to improve your and my market place or MS maintaining their revenue numbers at the expense of doing it 'better'?

Is google an 'ad company' (as proferred by your guest today)? Who cares??? And what the hell does it mean? if that means they 'just serve ads', then you all are clearly missing the big picture (90's again). Do they USE ads? geeeeez...do they!!! Better than anyone in history right? Well that is pretty slick then; they have innovated to meet the market in a way that satisfies and 'keeps them coming back for more'...is there any thing else that would spell success in any biz endeavour? Nope.

If you get out your white board and grease pens to do some bubble analysis on what is happening at google...a truely big picture...it's pretty damn BIG.

Buying bandwidth to unencumber themselves (and you and I) from the wireline carries and other old school companies that also (MS'ish) want to sustain their antiquated biz models...I like that!

Adding Video? wow, bandwidth and video...what a perfect combination...if the market vie your business of time slipping is the direction...this combo is spot on to deliver where the market is heading...

Google base...this one is so under the radar that it's amazing that Meg Whitman is not courting google to partner up so that when google totally replaces the glorified auction database...er uhhh...EBay the market will absorb it as a 'strategic acquisition' instead of the fact that google ate their lunch, at their game, in the market they created, with just one more 'bigger/better/faster' solution...doesn't that 'finance.google.com' url fit nicely into that picture??? WOW!

Picasa...fits!

Talk...plus bandwidth...a perfect competitor to the biggest phone company yet to be named (Ebay-SkyPe)...the 'better' part of this...googles phone company has infrastructure and 10x the customer base of Ebay-Skype..........and ATT/Cing, Veriz, etc, etc, etc...I see this is simply frikkin brilliant!!! What is ya'lls take?

There are about ten more similarly 'compatible' co hesive elements in the google world and they all seem to work either as an independent entity, a compatible app/service or as part of a consolidation play attacking several markets/verticals.

To me, it's all good. Planned or unplanned. Sinisterly strategized or 'gosh darn, that's neat, let's do it'...who cares. It's happeneing. THey are doing it and as an entrepreneur and casual observer/afficianado of great historical business plays...this is a classic.

So, in closing, I'll continue to listen to your show and have written this so you to have another perspective from another point in the universe regarding google.

thanks for reading!

Last edited by dannysullivan : 03-24-2006 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 03-24-2006   #3
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My response back to Spencer:

Thanks for the feedback -- it's always appreciated.

If there's a tone, I promise you it's not short sighted. If anything, it's long sighted -- from having watched the company for years and years.
I don't see them as Big Brother completely. In fact, I've even defended them from such accusations in some depth:

Google Finance is woefully behind in launching. They should have had that core service back in like 2002. It's a core component of search. Even Google tells me they think they should have had it faster. I'm glad they got to it. I'm positive about them having it, glad it has arrived.

Google is definitely doing a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with search. I can't alter my tone on that. When they say they are about "organizing information" but then decide they want do radio ads, the two things simply don't mesh up. Doesn't mean I completely hate them. I love much of what they do. But they certainly aren't focused as they once were.

Why care if they are an ad company? If you're pumping out a philosophy saying you don't do portal things and that you are focused on one single thing but you aren't, then it's an issue that you aren't even doing what you promise.

I'm glad you like they are likely to give you free wireless broadband. Hey, I dig having free awesome Gmail. But these aren't information organizing things. Change the stated mission, and they come under less criticism. But that criticism will likely remain if by doing these things, they start to slip in the core search space. So far, they seem not to be slipping. Let's hope that stays that way.

Anyway, I do appreciate the comments. The hard thing with the podcast is that you probably don't get the long articles and explorations I've done on some of these things. AdSense, for example. It's completely not about search. Yet I wrote when it launched that I understood the business reason why they decided to do it anyway. They are a stronger company for doing it, in many ways.

Last edited by dannysullivan : 03-24-2006 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 03-24-2006   #4
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And Spencer wrote back:

I appreciate you comments and (damn) quick feedback!!!...a lot faster than I found your comment page...by googling you!

I just flashed on the fact that you ARE focusing on search...as such, do tend to keep your conversation aimed at that as a core topic...so in that sense you are doing what you set out to do...talk search.

Which as I now see...is a very difficult thing to do if the subject is: google. Since they are going in about 830 different directions...tying it together or ignoring it is a decision process in itself...and would take some big thinking to hold to your focus...I think I get that now...

I like your podcasts and appreciate your work/thoughts...

thank you for your thoughtfull reply!
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Old 03-24-2006   #5
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And I'll conclude to restress a few things.

Why's being a portal a problem for Google? Potentially, it's not. I totally agree that they do need to match certain portal features and go in non-information organizing directions to stay competitive and strong.

AdSense is probably the biggest thing that has nothing to do with information organizing that they do. When they launched it (meaning AdSense for Content), I wrote :

Quote:
I've seen some posts from those discussing Google's move into contextual ads as saying this shows the company is no longer solely about search, which it always said it would be. That's a fair assessment. Google's entry into the contextual ad space has given it an advertising network product that is independent of search. In other words, there's no "search" reason to explain why Google needs to place its ads on web pages.

Businesswise, there's a good reason. Google has to stay competitive. If Google's competitors are expanding their search-oriented paid listings into the contextual space, then Google needs to do it as well, in order to please both advertisers and portal partners.

In short, Google has famously painted itself into corner with its oft-issued statements of "we'll be focused on search." Now, for business reasons, it's being forced to walk across that wet floor.
It's that corner Google itself painted itself into that's the problem. They were born out of being the anti-portal, the company that wasn't going to do the "wrong" things that the other search companies did.

In reality, if Google had started off at the same time as these other services, it might have gone down the same portal path then . Nor were the services necessarily wrong in walking the portal path. The were wrong for forgetting that search is one of the most important portal features you can offer, and they let their search degrade.

Still, Google knowingly poked at competitors for being out of touch. To recall what they used to say on their philosophy page:

Quote:
Google does search. Google does not do horoscopes, financial advice or chat.
No, they didn't do those things because those were things that portals did, and portals were out of touch with search.

Today, they do all of these things. After horoscopes were added, they changed the page a bit and put in this footnote:
Quote:
Full-disclosure update: When we first wrote these "10 things" four years ago, we included the phrase "Google does not do horoscopes, financial advice or chat." Over time we've expanded our view of the range of services we can offer - web search, for instance, isn't the only way for people to access or use information - and products that then seemed unlikely are now key aspects of our portfolio. This doesn't mean we've changed our core mission; just that the farther we travel toward achieving it, the more those blurry objects on the horizon come into sharper focus (to be replaced, of course, by more blurry objects).
That's a lot of words to basically say, "Yeah, we're a portal." Of course, they would disagree with this. Ask for the official line, and it's "no, we're not a portal."

So who cares? Why care? Two reasons:

1) You're pretending that you aren't, and that's just annoying. Be proud! Say yes, we are a portal, a portal that doesn't forget about search and one that knows we're stronger in search for our users if we stay closer to them with portal features. This pseudo "I never had portal relations with those users" just feels like you think we're stupid.

2) If they slip on search, even a little bit, they leave themselves open for accusations they've lost focus, that they've forgotten their roots.

Those are my two reasons why people might care. They can easily solve the first. The second really depends on whether they can indeed juggle all the balls well. Time will tell on that front. There's a strong argument as I've said that if they don't go in some of these directions, they might be making business mistakes that eventually could hurt them on the search front.

Last edited by dannysullivan : 03-24-2006 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 03-24-2006   #6
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Why care?...

From a business perspective, it doesn't really matter what they call themselves or what their mission statement (mantra) was 4 years ago. The world is evolving and what I expect is for the to evolve with it...in that respect it would be irresponsible if they a) didn't evolve and b) didn't take care of their core business and continue to maintain their market position in that vertical.

But the discussion of 'what' google "is". is contextual - generally, if it's not growing and transforming then it is stagnating and dying...that's just the nature of business; industry vertical, they are being categorized in a vertical that may be a small part of their 'business'.

Consider, if Google was formed in 1890 and their business was to make kerosene from the petroleum goo that was bubbling up from the hills behind their offices in Penn they'd be a kerosene company; but really? 10yrs hence, if they were a 'kerosene company' their stock would be tanking cause their market would be evaporating with each mile of electrical line delivered in the major east coast cities.

If they kept poking around with the goo over the 10 year period and figured out a few things their revenues would actually grow...when their trucks were empty they could haul their competitors goo, when their kerosene plant had extra capacity they'd be able to refine others goo...and so on...until they became something no one at the time could ever envision they'd be come...and that model would be Exxon-Mobil...discover, refine, truck, pipe, distribute, plastics, petro-chem, and on and on.

This is directly relevant to google circa 1998 to 2008. Search? yes. Is that all? No. what is the map? There isn't one!!! Geeeezz, yes, there are a tonnnn of things 'not to do'...but their challenge is to stay as close to the edge of their business as they can without burning up.

SO....

If you have 100,000 server sitting around and the price of storage is nil, then how about email? Anything would be better than outlook express right? So they jumped into email...makes sense.

If you you do search and the desktop app that is the 'most widely used product' has no search capability, then you do desktop search! makes sense again.

This 'trial' and productize strategy has been repeated often by google. As it should, because while the 'do' search, they ARE an evolving enterprise in a business model which is being written and refined on a quarterly basis...but that is no different than when other industries evolved in previous generations.

No one knows the right answer about 'what's next' or 'what the right' step...But they cannot be 'search' and 'search only'. If they do, they'll die.

So given that assumption, what direction(s) make sense. I see alot they are doing that seems to be pretty damn smart:

Is there any doubt that Microsoft is working thru how badly they have screwed up? Not over here...Desktop search? done. Writely? done. Picasa? done. ZoHo next? MS is concerned.

Is it time to start writing the epitah for Ebay...yeah, prob'ly so. Databases have been around a while. Networked database have been around for awhile. Networked databases with payment/transaction engine have too...that is google base isn't it?...wow, what if they offered listing for free? they already do.

At the end of the day, I wrote what I wrote earlier for it is my belief their plan is evolving and their destination is unknown and I have seen enough and heard enough to think that they are moving in directions that were only pipedreams in 1995 but which, because of their success at search and subsequent endeavors, google has the best opportunity to deliver on than any other entity currently in the market.
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Old 03-27-2006   #7
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Google Finance review

The FirstAdopter podcast did a brief mention of Google Finance. They think it could be improved. They also mentioned Google Reader in comparison with other Ajax sites... Google has a great future, but they can't get away from quality in their effort to put out new services. Here's the link to some podcasts that talked about Google Finance, if anyone's interested. I do like the interactive charts though.

http://www.podzinger.com/results.jsp...lpods&filter=1
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Old 03-27-2006   #8
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I never had portal relations with those users

Danny, that is probably the funniest line I have ever read in SEW.

I come down on the who really cares side so long as they clearly deliniate between the search and portal functions, then the consumer can decide which ones to interact with.

I do think it will be a classic story that we all get to watch unfold...even be a small part of.

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Old 03-29-2006   #9
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Why Care?

Spencer-

I respectfully suggest you miss the point. I listen to the searchcast on a regular basis - thanks Danny and webmasterradio - and have read your email exchanges with Danny. In my opinion Danny does not disagree with your point. It's not necessarily bad that Google has offered a series of portal functions. In fact, it likely makes sense that they do so. However, Google as a company has chosen to suggest on a regular basis that they are not something that they seem to be.

Why care? Well - whenever you have someone (or some company) with a great deal of power it is only right they come under speculation. If you are a mom and pop site and say - "trust us, we're on your side" it's a lot different than when G.E. or Wal-Mart, or Microsoft say it. Google is positioned to become as powerful as any company in the world - and they may already be the most powerful in terms of influencing people. Thus an investigation about, and discussion of, their intentions is a part of the greater good. I have little concern over whether Google is a portal other than the fact that they seem so dedicated to denying it. Does the average user even know the diffrence between a portal and a search engine? I doubt it - ask 10 people on the street what Yahoo is and I suspect you'll get 8-9 who respond it's a search engine.

The only reason this is an interesting discussion is because Google denies anything other than focusing on search and "organizing the world's information" If Google had just forgotten what it's "mission statement" was I wouldn't really give it much thought. Unfortunately, they have repeatedly claimed their focus is on search and they will not be distracted like those evil portals.

Basically we're talking about trust. Tell me the truth on a regular basis and I don't have to question your motives. However, Google seems committed to describing themselves as a company without bias. Every company has bias - particularly when you have stockholders. It's a pretty simple matter to say - "yes, we are a company that needs to make a profit and yet we want to limit the evil we do in the world." Rather than saying, "it's our policy to do no evil - and yet we agreed to censor search results in China."

Why care? Because we expect more of our presidents than we do the local mayor. With great power comes great responsability and because eventually it get's tiring to hear a large powerful company deny themselves. Phillip Morris claimed for a long time that cigarette smoking was not dangeous. Should we have just accepted their claim without question? I expect more of the undeniable "seach engine leader" and I would hope others would too.

BTW - Discovery is right - that's a darn funny quote!

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Old 03-29-2006   #10
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It's a good topic for debate for sure. What strikes me as odd is to have a position which seems so inflexible, stuck in past paradigms and so narrowily channelled concerning google and it's 'mission'.

I started the first business focused ISP in Austin in 1994, so my experience in and around the internet is not that of aLGores but I own a copy of Mosaic, know what WAIS is and registered several 3 letter domains...not much water passed under the bridge that I haven't seen.

In short, "my range" starts well before the new age industrial category of 'search engine' was created.

Let me understand some things you are saying first, your explanation may just short circuit the discussion...

What is the search engine business? In other words, what activities would a company be able to do to justify the label themselves "we're a search company". And, spin in around and answer "if I call my company, 'a search company', what activities can i NOT go into'?

What is a portal? If I have a website, what do I need to have or what must be to make my site a 'portal'?

let's start here, that way we can get on the same page about 'search engines', the 'search engine business' and 'portals'.

thanks

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Old 03-30-2006   #11
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Google hasn't been 'a search business' for a long time now imho.

What they're doing is very smart and very likely to make money and not really that against their stated aims, after all, organising the universes information can include putting it into a portal for people to find. That's not the reason that most people whinge about it and poke fun at it though, I don't think.

Quote:
Basically we're talking about trust. Tell me the truth on a regular basis and I don't have to question your motives. However, Google seems committed to describing themselves as a company without bias. Every company has bias - particularly when you have stockholders. It's a pretty simple matter to say - "yes, we are a company that needs to make a profit and yet we want to limit the evil we do in the world." Rather than saying, "it's our policy to do no evil ....."
is exactly right. They critique and condemn and tell everyone else they know best, they won't listen to any critisism of anything they do, they release products which aren't properly tested and then say that we shouldn't expect any better, they appear to have no sense of humour (or perhaps its just that they don't like mine?) and through it all they seem to believe they're invincible.

And the portal thing sums up all of that. Do a total turnaround, don't admit you might have been wrong, polish your halo!

All of that said I quite like the idea of a google portal, although I don't want to have to associate everything with my gmail account thank you....
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Old 03-30-2006   #12
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Google: the Portal Strategy

Hi Danny and all,

I wrote myself one week ago a long post on my blog about the Portal Strategy of Google. Unfortunately my post is in french, but my thinkings about many topics I pointed out are quite close to Danny's opinion. Obviously "Is Google a Portal" is an "air du temps" question. Hope some of you understand french

Jean-Marie

P.S. Just one more point. At the end of my post, I stated a forecast about what it seems to me to be a natural evolution of Google, i.e. "personalized AdWords" will replace "targeted AdWords". It means that two users searching on the same DC at the same time for the same keyword/s will get different AdWords, according to their individual profile as determinated by Google (who is gathering enough personal and private data on us to be able to customize ads this way).
I would be please if you want to comment this point of view

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Old 03-31-2006   #13
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if google finance is going to be a good financial researching tool, then Google is going to be another money making machines

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Old 03-31-2006   #14
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When one company tries and fails and another "like" company tries and succeeds, jealousy ensues. When jealousy is brought into the mix you tend to get situations where "short sightedness" occurs and people put down the other company. It might start with someone from that company saying, "They copied our idea" and would eventually lead to, "Google ate my babies Momma". Either way you look at it, Yahoo failed and Google capitalized on it. Business is Business. Don't complain about it, just do something better.

Who cares if Google is Portalish. It works for them!! If you don't like it, don't use it. Same arguement for the religious zealots when it comes to TV programming. If you don't like what's on that channel then click that button on your remote that either changes the channel or turns it off and GET OVER IT.

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