On Google’s Innovator’s Dilemma

Every once in a while a new product or service appears that is immediately labeled as the new ‘Google’ killer. Usually by the major tech blogs who need to say something smart to get the traffic going to their site. Sometimes by the product company itself who might think that that any publicity is good publicity. I rarely read those posts. The idea itself makes me smile a bit as I personally believe that anyone boasting about such a possibility  rarely really understands the nature of the power that Google has build up in the past years.

The nature of the strength of Google can be derived from their mission  “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”

The first thing that comes to mind when reading that is their audacity to think beyond reasonable boundaries. Google doesn’t want to organise a specific set of information, they want to organise all information. I do not know a single company that publicly dares to think this big. The consequence of dreaming this big is that you have to act upon in. And that brings us to another strength of Google. If you wan tot organise the world’s information you need unprecedented data storage and manipulation capabilities.

Many people will recall the search engine when thinking about Google. Others might think about Google maps, GMail, Google Earth,  Adwords, or other remarkable services Google provides. I tend to think about the infrastructure that is needed to accomplish the daunting task of organizing all of our worlds information. The infrastructure of Google i s as immense as their mission. They own huge server parks, run some of the largest infrastructures in the world and own probably the largest and most important glass fiber backbone infrastructures in the world. It is nearly impossible for a piece of data traveling the world not to pass Google infrastructure. And they are extending their reach into all networks, including the mobile network.

Imagine the sheer computational capabilities, the ability to store endless amounts of data, the ability to transport unlimited amounts of data, and you are slowly getting the picture that competing with Google isn’t about a product or a service. You are competing with bricks and mortar, with iron, and motherboards, with glass fiber and server parks. The investments needed to overcome that are beyond any ones reach at this moment.

Does that mean that Google can’t be beaten? I doubt it. History learns that all empires that rise up at some point will come down again. But what is Google’s Innovator’s dilemma? Where will a disruption come from that can overthrow what Google brings on the table right now? I honestly don’t know. But with their ability to diversify, their incredible computational power and infrastructure, their current money generating platforms it has to be something that hurts them in their core. Forget about individual services, walled gardens, huge traffic drivers like Facebook or MySpace. Google’s walled garden is the entire planet. Who has the audacity to think big enough and overthrow that?

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2 Responses to On Google’s Innovator’s Dilemma

  1. Bertil Hatt says:

    Google appears to be lagging in two domains (note: “appears”, “lagging” — not “is completely run down”): social and semantic web. Of course GMail is possed to become the largest social graph, but getting more information doesn’t seem to be as important as being able to organize it in an intelligent manner. Similarly, Universal search is one of the most capable Semantic-like tool, and the web database & facilities are a paradize for RDF — but the discretion of company representatives at meetings on both aspects let’s envision a future not without Google, but outside of their exclusive control.

  2. @Bertil, I hope so, it isn’t healthy if Google would dominate everything. But remember that they do not have to be strong in for example the social web to be able to dominate using their other assets. The only way they could become less dominant imo is if they would not be able to generate enough revenues to keep their infrastructure running.

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