46 thoughts on “Tim O'Reilly: Google's got problems”

  1. I don’t agree at all, google is trying to include social in search, not become a social destination. There’s a difference between a social layer and a Social destination.

    1. I totally agree with you. Did everyone’s Google Search, all of sudden become less accurate and less smart? Information is being processed every day and minute because of smart phones and other mobile computing devices. This information is being recorded to Google+; processed for Google Search; and sent back to end-users in multiple point of views or “perspectives.” The human experience is turning into an “algorithm.” IMO, that’s brilliant.

  2. Not sure the Yahoo! comparison is very apt. That was a company with very little other than user loyalty – all of their strengths were ultimately duplicated or improved upon by others. Google has a lot of IP that is hard to beat (MSFT has spent untold millions trying and remain #2 in search). So while I agree they might be at risk of diversifying too far too fast, I also think the current round of product purges demonstrates that they understand this risk and are trying to address it. They are not, as far as I can see, falling into the Yahoo! trap.

  3. I’ve never thought Google needed to become “social” in the first place, nor that they could actually take the crown away from Facebook. Even if they do become social, that social signal should only be a tiny percentage at best for their search algorithm – so definitely not something they should bet the company on.

    I also blame the press for pushing them in that direction. Google said from the beginning that they don’t think Facebook is competing with them, but most of the tech press pushed so hard this idea that Google is going to be made obsolete by Facebook, that they eventually believed it themselves.

    Anyway, things like the Knowledge Graph and Google Now are exactly the kind of future and evolution of Google search, that Google needs to pursue, so they haven’t quite lost their direction yet.

    1. > I also blame the press for pushing them in that direction.

      Great point. As I mentioned in my comment below, Om himself and some of the other Gigaom writers did this quite often and quite loudly.

      1. AS

        I am going to call you out on this. I have been a biggest critic of the ham-handed way they have approached social. I have been for a long time and will continue to be.

      2. You didn’t address his point though Om, which is valid. How Google goes about the drive into social is another topic. Here you are criticizing Google for even going into social, after raising the warning flags of how social could kill Google. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

  4. Google isn’t trying to become a social destination, or at least, that’s not ALL they’re trying to do. They’re trying to build a social layer into their Web products, and if they don’t, you bet your @ss they’re going the best way of yahoo. I know that this is an oft way mentioned concept, yet it’s still consistently ignored by tech blog gers. Can we get over the g+ is chasing fb meme already please? At its heart g+ is really about learning more about Google users, so it’s actually supporting they’re core products (search, ads). Plus, this just ignores the big G’s innovative products they’re launching all time like glass etc. Is FB creating stuff like that, or are they just trying to lock they’re users deeper into their walled garden with overated (and ripped off) products like the app center or whatever. Sorry Om, I dig your stuff, but this article feels like it was well thought out.

    1. Actually if you read my last post – I like what they are trying to do with Glasses, Car and also with all this cool back end technologies they built. One thing they are actually doing better: making money from ads. However, I do think their approach to social has been against their core grain and strength – that of being a internet scale utility. Instead of building a destination, it needed to build a simpler, easier equivalent of FB Connect.

      1. Ham-handed? I don’t agree. Google+ is actually a good platform. Instead of making it how Google thinks a social network should be, they started by making it as simple as can be, but with all the privacy controls that were missing in Facebook. By listening to what the users wanted it to be and observing what users are actually using it for, Google has been quietly adding features. If you’re judging Google by its relative failure to make Facebook users switch, you’re looking at it the wrong way. Google+ is an experiment at this stage, for Google to learn more about how people use social connections in their day to day lives online. From this knowledge, Google further improves its core search business and extends it with social-enabled tools such as Project Glass.

  5. > I have been saying this for a while – Google is forgetting its core DNA and instead chasing Facebook and other competitors.

    Not to long ago, you and other Gigaom writers and many other tech writers in general were also saying that FB was going to beat Google (LOL @ that, btw) cuz Google was not able to do anything in the social web, and that was one major chunk of the web that was totally out of reach of Google’s indexing of the Internet and that Google was a loser for not being able to succeed in social, etc. In fact, the way some you guys wrote, including you specifically Om, it sounded like you were pretty much ready to sing Google’s farewell. It would be far too easy to search for previous articles and bring up some interesting quotes.

    So, now that Google is doing something substantial about it, instead of half-hearted attempts like Buzz, you say Google is losing its way! Not surprisingly, most of the people who have been criticizing Google for its G+ efforts are the very same people who used to criticize it for not having a viable social strategy. This is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    1. AS

      You are essentially conflating Facebook winning and Google copying them. Facebook is winning in social and Google was in the business of helping discover information. It didn’t need a replica of Facebook. I was critical of Buzz and also of Wave, which were half hearted attempts. THe current Google+ is still to prove its utility for me.

      What I wrote about Google – focus on their DNA: infrastructure, information, communication utilities. I have never been critical of Android, their Apps and I have even changed my mind about Chrome OS.

      1. Om how do you see Chrome OS playing out with regards to Android, and what larger role would it play? Chrome OS was supposed to run the Google TV platform and they changed it with Android a year back, now all that is left is chromebooks from samsung.

      2. Om,

        Not sure if you understood my previous comments.

        Let me clarify: in the past, you and many other tech writers have criticized Google for not including social data in their search, either through indexing social data from FB, Twitter, etc., or having their own social network. Since the biggest social networks that matter (FB, Twitter) are essentially walled gardens which refuse to share data with Google, Google is building its own social network. What else can Google do if other social networks don’t want to play with it?

        Now that Google is doing something about your previous criticisms, you are turning right around and criticizing Google for trying to do exactly what you wanted it to do in the first place: include social signals into search results. I have read another Gigaom writer (Mathew Ingram) criticize Google for not having social signals in their search results before G+. I have also read the same writer criticize Google FOR including social signals from G+ into search results.

        Hence my conclusion: in the eyes of tech writers, as far as social is concerned, Google is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

        A S

      3. Another opportunity to address the duplicity and still no answer. What we do get is an I don’t use it or get it, therefore it’s a failure mentality. This seems to be a common form of myopia in the tech writing world.

  6. Om, please. Tell me how making spherical streaming media players does NOT fit into the core business of extremely high quality and fast search results?


    1. Lots of moves made by large players like google, microsoft are not always necessarily to make a profit but to distract their enemies – apple tv being the case here for google

      1. From Aberdeen bonnie Scotland Google TV looked like a 20% project for Eric et al. He was the one that paraded the CEOs at some conference and suffered when it bombed. I imagine Apple TV product execs too must wonder what edge their logo-ed box has over a netbook with YouTube (or ..).
        But such demonstrates the problem for corporate California what people to with new products is not what your product roadmap dictates (or indeed is perceived to be). If Big Brother is going to help me get my job done by showing me companies in my email ads that help me that’s just dandy so I end up sticking in gmail rather than search – who would have predicted that n years ago.

  7. I don’t think a social network is in Google’s “wheelhouse”, but having insight into your social life is. I definitely thought Google+ as a competitor to Facebook is a failure, but with the release of Google Now, I’m starting to see the value in Google doing a lot more with the limited social information they do have and that will eventually attract more users. GoogleNow provides information without interaction from the user. This is going to be imperative when dealing with Google Glass. Now when we get your friends showing their location in your glasses and restaurants they like being augmented with star ratings as you walk by them, I think Google has retained more of its focus than we perceived. We should always remember that each of their projects are not ends in themselves. Advertising is always the end goal and each of these seemingly unrelated projects are holes that google is lacing together as they tighten the whole thing, slowly and constantly.

  8. As someone who would love to see Google fail, I’m surprised at myself for disagreeing with you. Social is a service, just like Gmail, Docs, etc. Google doesn’t have to win in any of those categories, just play hard enough to make life suck for the competition. In the meantime they will accumulate enough data to sell me better and better ads. Couple with that the fact that there is really no one who can come close to competing with them at their core business. Bing literally has to incentivize users to get them to search. If there was a strong #2 I would agree with you, but until that happens, sadly, Google can toy around with any other online product with little harm

  9. Tim Reilly makes no case nor does he present a credible argument of how Google is losing it’s Google-ness. What he does instead, is state a complaint based on something I can’t figure out. I mean…did he not find the answer to his question? Did he get lost when looking for directions? Did he not attend or watch Google IO 2012? Isn’t it obvious the direction Google is taking with Google Now. Someone needs to tell Mr. Reilly that we are talking about technology here. Technology doesn’t just improve, but it also evolves. Google is evolving in that manner. For me, Google hasn’t disappointed me yet.

  10. I really hope they don’t.

    I’ve always disagreed with your take on this. The name of this game is, and has always been, how to stay between the user and the web. This becomes abundantly obvious when you ask the simple question, “Where does Google make the overwhelming majority of their money?” Hint: the answer isn’t “search.” Search is only a means to an end. Search was a start, but it was never going to be enough and clearly isn’t enough anymore because it’s no longer the exclusive and predominant method of interacting with the web.

    There are *always* dangers in adapting your business to the evolving landscape of industry, tech most of all, but those that remain complacent in the face of change die too.

  11. I see one of the things they’re doing with Google+ is offer a social platform for people who want a social platform that is part of the Google system. Use some more connected to Gmail, Google Drive, Photos/Picasa, Play, etc.

  12. I feel you are partly correct. Yeah ofcourse Google must concentrate on Google Search but competition is 100% necessary with other products coz if it won’t Google Search ‘ll lost influence. For example Chrome browser,android,etc plays important role in maintaining the G-power. Also I want to remind you that Search is not degrading. Google is many times better than Bing ‘If you don’t agree try searching your name on both’.

  13. Om, I think you’re losing YOUR core DNA here, hyping my comments to make them sound stronger than they were in quest of a headline!

    While I am concerned with the Facebookization of Google (ok, that’s a terrible neologism!), my warning was as much to journalists who keep hyping Facebook’s “time on site” as a sign that Google is somehow losing its edge as it was to Google. A proper headline might be: “Tim O’Reilly: Journalists should encourage Google to remember what makes it special”, since my real beef is the constant drumbeat that Google is losing out to Facebook by elevating metrics like “time on site.”

    1. Tim, for a site like facebook isn’t time on site a relevant metric since the more time spent on the site the more ads a person would see as the facebook.com domain is the only place where facebook currently pushes ads.

      Google on the other hand pushes ads all across the internet primarily and limited ads on the search results page, so for google less the amount of time spent on the core google.com page the better the returns. Thoughts?

    2. “Tim O’Reilly: Journalists should encourage Google to remember what makes it special”

      That’s pretty funny. The Onion couldn’t have done it better. Maybe we could all join together and create a Facebook page to extoll the virtues of Google.

    3. > A proper headline might be: “Tim O’Reilly: Journalists should encourage Google to remember what makes it special”, since my real beef is the constant drumbeat that Google is losing out to Facebook by elevating metrics like “time on site.”

      Makes perfect sense. This is something I agree with wholeheartedly.

    4. Tim, dint you know that one of google’s street view cars killed Om’s cat, ever since he has turned to his columns to exact revenge.

  14. Good point. It might have been a better approach to have an independent entity pursuing the goal of a social network which is friendlier with google in terms of providing access to data for google to crawl. Which is really the primary problem google is trying to solve with google+.

  15. There is a another core pattern here – they want to become the most loved-hated company of the universe.

    First they went after Microsoft… then after Facebook…
    Fortunately, they remain loved… their efforts to be hated are still not that way down since they tend to have winners in their pack of offerings while their losers somehow get lost easily…

  16. My fear is its the consultants that are in charge now, not the engineers. It all seems to be about short term profit maximization and that will be Google’s downfall. All we need to wait for now is the accounting scandal.

  17. This is a short, silly article by someone who apparently has nothing better to do. Google is fine–if only the rest of us had Google’s “problems”!

  18. I also don’t agree. Google+ is much broader than Facebook in terms of how Google sees it. According to Vic Gundotra, it’s a social layer that exists across all Google services (as we’ve been seeing more an more integrations in recent months). Based on interviews I’ve read with Googler’s, it doesn’t seem like they’re too terribly focused on going after Facebook… I think they have much bigger things in mind when it comes to Google+.

  19. Maybe Tim’s spending too much time on G+, I don’t feel Google is going in the direction of a social destination. If you look at new product like Google Now, it’s pure Googleness.
    nonetheless, I think core competency is bullshit, if you believe in DNA is destiny, you will be forced out of business in 20 years in the tech sector.

    1. The people who doesn’t want a competition for facebook are its shareholder. I don’t mind G+ being a social network like facebook because I want an alternative.

  20. ok I just read Tim’s comment here, Om, you’re going in the direction of making this site a tabloid. Dislike.

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