Advice for Google

Post Google’s $85/share IPO, Dan Gillmor offers some advice on the business, technology, attitude and trust.

Google is a media company more than anything else, a company that sells advertising space on its own site and on its partners’ (and customers’) sites. The business, built on a sturdy foundation of delivering targeted ads based on people’s actual interests, has legs.

It’s also an obvious business for competitors. If Microsoft and Yahoo weren’t tough enough opponents, consider the growing number of micro-advertising services that are springing up to serve niche markets. In the Weblog world, for example, a small company called Blogads has been effective for advertisers who want to target specific online journals. Google’s ad products are fine, but they’re hardly a monopoly.

Google needs to become much more of a platform, not just a collection of services. The company has made some visible steps in that direction, but the strategy is still quite hazy, perhaps deliberately.

Some observers have speculated that Google is creating what amounts to an Internet operating system, an environment people and businesses could use to effectively replace today’s desktop computing services. That’s a big task, but not impossible.

If that is the aim, and even if it isn’t, Google should work harder to expand and open up its “applications programming interfaces” — the instructions it offers to programmers on how to use Google’s searches to create other kinds of services. Google has a developer ecosystem of sorts, but it’s not nearly vibrant enough.

Bob Cringely adds:

Whatever the company does will be incredibly technical because that’s their greatest strength. Remember, Google’s CEO is Eric Schmidt, who used to be Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems, so technology doesn’t scare these guys. In fact, they prefer it because machines are more predictable than people, as Schmidt learned when he tried to turn around Novell. THAT’s why Google is cut from whole cloth with every new hire chosen to be of the body.

The key to making money in search is to get between people and what they are searching for, and that’s where Google is on a collision course not only with Microsoft and Yahoo, but also with Amazon and eBay. Amazon is vulnerable to the Googlization of all the millions of retailers who aren’t running Amazon storefronts just as eBay is vulnerable to the Googlization of auctions where localization, pricing, and seller fees can all be improved.

But wait, there’s more! What about GoogleMedia? Find all the pictures, video, and music, then create a marketplace for it. I’m not just talking about taking on iTunes, though that is a logical possibility. I’m talking about new ways of buying and selling all types of intellectual property. And given this week’s court decision against the movie studios and in favor of Grokster et al, that could even come to include GoogleMovies. But any system for buying pictures to put in your term paper also requires a means to pay for it. So expect either a GooglePal or more likely an alliance with some established financial institution already convinced that PayPal must die.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.