Sunday, July 16, 2006

Two Approaches

It's been interesting to me to read all the hype behind Google's products lately. Everything that comes out is a XXX-killer. mISV's freak out, Microsoft freaks out, "Google will destroy our business with its free product!". The only problem? No one uses these products. No one knows about these products. Ask ten non-techy people if they've used Google spreadsheets and see if they don't look at you as if lobsters are crawling out of your ears. Do you know how few people even use Google maps? In my opinion, this is probably the best product Google has ever made, and yet people still use MapQuest (What's taking them so long to switch to AJAX btw? It doesn't seem that difficult...). Gmail is growing slowly, but still is way way behind in use compared to Yahoo, MSN, Juno and AOL. Google finance is not even a glimmer in the rear view of Yahoo finance, and Google news is also unknown outside of the tech community. But a large majority of the searches on the Internet are performed with Google, why arn't these products taking off? Clearly the answer is advertising. Google refuses to plug their products on their front page like Yahoo does.

One of the best examples of this is Google Answers. Two years ago or so Google launched Google Answers. The premise was that you could bid for a researcher (selected by Google) to answer a question for you. It could be virtually anything. If the person gave an acceptable answer, you paid them, and Google got a cut. The only problem is, after the much hyped launch (in the tech media), even Geeks forget about this service. Google answers is almost as obscure as any other random site on the internet. Just recently, however, Yahoo! launched Yahoo Answers. The difference? Well, anyone can answer the question, and it costs nothing to users. But the real difference is that Yahoo promoted this service big time. They even have guests like Bono and Stephen Hawking asking questions. Overnight, the site is already filled with more helpful answers then Google Answers has had in two years. From mundane things like "How do I make my Hydrangeas grow blue" to "Where should i live in Chicago" there is wealth of random people answering these questions. The biggest difference is that Google has some paid person that is always going to provide an intelligent answer, while Yahoo lets any of the unwashed masses throw their two cents in. But in the end, the question asker can pick the best answer, and that will remain at the top for future searches.

Another great example is Google Video. It could have been the next great thing, but again, YouTube trumped it by allowing a more open system (Google has to pre-screen every one manually), and by marketing, YouTube now far outstrips the popularity of Google Video.

My point? My point is that once again, marketing is everything. Google has created for itself quite a few catch-22s. People like Google because it's simple, but the simplicity keeps it from leveraging its traffic. So mISV's really should not fear when Google comes out with it's next product, because outside of the tech community, Google is just search. Once the initial hype fades away, very few of their ideas seem to survive.

3 Comments:

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Jesse Smith said...

A couple thoughts:

While I think the satellite view features of Google Maps are incredibly cool, Mapquest still generates directions far better than Google. Getting directions is the main reason I go to Mapquest, and the couple times I've tried with Google Maps, I got truly nonsensical directions.

Second, I think Google is suffering from the problem of line extension. To most people, including technical folks, Google == Search. I know they claim the company motto of "organizing the world's information" but for the vast majority of people, "spreadsheet" == "Office", not "Google".

Your point re marketing is well taken - Google seems to create these nifty but half-baked "beta" products and then abandon them.

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger Phil said...

Ditto on the accuracy of Google Maps. It's especially bad on long trips. Once I mapped a trip from Baltimore to New Orleans, and Google gave me a route that took 23 hours, compared to MapQuest route of 18.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger volvo said...

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