Until this typepad post, there was exactly one Google hit for the nonword
It was a link to What Would Jesus Google?
For what it's worth, until this typepad post, there was also exactly one Yahoo hit, one MSN hit, and one Lycos hit for the nonword Googlecalifragilisticexpialidocious, too. Curiously, Ask is too smart to be gamed by the nonsensical nonword queries of an incorrigible young man looking to set up camp in a thoroughly unpopulated corner of the webiverse.
With a tap of my SAVE button in a single moment in time, I set forth the chain of events that will eventually propagate through the Internet like frenzied pachinko balls, until the nonword lodges itself into the Google brain, into the Yahoo brain, into the MSN brain, and perhaps even into the Lycos and Ask brains, thereby removing that keyword's singleton nature forever. Bless the Internet and its ability to bestow phenomenal cosmic power to individuals who don't mind living in itty bitty living spaces.
We are close to the edge of 2004, just like Joi Ito is close to the edge of Orkut. I definitely know less than I did at the beginning of 2004; there are fewer things of which I'm certain. One of the few things I am certain of, though, is that there are still a lot more people obsessed with Google than just me. I'm not talking about the holy piles of money lots of people made off Google in 2004; I'm referring to the acknowledgement of Google's leadership role as evidenced by an ever-cascading flood of press and blogosphere mentions.
In 2004, Google is the leader of GYM -- the triumvirate of Google/Yahoo/Microsoft, which in turn leads a dozen other related companies in the web-related innovations that improve peoples' lives. Google lays down one gauntlet after another -- a better email experience and a Gig of storage, and a better desktop experience in searching my stuff, to name two examples from 2004 alone -- and Yahoo and Microsoft follow the leader by improving their email experiences and announcing their desktop search tools. Often then others follow the troika -- even if, as in X1's and Lycos's cases they actually had desktop search before Google did, once Google plants a flag it's like a shot hearing round the world, and everyone seems like a follower.
Steven Levy pointed this out in his Newsweek article, for softies, search is the new black:
[Microsoft's] Desktop Search beta product was the result of an even more compacted effort, a six-month sprint from bullet points in PowerPoint to the just-unveiled beta. It's an Outlook-style productivity tool that fits in the Microsoft universe so neatly that no one at the company can muster an explanation for why we haven't seen it sooner. "There's very little magic," says product architect David Dawson. "It does what you want it to do." In contrast, Google's product has the flavor of Web search; it allows you to search both the Net and your hard drive with one click—a trick that Microsoft says is too confusing.
This philosophical divergence is what makes the search competition a boon to you and me. Microsoft vows to match Google and Yahoo with a constant series of upgrades. Meanwhile, scrappy new competitors jump into the game, lured by Google's discovery that incredible riches can come from delivering ads alongside query results. They all hope to distinguish themselves by innovation. More choices and better searches for all!
Microsoft's ace in the hole is its ability to embed its search tools in future versions of Windows and maybe even Office. That's when the competition will get rough.
I believe GYM's leadership creates more potential for variation (an Outlook-like tool versus a web-based application, for example) and more potential for innovation as the competitors try to win the loyalties of users. Together GYM and their followers offer a suite of tools (such as information clients and personal servers) that give me hope that I can manage my personal Web -- and accelerate my ability to search and research simply, to discover and find again easily, to filter and incorporate suggestions collaboratively. As the web grows, so does each of our personal Webs, and tools become not just important but critical to productivity. Look where we are already:
That infographic comes from Charles Ferguson's piece at the MIT Tech Review, What's Next for Google? I've read the article three times now, and I agree wholeheartedly with John Battelle, who reflected,
Ferguson argues that the search wars are about to enter a major battle for control of standards which simplify the increasingly heterogeneous world of search, and in such a battle, Microsoft is far better suited... I find myself disagreeing with the premise - why, in this world of the web, do we need to be bound by this winner takes all approach to the world? It works in a resource constrained world of homogenous PCs - once a consumer has purchased his Windows box, he's not going to easily purchase an emerging competitor - but somehow, it really doesn'y strike me as the right metaphor for a Web 2.0 world.
Manu Sharma echoes this sentiment, with much supporting material, in the essay Google and the Great Mousetrap Fallacy. Just as it's rare to find a Googler wearing black, it's also unlikely that MSN and Yahoo are going to win over a lot of Google's customers anytime soon; like Wayne Gretsky, rather than skate to where the puck is, MSN and Yahoo need to skate to where the puck is going to be. They shouldn't fear that they cannot replicate the Google tude of "we'll figure out how to monetize it later"; they should stick to what they do best and be the best at those things. In the Web world of the next decade, as Paul Ford reminds me every time I revisit his essay on the cultural future of the semantic web, there is plenty of room for lots of companies to make lots of money each doing what they do best.
Still, Google is at the center of everyone's attention right now. In addition to the Newsweek piece this week by Steven Levy and the MIT Tech Review piece this month by Charles Ferguson, there's of course the December 13, 2004 Fortune cover story by Fred Vogelstein, Is Google worth $165 a share? In classic Fortune style, the answer to the question of course is both yes and no:
Last quarter Google's Ebitda, Wall Street's proxy for operating income, totaled $321 million, vs. $322 million for nine-year-old eBay, $260 million for ten-year-old Yahoo, and $114 million for nine-year-old Amazon. Google is much smaller than those fellow dot-coms but is growing faster. Its sales and Ebitda each doubled last year and the year before that. Google's operating profit margin, at more than 60%, is bigger even than Microsoft's at its peak. Such virtues, revealed for the first time during Google's public offering, made the August IPO one of Wall Street's most eagerly awaited births ever. And sure enough, Google has emerged as a robust baby. By happily continuing to buy the stock despite a P/E ratio on estimated 2004 earnings of 65, investors are betting that this newborn is destined for a long, lusty life of fat profits and fast growth.
But the doubters -- and there are many -- point to shadows in the nursery: questions about Google's geeky, dot-com-era management style and the possibility that it can't cope with growth; recent sales of stock by insiders and other major stakeholders (including Time Warner, FORTUNE's parent and owner of AOL, which lately unloaded $188 million worth); and increasing pressure from Microsoft, Yahoo, and other formidable rivals that would like to crush this infant in its crib. Far from hailing Google as the next eBay or even the next Microsoft (search the web on that phrase and Google's name does come up), the skeptics see Google as just the latest dot-com-bubble stock...
Knowing where to find you -- and then learning more about you -- isn't a small thing. It is, in fact, the Holy Grail of web commerce. The more Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft know about you, the more targeted and more valuable they can make their searches and ads. And if Google's Wall Street fans are right, advertising is what will power Google into eBay's league. Already every major financial services firm, airline, and automaker, as well as hundreds of thousands of other businesses, hawk their wares on Google. The formula is simple. When you search for information on your favorite Caribbean isle, Google makes sure you see travel-related ads, not ads for house paint. Advertisers are charged only when you click on their ads -- something Google users prove remarkably willing to do. Google today captures a whopping $1.9 billion of an estimated $10 billion spent annually on online ads. It's also rocking the offline world of direct mail and Yellow Pages advertising, both of which have seen steep declines...
Assuming 20% annual returns from that $165-a-share level (a reasonable investor expectation given the risks), its market cap would soar from around $45 billion today to $278 billion by 2014. That is a lofty height where only a handful of blue chips stand today -- GE, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, Citigroup, Pfizer, and Microsoft, to be precise. Dazzling? Yes. Doable? Only if everything over the next ten years goes right.
This in turn reminds me of the passage from Jason Kottke's Google Operating System post,
So. They have this huge map of the Web and are aware of how people move around in the virtual space it represents. They have the perfect place to store this map (one of the world's largest computers that's all but incapable of crashing). And they are clever at reading this map. Google knows what people write about, what they search for, what they shop for, they know who wants to advertise and how effective those advertisements are, and they're about to know how we communicate with friends and loved ones. What can they do with all that? Just about anything that collection of Ph.Ds can dream up.
Even though everyone's down on Google these days, they remain the most interesting company in the world and I'm optimistic about their potential and success (while also apprehensive about the prospect of using Google for absolutely everything someday...I'll be cursing the Google monopoly in 5 years time). If they stay on target with their plans to leverage their three core assets (which, if Gmail is any indication, they will), I predict Google will be the biggest and most important company in the world in 5-8 years.
Well, then. That's all I have to say about that. For now.
2005 is almost here, so it feels like a good time to venture into uncharted territory in the webiverse. Until this typepad post, there were exactly zero Google hits (and zero Yahoo hits, and zero MSN hits, and zero Lycos hits, and yes, zero Ask hits...) for the nonword
Zero as in nothing. Nothing as in, nothing is perfect. And with the click of my SAVE button, and the ensuing frenzied pachinko balls flying around the Internet, I will
ruin improve upon that perfection forever. There are few things in the universe I find more satisfying than carving my knife into a just-opened, pristine, untouched jar of peanut butter. Bring on 2005, I can take it.