My issue of Playboy came in the mail so I got to read the the infamous Google interview. If you don't have a Playboy subscription or balk at buying the magazine from the newstands you can get the interview from Google's amended SEC filings. I didn't read the entire interview but there were no surprises in what I read.

I was recently talking to a coworker who's on the fence about whether to go to Google or stay at Microsoft and it was interesting talking about the pros and cons of both companies. As we talked Google began to remind me of Netscape in its heyday. A company full of bright, young guys who've built a killer application for the World Wide Web and is headed for a monster IPO. The question is whether Google will squander their lead like Netscape did (Yes, I realize my current employer may have had something to do with that) or whether they'll be the next Yahoo!

There are a couple of things Google has done over the past few years that have made me wonder whether the company has enough adult supervision and business acumen to rise above being a one trick pony in the constantly changing Internet landscape. Some of them are touched on by Larry and Sergey in their interview

  1. is non-sticky: Nothing on the main Google site encourages the user to hang around the site or even return to the website besides the quality of the search results. According to the company's founders this is by design. The problem with this reasoning is that if and when its competitors such as MSN Search and Yahoo! Search get good enough there isn't anything keeping people tied to the site. It seems unfathomable now but there was a time that it seemed unfathomable that anyone would use anything besides AltaVista or Excite to search the Web. It's happened before and it can happen again. Google seems ill-prepared for this occurence.

  2. Inability to tie together disparate offerings: The one thing that has separated Yahoo! from all the Web portals that were all the rage a couple of years ago is that it managed to tie its many offerings into a single cohesive package with multiple revenue streams. The Yahoo! experience seamlessly ties in My Yahoo!, Yahoo! Groups (formerly eGroups), Yahoo! Calendar, Yahoo! Maps, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo! Messenger and the Yahoo! Companion. I use most of these Yahoo sites and tools on a daily basis and use all of them at least once a month. Besides advertising related to search there are several entry points for Yahoo! to get revenue from me.

    Compare this to Google which although has a number of other offerings available from the Google website has a number of offerings they haven't figured out how to make synergistic such as their purchase of Blogger or sites like Orkut. Yahoo! would have gotten a lot more mileage out of either site than Google currently has done. Another aspect of this issue is gleaned from this excerpt from a post by Dave Winer entitled Contact with Google

    Another note, I now have four different logins at Google: Orkut, AdSense, Blogger and Gmail. Each with a different username and password. Now here's an area where Google could be a leader, provide an alternative to Passport, something we really need, a Google-size problem.

    Yahoo! has a significantly larger number of distinct offerings yet I access all of them through a single login. This lack of cohesiveness indicates that either there isn't a unified vision as to how to unite this properties under a single banner or Google has been unable to figure out how to do so.

  3. GMail announced to quickly: Google announced GMail with its strongest selling point being that it gave you 100 times more space than competing free email services. However GMail is still in beta and not available to the general public while it's competitors such as Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail have announced upping their limits to 250MB and 100MB respectively with gigabytes of storage available and other features available to users for additional fees. This has basically stolen Google's thunder and halted a potential exodus of users from competing services while GMail isn't even out of beta yet.

  4. Heavy handed tactics in the Web syndication standards world: Recently Google decided to use a interim draft of a technology specification instead of a de facto industry standard for syndicating content from their Blogger website thus forcing users to upgrade or change their news aggregators as well as ensuring that there would be at least two versions of the Atom syndication format in the wild (the final version and the interim version supported by Google). This behavior upset a lot of users and aggregator developers. In fact, the author of the draft specification of the Atom syndication format that Google supported over RSS has also expressed dismay at the choice Google made and is encouraging others not to repeat their actions.

All of these are examples of less than stellar decision making at Google. Even though in previous entries such as What Is Google Building? and What is Google Building II: Thin Client vs. Rich Client vs. Smart Client I've implied that Google may be on the verge of a software move so bold it could upstage Microsoft the same way Netscape planned to with the browser upstaging the operating system as a development and user platform, it isn't a slam dunk that they have what it takes to get there.

It will be interesting watching the Google saga unfold.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004 12:55:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think your analysis is dead on, Dare.

One area where Google is not like Netscape: they have shown that they are not a one trick pony. They at least have vision enough to see that there are multiple problems they can take on.

Another difference: I assume that their code is better than Netscapes. If you ever looked at the release of Netscape that formed the core of Mozilla (before they trashed it and started over), you would have seen a pile of nastiness that was an insult to spaghetti.
johnATzyxilDOTnet (John Morales)
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 2:43:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think stickiness is way overrated. People don't hang around search portals for their "content". People use search engines to find the things they are really interested in. Google understands this and it is one of the reasons their site is so successful (besides being the most powerful search engine on the planet). Most people don't use Google's advanced search features, they are simply drawn to its simplicity and usability. Their tool is so effective it has become a verb. I never netscaped anything. I google search terms all day long and am thankful I don't have to put up with an busy bazaar-like interface like Yahoo! or MSN with thousands of lines of textual crap that I have no interest in. Of course, my argument is completely anecdotal, but take a good look at the history of (owned by my employer). TheGlobe had one of the most successful IPOs in history. Their business model was based on sticky content: portals, forums, etc. The problem is that the only people who ever liked that crap were the Wall Street investors, not the average users.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 2:46:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Oh yeah, on the Gmail note also...Gmail isn't available to the general public yet, that's absolutely true. But Hotmail promised me 250 MB (one-fourth of my Gmail account?!) on July 8th and still hasn't delivered. Glass houses and all that.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 3:49:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The counter example TheGlobe is Yahoo!. I used to go to Yahoo! for search but I don't anymore. However I still manage to spend about ten times as long on Yahoo! properties than I do on Google properties.

As for Hotmail going to 250MB, my inbox was at 250MB this morning. According to the post at I'm not the only one.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 5:51:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Not to just be contrary, but I just logged into my free Hotmail account and it's still at 2MB like it has been since they announced the upgrade.

It doesn't matter much though, I just finished moving all the lists and shopping accounts that were pointing at my Hotmail account over to my Yahoo account. Yahoo moved faster. :|
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 6:08:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hardly matters that Google is a verb if you don't spend any time there. Yahoo! isn't a verb, but it's my email client, calendar, photo storage, yellow pages, and contact manager, messenger.

Part of the reason I don't switch fully to GMail, though I have an account, is that I enjoy the integration between my IM tool, my email acct, etc...
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 6:53:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
So you do Yahoo! Haacked? ;)
Thursday, August 19, 2004 1:16:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Great post. Google will have some serious growing pains as they mature, and really it's Microsoft's battle to lose here. There is one big difference from Netscape though -- the three top dogs at Google all plan to cash out $100 million each right after the IPO; something that Andreesen never had the option to do. So, in a sense, the IPO is the founders' way of cashing out their chips. After they cash out, they care a whole lot less about whether Google lives or dies.
Thursday, August 19, 2004 5:46:03 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
4. Mnot states in a follow-up email that he's specifically not talking about Blogger:

3. I don't really see how one competitor saying they'll provide a quarter of the capacity and anther saying they'll provide one tenth of the capacity steals Gmail's thunder. Gmail just made it much more expensive for Microsoft and Yahoo to offer their services, and it forced them into a reactive position. The storage capacity is just a hook; Gmail is all about the interface anyway.

2. Integration will be the interesting one. Personally I wouldn't bother considering Orkut integration, because I'm not sure what it adds; there's also the issue of whether Orkut has a shelf life. Blogger now looks like it's providing some integration with Google search. There's no doubt a lot going on behind the scenes.

1. As soon as Google needs to rely on stickiness to keep visitors using their search, they've lost the game. The best way to remain relevant to users is to provide the best services.
Phil McCluskey
Friday, August 20, 2004 12:50:08 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
1.) Stickiness: this is a myth that ad agencies love to propagate. It's BS. Nothing is sticky, except for porn and gambling.

2.) The lack of 'wallet' seems intentional, don't you think?

3.) Gmail doesn't have seizure inducing blinking porn/personal skyscraper ads. Hotmail does. What's up with that?

4.) As Phil McCluskey noted, mnot wasn't talking about blogger.

While I disagree with most of your conclusions, and agree with those commenting, I think I have one answer the "what is google up to?" questions of your previous posts.

The 'stickiness' term made me think about what MS's stickiest product is. I came up with two answers. The first was Excel. I don't see anyone touching that on Excel's terms, but perhaps it could be made irrelevant. The second was Exchange calendaring. Exchange is a pretty crap mailserver, but people seem to love the calendaring. Seems like a reasonable Bosworth target.

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