Google Chasing Yahoo – Follow The Leader

    April 7, 2005

Flashback 5 years just before the dotcom bubble burst and you’ll remember the name of another company that blazed the path Google’s following long before Larry and Sergey were even out of their dorm rooms. I’m talking about Yahoo!.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Google’s just a lucky copycat that fell into the search industry and completely patterned themselves after Yahoo! But I am saying that many of the features Google’s releasing to the public under the “beta guise” were done long before by Yahoo! and Google’s playing catch up in many of these areas. They’re playing catch up so in order to increase their revenue base but they’re also attempting to improve on areas Yahoo! and others may be lacking in.

Also, you’ll notice a trend in the feature comparison chart above. Google isn’t the first to bring a new product to the market but they’re the first to improve the current offering of products by making them better. Take their natural search results for example. Yahoo was a search engine long before Yahoo but then Google came up with the PageRank algo. Utilizing many methods of backlink analysis to determine the importance of a particular domain or url based on the number of backlinks it has. This revolutionized the way every other search engine looked at natural search and forced them to change their model because they were far too easily manipulated by spam efforts.

Another case in point is Google’s free email service, GMail. Yahoo and Microsoft had their offerings out long before Google had even developed their PageRank algo but once again Google made it better by offering more storage and making your email searchable. Then Yahoo and MSN had to once again play the catch up game to offer a free service that was on par with GMail.

Another interesting trend is the fact that some of the applicaiton’s Google’s launched that aren’t part of Google’s current service offerings are ones that aren’t all that profitable for Google. Take Google Answers, you can ask any question and for a fee of $5 – $100 you’ll get a dedicated analyst to research and answer your question. However, Google’s struggled to make this model profitable and they’ve received criticism from the researchers themselves because many of them are actually volunteering their time while Google’s trying to turn a profit on their researchers philanthropic efforts. If that example doesn’t work for you then just look at Blogger. Google’s much touted acquisition yet it’s offered free of charge. Now even though Blogger doesn’t bring in any revenues from direct subscription services, it does however provide a wealth of data at a very low cost. I would even dare to speculate that it costs Google less to maintain Blogger than it would for them to crawl every blog online. By having direct access to the content and the templates storing the content they’re able to perform in-depth analysis on the incredibly sexy blog space unlike any other search engine. Yeah, MSN’s got MSN Spaces but they’re the NKOTBs when it comes to blogging and they need to run a few more laps in order to get any street cred or really valuable data.

Or how about the Google directory which is just a duplicate of dmoz. That was what Yahoo built their original business on and then they came out with a search engine because the directory was no longer usable once it got too big. Google on the other hand just reproduces the dmoz directory and adds a PageRank bar next to each listing in their directory. if that’s not duplicate content then I don’t know what is. Reminds me a bit of a story about a kettle that loved calling an adjacent pot black.

Now it’s going to be really interesting to see which engine will be the first to hit some of the emerging markets like blog search and online tv/video syndication. Larry and Sergey say they want to run Google differently than any other publicly traded company and that they call the shots. However, when the snowball starts a rollin down that hill they’ll find out that micromanagement of business units is no longer feasible or wise, especially with the market breathing down their necks wondering where there profits are. It will be, if it hasn’t been already, a maturing experience for them and in the end [like always] the markets will dictate what the company does, not the wonder twins.

Wonder Twins Power, Activate!

Jason Dowdell is a technology entrepreneur and operates the Marketing Shift blog.