Googles Monoculture Getting Netscaped

    February 1, 2006

Tristan Louis takes a look at Google’s situation, compares it to Netscape’s, and determines that ” now is the time for executives at Google to look at history and, hopefully, not repeat it”.

More worrisome, however, is the development of the Google monoculture. Much of what is going on at Google is happening with little involvement and input from the community. This is where Microsoft generally starts striking. Say what you want about the Redmond giant, they know how to listen and how to take brutal feedback and turn it into decent product. Microsoft is not known for great products but it is known for decent ones. Last week, Microsoft organized Search Champs, gathering a bunch of smart people from the industry in a room and having them talk to them. I was there and was surprised by how focused they are on winning this one. It is the kind of focus I have not seen come from them since the browser wars.

Oh, absolutely! Google, perceived (although that is changing) as the more friendly company, doen not reach out to the community in the same ways Microsoft is now. Google is not asking Dave Winer to brainstorm on their RSS strategy. Google is not flying, well, anyone down to the Googleplex to get some outside world perspective on their product development (and trust me, the community has a lot of things to say to Google).

Instead, Google develops whatever it feels like, and some of those releases have been clunkers, while others display a myopic vision. Many of those products do nothing to improve the core business. Microsoft is not the type of company to look at 60% market share and be satisfied with their small slice of the pie (and neither is Yahoo, Susan Decker notwithstanding). Google is going to feel a lot of pressure from Wall Street over the next quarter, and likely for the rest of its existence, and I’m not so sure it can ignore the pleas of investors enough to get good products out the door.

Microsoft did some its best work when in a pitched battle with Netscape. Netscape had the opportunity to stand up, face some great competition, and prove how good a company it was. Instead, they fell on their face, panicked, and couldn’t release in time. If version two or three of MSN Search is great, will Google make the same mistakes?

Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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