Feb 04 2010

Any Day Now

On a search engine marketing forum I frequent, there was a discussion about a TV documentary about the Internet, which claimed that the Internet used to be this egalitarian place where everyone shared ideas in a spirit of love and understanding, and now it’s dominated by big corporations that only care about the bottom line and probably hate baby seals and the little guy doesn’t have a voice anymore.  (Or words to that effect.)

That reminded me that I’ve been hearing that the big corporations were about to dominate the net Any Day Now since I got involved in 1995.  It probably started before that.  Somehow it never quite happens, though.

Several times the supposed threat has been Microsoft.  WebTV and Internet Explorer were supposed to give them control over the users; the Zone was supposed to control gaming; Live would take over search; Hotmail would take over email; and so on.  Every year or so, they’d come out with a new product or protocol, and there would be articles about how all the competitors were sure to be toast.  Each time the threat has fizzled—Microsoft did have success with some of those things and has remained a player in the business and made some money, but they’ve been unable to dominate any aspect of it, and they’re gradually losing their dominance on the PC where they once had it.

The TV networks and major news outlets were supposed to take over Internet entertainment and news, as soon as they got interested enough to bother.  They’ve certainly developed major presences online, but they don’t have anywhere near the domination that they had offline.  Online news, which includes blogs and social media, is putting print news out of business, not the other way around.

I’m not happy to see Google so dominant right now, but I have to admit: they’ve done it by consistently creating great products.  I recently wanted to set up an off-site document repository, and I intentionally looked for alternatives to Google Docs; but they simply didn’t compare, and eventually I sighed and went with Google Docs.  Analytics, Docs, Adsense, Maps, Reader, and others all work exceptionally well.  (Webmaster Tools needs work, though.)  Even Gmail works great, though I still insist on keeping my main email local like it’s 1998.

I don’t like having so many of my eggs in one basket, but it’s an awfully good basket at the moment.  If Google ever stops making great products and tries to maintain its dominance the way most big organizations from Microsoft to the USDA do it—by creating mediocre products and trying to regulate people into using them—they’ll be overtaken by little guys the same way they overtook Yahoo and others before them.  Being the biggest in a field and having a lot of money to throw around can make you one of the big players online, but it doesn’t seem to be able to make you the boss of the place.

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