I know how Google will die

The End of Google

The End of Google

I know how Google will die. I’m not a psychic, just an old dog who has seen this cycle before. But before I get into the specifics, let me share a story with you.

It was the summer of 1992 and I was working at my job as at the Fortune 500 I was lucky to be at. We were all sitting around with a pretty big retail client, brainstorming on ways to improve the cycle of customer satisfaction, experience, etc, etc. with the service delivery. These were the early days of “partnership” when it was in vogue to include your vendors as “partners” rather than companies you called and barked “do this!” to. In hindsight, we were all pretty new at the game.

About the middle of the meeting, it became somewhat apparent that the client was getting frustrated that he was not quite getting the result he was looking for. We were trying to build value for our services and he was trying to manipulate us into thinking we were the ones “discovering” what he needed done.

In a moment of uncontrollable frustration, he blurted out, “who is the damn customer, here anyway?”

Dead silence.

He knew what he had just done. For the rest of the meeting, nothing really got talked about. We had turned from partner vendors into robot order-takers. Yes, sir, yes sir. The client got exactly what he wanted and not a bit of effort beyond that. We all pretty much knew our place.

From that day, everyone in sales worked hard to replace the retailer with programs that valued our head skills rather than just used us as a pair of hands. We were able to separate from the client a year later. Revenue was one thing; our ability to grow along our mission was something else.

Fast forward to the early days of Google. They were all about cataloging the world’s information, building great search tools, branching out to maps and enterprise apps and useful things that helped users collaborate and make the world a better place. Do no evil, they cried but more importantly, celebrate the human spirit by letting our employees work on cool stuff even if the return was less than certain.

And the stock price soared and the profits kept rolling in. Shareholders kept seeing their returns increase hand-over-fist and their expectations kept rising. If there is one thing rich people always need more of is more money.

Then things started slowing down as they usually do with mature companies. But the expectations did not stop. Google started cutting expenses and “stupid” projects that the shareholders and analysts felt were not making money and never will. Then came a push to consolidate and “own” the user until they now have the User Agreement we were all just sent last week.

“We own your online identity” is the short version of the file. You can read the whole thing if you want, but that is the translation. The push to make us buy stuff through the Google-created channels is becoming apparent. “Who is the damn customer, here anyway?” the shareholders and advertisers are now screaming. “Deliver us buyers or else!”

And Google is buckling.

The shareholders and advertisers will continue to squeeze and squeeze as the users quietly work their way through whatever hold Google has on them now and find a way to replace what Google gives them. It might take a decade or so, but at the end, Google will be left scratching at the floorboards, wondering where it all went.

Google will die because Google got too greedy. It didn’t know when to push and when to coast. Or maybe it did, but like every other company that allows itself to be “owned,” it ran out of leverage to push back.

The seeds of mistrust

GAribbon

Today, I look at my Google Analytics for this blog. I clicked on the Site Overlay view and it dutifully built my site with the percentage of clicks over each link. I then exited GA, but pulled up my blog in a new window. After the blog loaded, the GA overlay built with the ribbon above my blog. No big deal, I just logged out. But it kept doing it. I dumped the cache. Still, then I dumped all the Google cookies. Still. I restarted Safari. Still. I restarted my Mac, relaunched Safari. It looks like it is ok.

As useful as the Site Overlay is, I’m not clicking on that link again. I no longer trust it to release the site back to me. Moreover, I no longer trust what Google is doing that I can’t see.

I quote Mr. Weasley of Harry Potter’s, The Chamber of Secrets: “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

How to look clueless on Twitter in three easy steps

Recently, one of the folks I follow sent out a tweet about a teacher who is selling sponsorship on the bottom of his test. The tweet went like:

I am in advertising, but even I think this is a bad idea.

So, being a good follower, I click on the link to the story, read it and replied back something like:

Wow, I want to advertise. Do you know how to get in touch with Tom Farber?

A day goes by and the reply comes back from my follower:

Who is Tom F?

I replied he was the teacher in the story he tweeted out. He replied back:

Not sure, use Google!

Oh, ok. I was a bit taken aback, but maybe he was very busy, a day job, thousands of followers and didn’t really have time to engage me. Nope. He is following 32 people.

So, here is my take on Mr. Follower.
He really didn’t read or engage in the article, but he thought he should tweet something out that made him look like he was connected with the advertising/marketing world. When he was given an opportunity to engage with someone who took the time to reply to a tweet, he blew it entirely by saying, “I don’t have time for you, look it up yourself.”

I clicked through to Mr. Follower’s profile and then to his web site, which turned out to be a resume. His last job ended in September 2008, so it looks like he is searching for a new job. Do I have a marketing position for him with my company? Maybe I do, but I would never hire him.

Am I being too hard on Mr. Follower? Perhaps. Perhaps I should do my own research on articles that interest me. Or, perhaps Mr. Follower just failed the first test of a prospective employer looking for a Web 2.0 savvy person to lead a multi-million dollar division.

Oh, yeah, the three steps thing… umm, ok:
1. Make sure you don’t actually read or engage in web sites you tweet out
2. Treat every question like it is an imposition on your time
3. Don’t bother helping anyone. That is what Google is for.

We didn’t start the fire either

A couple weeks ago, Ryan Healy wrote a blog post about how Baby Boomers screwed up the world and how GenY is going to “fix” it. After turning it over in my 40+ brain a bit (Boomers like to think things through before yapping off; part of our charm) here are some observations about the article and the point of view GenY has of us.

The world we inherited was screwed up too
The country was scared of the Godless communists who were going to ravage the countryside, stealing our resources, forcing Americans to bend to the will of Stalin and Khrushchev. If you grew up Catholic, the world was even worse because you had the US Government scaring you as well as the Vatican. We had fall-out shelter drills, we were shown films of nuclear holocaust and crazy Khrushchev beating his shoe on the desk at the UN. It was scary.

And, it was REAL because a greater percentage of our parents fought in WWII and Korea. They saw evil up close and were determined not to let us see that much evil that close up. But, many of the Boomers did see evil in Vietnam that was more savage than WWI and revolted in the only way they knew how; protest and civil disobedience.

Most GenYers don’t have parents who did active duty in any war. Most GenYers did not know rationing or very high unemployment or home mortgages that were 20% or higher. While you may know high debt, the debt as a ratio of income and assets is about the same as the Boomers cause we didn’t have as much “stuff” (iPods, laptops, DVD collections…..)

Technology did not exist
I find it ironic that GenYers are complaining about the mess that Boomers left for them to clean up using WiFi networks, laptop computers and open source software that was carved out of nothing by a Boomer generation. Interesting.

To find out how Boomers used to learn, rent The Paper Chase. It’s ok. You can Google it and then rent it on NetFlix.com. We Boomers won’t care that much that you don’t have it on VHS.

I don’t want this post to spiral into a “we used to walk three miles uphill in the snow” article, but for GenY to say they are inheriting a mess they need to clean up to to admit to not having a sense of history and perspective. Most things that GenY complains about are consequences of the human condition, not a product of what Boomers did to them.

Boomers were crapped on just as badly back in the day. Just different crap.

Google phone with T-Mobile.. Seriously??

The first cellphone running Google's Android software was unveiled Tuesday. (Reuters, stolen from wsj.com)
The first cellphone running Google's Android software was unveiled Tuesday. (Reuters, stolen from wsj.com)
Google unveiled the G1 phone today. Ok, that is good, but what is with these top tier companies like Apple and Google partnering up with crappy service providers like AT&T and T-Mobile?

The devices may be cool, but if there is no network attached to them or it takes minutes to send and read simple emails or bring up a web site that users are accustomed to loading quickly via their broadband connections, who cares? More than once in the past week, I can picked up my low-tech Razr with Verizon phone just to make simple phone calls and send text messages because my iPhone had that No Service message at the top.

Guys, pay attention to the network as much as you pay attention to the touch screen and phone apps. No network means no phone.

Oh, yeah.. and since Time Warner RoadRunner has been down for OVER A WEEK NOW, my Verizon wireless card has been going strong.

Pay attention to the news cycle and do something with it

Clever focus on Arizona, with McCain running for president
Clever focus on Arizona, with McCain running for president
Yesterday, I received the monthly issue of Association News, read the front cover and was immediately in awe of the level to which this organization is paying attention to the world around them.

One could say that the choice of featuring Arizona was merely coincidental or that the state was next on the calendar to be featured. OR, one could give these really clever, in-tune and aware folks credit for recognizing that if they were to include Arizona — the state John McCain is from — on the front cover, right about now in the election and news cycle and talk about it that they would get some lift in the blogs, Google News and just an overall heightened interest in Arizona by the otherwise complacent national media.

Just plain clever. I just hope they increased their circulation just a bit with the GOP events and their CPM to advertisers.

Laissez Faire

David Boaz with the Cato Institute wrote an article for the WSJ on Starbucks and their personalized card, where they rejected the term “laissez-faire” You can read it here. Mr. Boaz launches into a complicated argument about why, etc. and the real explanation is just a whole lot simpler than he posited.

Here it is: Starbucks is a victim of the lowest quality education this country has ever had. Here is how this whole thing probably went down.

The 20-something who was originally in charge of approving/declining the card got this funny-looking French phrase in. MAYBE he/she Googled it, but probably not. They rejected it because they did not know what it meant OR they remember somewhere in HS American History that it was a bad US policy that was the cause of the Great Depression or that is was an act of sedition against capitalism or some other silly explanation. So, probably Un-American, let’s not approve it. Then, with every other request, because it was originally declined, the next 20-something just had to look it up in the previously declined list and dutifully reject it without reason.

Simple, Mr. Boaz, eh? Sure beats assuming the people at Starbucks are reasoning these things out. No greater than the end-product of a truly laissez-faire educational system.