where Google is vulnerable?

John Battelle asked Steve Berkowitz and Jim Lanzone where Google was vulnerable at the Web 2.0 conference on Wednesday. Either they knew and weren't sharing or they really didn't know the answer because neither gave good answers. I'm going to think the former. Let me tell you what I think and I'll answer this in three parts.

Part 1

The main components of a general Web search engine are: speed, relevancy, and comprehensiveness. Mastering these elements make for a great search engine/great search product. These characteristics were defined a good while ago. Speed is speed. Relevancy has a lot of leeway and has much room for improvement. Comprehensiveness is how good and complete (breadth/size) is your data source as well as what vertical searches you offer e.g. government search, subject specific search, map search, local search, etc.

What makes up the rest of a search engine is marketing and distribution.

Part 2

I'm a big Google fan for various reasons. One of the biggest reasons is Google gets it. What Google delivers in their search results is the Internet. What I mean is when I search for something, say directions, I get results from Google Maps, MapQuest, and Yahoo! Maps because that's what I was looking for. In contrast, when searching Yahoo!, it's about Yahoo! services first, then the Internet second; same with AOL Search and Live.com. (It's called driving recirculation.) I'm not sure if the search engines get it. This is also the "I can't put a finger on why I like Google, but I like Google a lot." Well it's because they're giving you or like to make you think that what they're giving you is the Web.*

Google also understands how the game is played. It's an ops game and Google understand ops. They also understand the fundamental concept of referrals and how the Web is a referral monster, in other words, ad machine.

Finally, there are a lot of "haters" out there now. It's just human nature. But what I'd prefer to see is that people take note of what Google is doing and really step up to the plate. It's not just copying their homepage to make it simple and clean, it's about copying some of the same values.

Part 3

Google is vulnerable in several places:

1) International, they aren't globally dominant. Other search engines are better than Google and Yahoo! in other areas of the world. In country companies have a distinct advantage just because Google is a US based company. Also note that the ad market is great in the US and in some other countries but isn't as mature and isn't the same structure in many countries.

2) Distribution. At the end of they day, Google still has to go through Firefox or Internet Explorer or some other browser or some other client. The food chain is PC, OEM/ISP, Browser, then Search engines and web sites.

3) Completeness. Google can get locked out of various markets because they may not have access to the data or content. Let's say Yahoo! or MSFT buys NAVTEQ, the content provider for Google Maps and every Maps service around. Guess who's up a creek.

* This may change as Google starts hosting more and more content.  They may start giving preferential treatment to their own services and content.  They may also give this preferential treatment unknowingly by working with the content folks they acquire e.g. blogger, YouTube and helping them optimize for the Google search algorithms.  If we see "recirculation" coming out of Google, that may be the start of their decline as a preferred engine and opens up the opportunity for someone else.

7 Replies to “where Google is vulnerable?”

  1. I think MSFT or Yahoo should buy NAVTEQ. Yes…that is definitely the way to go. At least, the people at Tele Atlas would think so.

  2. Google's vulnerability, despite its pervasiveness, lay in its ability to return truly relevant search results. As note above, "Relevancy has a lot of leeway and has much room for improvement", and Google's definition of relevance is inconsistent with users of its varied search engines (Internet, enterprise, etc.).

    Google vulnerable … you bet. Here come a handfull of vertical search engines that innovating new technologies that welcome and engage searchers.

  3. I love google and very impressed how they inovate on everyday basis and make our lives more intersting. I think they are far ahead of their
    rivals and their market is very far from saturation.

  4. It's not haters.

    It's simply people trying to maintain a balance. Someone put it beautifully in response to Blake's post (from where I followed you here) Google is MS 2.0. That said, they will never face an anti-trust lawsuit as long as they deliver right and don't redistribute.

    Which is what they seem to be doing more of these days. They claim they are not a portal and yet you see these tiny links that point to 'other Google services.' Oh and BTW this is not a rant, it's just that I find it so hypocritical, and yet I can't escape it. I use their services everyday and I know I can't use anything else now. I see history repeating itself. Except this time, the name's different.

    Or maybe, it's just the damn perspective.

    Regards,
    Shri.

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