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Google this is your wakeup call

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 by Dave Winer.

I'm reading various reports on Google's announcments about search today, and it sounds scattered and totally uninspiring. And I might add, disappointing. Permalink to this paragraph

Google is today a big company, and it seems to lack the resolve to go into middle age with any passion. If ever there was a time to show some exciting new features for search, this was it -- and none of it was in any way exciting.  Permalink to this paragraph

When Google came along, the CEOs of the existing search companies didn't pay much attention. They probably didn't understand what was so exciting about Google. It was very much like the way the leaders of the minicomputer industry reacted to the early PC, at first dismissive, then with arrogance. Their products seemed to assume they would overcome the challenge, and none of them did. The only one to make the transition was IBM, and then a few years later they would try to lock in the users, and finally lose out to the new companies that had cloned their products. Permalink to this paragraph

Twitter is that kind of generational challenge to Google. They have no choice but the same one IBM had with the Apple II, and Microsoft had with Netscape. They must compete, with a respectful product, one that is compatible with Twitter, and gives users a benefit of coming from a strong mature company. The time for this product is passing every week, as Twitter stabilizes and delivers a reliable service. Google's clone should have come out last summer when Twitter was having trouble keeping their servers up.  Permalink to this paragraph

If I could talk to the management at Google, I would tell them to stop everything, go away for a week, and learn how to use Twitter, yourself. Get an inkling of what is so exciting and different about it. You can't get the gestalt by looking at the features, you have to see how people are using it and who they are. It's not about Oprah or Ashton Kutcher, it's about the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, and a hundred NY Times reporters who are breaking their company's rules by using Twitter the way bloggers were telling them to use the web. Twitter is in many ways the realization of the full promise made by blogging so many years ago. It's really exciting to see it come to fruition, but it's also depressing that it's all happening inside one company's environment. I don't honestly think it can work that way.  Permalink to this paragraph

Google! You can't afford to stay on the sidelines. It's an urgent issue for your company. And pretty soon it won't be an issue at all.  Permalink to this paragraph

When Netscape came along in 1994, I wrote a blistering piece about how the Internet had made Microsoft irrelevant. Bill Gates wrote back asking if this meant they'd sell any fewer Flight Simulators or CD-ROM encyclopedias. That wasn't the point. Google's search revenue won't feel the rise of Twitter for many more quarters. But the place people turn to for news is shifting. It never was Google, that wasn't something it ever did well. But it is something Twitter does, and at this point it doesn't do it very well. But the path is very clear, the information they need now flows through their servers. They just have to figure out the user interface. They will eventually figure it out. That's the half of the problem that Google already knows how to solve. But Google doesn't have the users. None of its products have the kind of flow that Twitter has, nor the growth that Twitter has. That's what Google has to get busy building. Once Twitter is delivering the news search that Google can't, it will be way too late. This is probably what the Google management doesn't understand because they aren't using Twitter themselves. And if they're like most other big companies, their employees don't want to tell them what they're missing, assuming they know. Permalink to this paragraph

To Gates's credit, a few weeks after his lame excuse, he figured it out, and had his famous December analyst meeting where he outlined how he would attack the Internet. Unfortunately for all of us, but especially Netscape, an attack wasn't what was needed, support and love from a mature leader would have worked much better. But at least he woke up. There's no sign at all that Google is aware of the challenge. Permalink to this paragraph

Back in the early days of the net Stewart Alsop would write these open letters to Bill Gates and Jim Manzi telling them what they were missing. I guess for Google in 2009, that job has fallen to me. ";->" Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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