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Ganging Up on Google

Posted by: Rob Hof on November 18, 2005

Is it me, or does it seem like Google-bashing is the newest sport? People everywhere seem to be finding lots of shortcomings in the Internet search giant’s dealings lately. And this time it’s not just publishers, but fellow tech folks.

After finding both Google Base and Google analytics wanting, VC Fred Wilson concludes: “Google is lame.” Mike Arrington says “yuck” to Google Base. Ethan Stock of Zvents, frustrated with how Google’s managing its acquired analytics service, explodes:

“Google isn’t acting like a real business, they are acting like an over-enthusiastic Golden Retriever puppy. Oh, they just knocked the vase off the table with their tail, but aren’t they cute? Um, no. Google, grow up.”

Mark Pincus really lays it on, saying that Base shows they’ve become “merely another big corporate titan.” He continues:

“Like Microsoft, it’s choosing to go for the gold, enriching their shareholders rather than enabling industries. … In fact, Google feels a like Walmart today. Once the excitement over trying out their latest release wears off we are left with the realization that they are going to ultimately put the corner grocer (being craigslist) out of business, and suck value out of an economy not add back.”

Me, I’m not sure why anybody assumed that a corporation, especially a successful one, would ever act in anything but its self-interest. That’s not necessarily evil, it’s just what corporations do, whether you like it or not. (And no, I don’t especially like it all the time either.) But you know what? Investors seem to like it, since Google’s stock just hit an all-time high.

Still, I think Google’s problem, such as it is, is that it’s sort of like the archetypal Silicon Valley engineers it hires: wicked smart but sometimes socially inept. “Google’s the purest embodiment of innovation for its own sake,” Netflix CEO Reid Hastings noted yesterday—not typical of Valley companies but instead far out on the tech edge of the Valley’s business-technology spectrum. As funny as it sounds for a company that seems to mint money, business—meaning building relationships with other businesses—actually comes second. Sounds like that’s going to have to change a little bit.

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Reader Comments


November 18, 2005 10:04 AM

It's just the age old tradition of building something up and then tearing it down. The old "they're getting too big for their britches" thing.

Chris Parente

November 18, 2005 04:19 PM

How much do you think it's just sour grapes? The banking community is still smarting over the dutch auction IPO, and fear the model may catch on. And plenty of people who thought $80 was too rich look pretty dumb now.

Google should be criticized logically. Like their move into government search -- their popularity based search model is great for advertising, but not suited to the government market. But they are trying to muscle their way in.


November 20, 2005 04:51 AM

Google is more hype than is apparent. There isn't a single thing it has done on its own other than the core search engine which was built 8 years ago. Almost everything else it has was acquired.

People are always looking for sensationalism and Google is no different. I won't be surprised if Microsoft dishes out same treatment to Google as it did to Netscape

mark pincus

November 21, 2005 11:49 AM


fair points, however, the new web world isnt just about the corporation. it's one based on community and collaboration. there may be a new model of community capitalism where it's not ok to be a walmart and in the long run you are screwing your shareholders if you fail to take care of a growing class of equally important constituents, your community.

google became great by placing a maniacal focus on its users over all others. they chose to go without obnoxious banner ads for this reason.

we are seeing community power on the rise. many local towns are rejecting walmart despite massive political campaigns. google is at a cross roads. they can choose to maximize short term profits and stock price but they seem to be a better company than that. that's why they set it up with the two classes of stock.

my belief is that the google founders will override the mba's. they will see that they are drifting from their roots. my belief is that the new grounds for competition amongst msft, goog and yahoo will be over who is more 'open' and who is a better community participant. they cant ignore the success of craigslist. terry semel recently argued his company was more 'open' than google.

google's missteps represent a great oppty for ebay which we recently saw announce free access to its web service api's.

people can write my comments off as just the whining of an entrepreneur with an ax to grind, however, history will always tell the truth. i am confident it will prove that we do in fact live in a new world with new rules; that companies like walmart and the idea of serving shareholders and customers without regard for your broader community are very last century.

mark pincus

Rob Hof

November 21, 2005 12:36 PM

Marc, thanks for responding. Yes, I too hope that Google in particular and businesses in general will take the community more into account, because in the long run, that's good for everybody (including the companies). My point was that being a corporation by definition (legally!) requires that entity to serve shareholders. But there are many ways, good and bad, to get there. I hope and expect you're right that if corporations abuse their trust, people out there who now have more power will call them on it, and force them to do the right thing.


November 28, 2005 04:59 PM

We are still talking about the beta versions of the Google services. It looks like people forget this and expect a flawless service while it still is in beta.
It could be that services in beta don't fit anymore with the current image of Google. Maybe it's time for complete in-house testing at Google and skipping a public beta.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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