We're piloting a new feature on Read/WriteWeb, called Point/Counterpoint. It's where two authors (John Milan and Alex Iskold in this case) argue two sides of an intriguing question. We'd also like you, the reader, to contribute YOUR thoughts in the comments section. Who do you agree with the most - John or Alex - and why?
John Milan: Can Google take over the internet? By many indications, they have already taken over the access point: search. Just like stepping on the gas in your car, Google search is making the Internet go for most of the 1.1 billion internet users in the world. However, unlike automotive manufacturers, Google has found a way to get revenue - every time you look at a billboard on the information superhighway. As such, Google's network effect is monetizing the world's largest network.
Alex Iskold: Google has certainly got a huge head start in the search/ad game and there is no challenger on the horizon. But that does not mean Google can take over and own the entire Internet. It is no longer the Microsoft/PC era where customers have no choice. Today's environment is far more agile, allowing customers to be highly selective and receive different services from different sites. Just because Google search is great and Gmail is good, does not mean that people will use Froogle.
The Web is a huge creative playground and far wider than the PC world, so Google is not going to be the best in all major market segments.
John Milan: Yes but Google's incredible feedback loop is being fed not so much by consumers on the net, but by businesses pouring dollars into the world's most efficient marketing machine. Just to underscore how important Google's AdWords system is to business today, I recently paused my company's Google AdWords program in order to perform an experiment. As a result, our traffic immediately went down 33%. This tells me three things:
1) Smaller businesses rely on Google to draw traffic to their
2) Traditional media and traditional partner programs are under severe pressure;
3) My experiment won't last very long!
I can only assume Google search and AdWords are as effective for other businesses.
Alex Iskold: AdWords is very strong, but the Retail market is difficult to break into and in that market Google does not have a big play. The only seemingly realistic entry is via Froogle and Checkout - where goods from many sites are aggregated onto one page. But that can never result in the complete user experience like Amazon. So catching up in the retail space is a difficult exercise.
John Milan: I think Google is shooting much higher than retail margins. And unless Microsoft quickly shows that its Live initiative is in fact alive (where is Live in the Microsoft cloud?), businesses will more and more eschew traditional media for Google's online empire. Just as Windows provided Microsoft with virtually limitless capital to create applications, Google's search and AdWords cash engine will create more interesting internet properties for even more users to explore.
Alex Iskold: I am not convinced, because the basic UIs of Google have limited application. Google is known for its ascetic approach to UI and it works well at times, but certainly not in all cases. For example, a music or movie website needs to be content-rich and have bells and whistles. A lot of people do not like the bare look of Google and want more powerful, perhaps even an Apple-like, experience online. Whether or not Google can deliver such experiences is a big question.
John Milan: I agree Google's spartan approach is an issue. However, they have done rich desktop apps like Google Desktop and Google Talk. There's certainly nothing preventing them from creating more rich apps, both on the web and on the desktop. So can Google take over the Internet? Which is more powerful: 250 million new PCs per year running browsers, or 1.1 billion users per day performing searches?