is google going off ‘base’?

pi dont really get google base. why would i be motivated to post a review or (their example) recipe? is it to share with my 500 million closest friends? am i hoping to become famous for posting the best chicken tikka recipe? and what motivates me to search there for random stuff? why would i want to post my car for sale there instead of craigslist, tribe or a bunch of other places, especially when google already searches those places?

my other big question is whether google is opening this service to the same crawling it has benefitted from to the tune of $108 billion?  [craig donato, can you tell us whether oodle will soon be showing google base results?]

i have deep admiration (and envy) for google. and i believe the company has helped to recast a highly positive light on silicon valley both in showing that innovation can still generate great new mousetraps and in setting an amazing example of how to do corporate culture right. in its short history this company has done more to help the world through its products and google foundation than we’ll ever see from walmart.

however, i worry that google is acting too much like an MBA (or worse) microsoft. i have to admit i’ve held them to a higher standard. we all know that google is not an easy company to work with. many of us have tried and failed. with this product launch, google’s intent to own every business on the web seems crystal clear. i guess there’s nothing wrong with that, however,

my take is google has chosen between two paths. one which i thought they were on was to be a platform to enable great things on the web. google could have powered everything with its search engine, ad infrastructure, massive crawling and computing power. it could have been a democratizing force, enabling small services to flourish in being found and in serving them a platform on which to innovate.

instead google has chosen to be merely another big corporate titan. like microsoft, it’s choosing to go for the gold, enriching their shareholders rather than enabling industries. msft started with the promise of an open platform that would unite and enable an industry. small companies could just build software and stop worrying about platforms. this platform turned out to be a trojan horse as msft usurped its power. initially the company enjoyed great profit growth just selling the platform but soon had to look at the apps on top to keep growing and then further to the utilities around it and any other good idea it could eat up.

like msft, google is now going after every other oppty around it, taking advantage of its trojan horse position. suddenly every company is at risk. companies as far away as walmart have to have a ‘google strategy’. today, vc’s ask every new startup how they will compete with google. (at least we dont have to answer the msft question any more.)

google started with an amazing premise of doing no evil. i truly believe its founders want to help the world. my guess is that like many companies google will be a victim of its own success. like msft it will go hire the smartest people in the world. unfortunately, those people are often sharks and have less lofty goals, especially when they have yet to make their billions.

google base is a very msft mba approach to the world. while it makes business sense, it lacks soul. it does as little to help the community as bringing in a walmart. 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. and while it’s a beautiful day here in san francisco, it’s a sad one for me to see a company with so much promise to help the world, primarily focus on helping itself.

do we really want this form of capitalism? where companies like msft, walmart and now google pacman up industries, turning founders into billionaires who then hopefully make big philanthropic donations back to the community. is this sustainable capitalism? yes we live in a free market and yes we can choose how to come together as ants. united we stand, divided we work for google and walmart.

one last thought to all those ‘web 2.0’ers’ listening. WHEN ARE WE ALL GOING TO WAKE UP AND REALIZE THAT NONE OF US COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER? WE ALL COMPETE WITH GOOGLE, MSFT AND YAHOO. the only chance we have of enabling an independent industry is to come together, leverage s resources, create and protect a level playing field. otherwise, we are all in the business of creating great products in the hope we can sell to them before they build it. how fucking boring is that?

11 thoughts on “is google going off ‘base’?

  1. Interesting post Mark. I don’t think any entrepreneur wants to just build products and sell them to Google, Yahoo or Microsoft as their first choice.
    My question to you is – what does it mean when you say that none of us is comepeting with each other? How do we get together to create the level playing field that you talk about? What do you think we should do about it?

  2. Ok- 2 times in one day, I agree with Mr. Pincus.
    Google is an important company for everyone on the web. It has enabled Tolles and Skrenta at topix.net to monetize without alot of sale people and it has enabled small merchants like the Madison Street Inn to get new customers on the web without hiring a marketing staff. http://www.merchantcircle.com/business/Madison.Street.Inn.408-249-5541
    At some point, though the http://www.Oodle.com, http://www.Topix.net, Zevents, and http://www.Merchantcircle.com have to figure out how to operate in a world where Google is moving so fast. I guess we will all find out soon if Base is going to be allowed to be used to create new value on the web like what Google has encouraged with Map Mashups or if it is a threat.

  3. My question is how will the politics of indexing listings play out? For instance, will Tribe do deals with Craigslist or other similar competitors to enable one another to share listings because Google puts the fear of god in everyone?

  4. Mark,
    I really enjoy this blog…I think the best part about it is the sweaty beer drinking picture — brilliantly, it gets me in the mood for all the provocative bombast you care to spout. I especially like how it gets more unhinged as the post progresses –all fucking this, and allcaps THAT; I am guessing you are a whole hill of fun to go drinking with.
    Really, though, we aren’t really all on the same team, are we? Cause I’m thinking that maybe that sounds kind of like a bad idea.
    And actually, I’m thinking maybe we are just bashing Google because it has become awfully big and grossly rich –
    Fact of life: you can only get so large and so powerful before everyone turns against you — pretty much no matter what you do. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, as George Bush so gracefully demonstrated on the international stage in the past few years.
    So I say we give Google the benefit of the doubt…seems to me they are still acting pretty nimbly, which is impressive just by itself.
    As for me, I pretty grew out of my whole “Microsoft is Evil” weltunschaung when Steve Jobs took funding from Apple. My own personal “day the music died”. I mean, that just wouldn’t happen in the movie version — the Hero doesn’t all of a sudden decide he is going over to the Dark Side. Not to the bad guy who stole all of his best ideas? At least not without a healthy dollop of foreshadowing in the prequels. Unless, maybe, all that stuff was just so much fantasy bullshit.
    Which isn’t to say that the Microsoft bashers didn’t sometimes have a good point –heck, Microsoft sure did seem pretty scary… it squashed competition, and exploited its monopoly power to crush Netscape… and Bill showed he could turn the whole battleship around on a dime. Scary.
    But then, well, it got to a certain size, and it just couldn’t seem to grow any more. Started to give money back. The smarties started to cash out and leave. It made a not so scary entry into home gaming. And somebody just said it is now attracting “value investors”.
    And these other guys (Doerr, Clark, McNealy) who exhorted me to hate the Evil Empire and embrace the little guy, etc — well they did pretty well for themselves, too.
    So I’m skeptical that Google Base really qualifies for entry into your Geek Axis of Evil, or that I really need to heed the allcaps rallying cry to defeat the common enemy, just yet. Google, Walmart, whatever, can only get so big. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.
    So I think its going to be ok.
    Another round, on me.

  5. There remains value at the entry points, content entry points that is. What CareerBuilder does for employers is not something that Google will soon do. Today, however, CB still gets lots of visitor traffic from Google, so why will that change when it comes in the form of visits from structured entries into GoogleBase? Google enables direct links to publishers’ sites from any listing result in GoogleBase (check out their cars for sale listings). So why is this bad again?…and who’s business are they taking away?
    There’s a bigger Semantic Web play at hand here. Google will not have the time to offer the content acquisition tools for all of the industries (nor most) which they serve. It’s easier for them to team up w/local yellow pages sales force for getting at local AdSense than to build up their own. It’s easier for them to ease listing providers’ ability to upload their listings, than to try to create all of the tools and services for satisfying large companies’ needs in the management of their uploaded listings.
    The aggregators are getting to play a role, but commercial listing providers still play an important part in this eco-system, and neither Google nor Oodle will satisfy this in the near term.

  6. Can Newspapers be the Target of Online?

    From Susan Mernit:Mark’s got some thoughtful comments on the Borg–oops, I meant Google:google base is a very msft mba approach to the world. while it makes business sense, it lacks soul. it does as little to help the community as

  7. Ganging Up on Google

    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….

  8. The Borg Assimilate Mountain View

    Susan Mernit offers flashbacks to ST:TNG when she refers to Google as “The Borg” while referencing a very interesting post about the mammoth from Mountain View written by Tribe Networks co-founder Mark Pincus. Pincus writes: pi dont really get google…

  9. Great post, and I feel your sentiments. But like Kid Croesus, I don’t think it’s time yet.
    I just got back from Webmasterworld’s Pubcon (conference for independent webmasters – the “real” little guy), and Google is definitely still “a democratizing force, enabling small services to flourish in being found and in serving them a platform on which to innovate.”
    I think people underestimate the impact of Google Adense. It has enabled millions of hobby sites to pay for their hosting costs, and thousands of independents to make good money. G also announced that it’s giving away Urchin and providing much better tools in their Sitemaps functionality – investments that will make the life of the independent Webmaster much easier, and yes, help them to improve their income.
    So while they may be going for the whole enchilada with things like Google Base, they are still enabling the entire content publishing industry.
    And I wouldn’t be so quick to write craigslist off – from my experience, features / functionality won’t beat features / functionality / community.

  10. @Ben: I think what Mark really means is that Google should not dominate the fields alone. Although indeed its adsense program has helped many webmaster to ‘earn a living’, Google has more and more becoming an unchallengable behemoth just like WalMart and MSFT used to be.

  11. I read your comments and you are right on. The information age is just starting but I think it is very intellectually naive to think that somehow it will be different than other major changes in business. Why would they do differently? The reason to start a business in the first place is to enrich the owners. Google is like Wal-Mart is one huge sense. It is/will be everything to everyone and bury the little guy. They are using the same methods to get rich driving down costs to other businesses and consumers, only in the online world….I know two business schools that actually are looking at WalMart offline and Google online and the business models are strikingly similar.
    I was at a VC meeting in which everyone said the one thing a new company gets asked is “Is Google doing this, or can they?” Why go against the giant.
    Welcome to capitalism bro. Someone someday will build the next Google (can you say trillion dollar idea) and knock Google down if they don’t run afoul of anit-trust laws which is how Microsoft did business (although things are changing).
    Google has just ascended to their position faster than any other company before it.

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