Friday, October 20, 2006

What should Google do next?

Jessica Mintz from the AP has a fun article asking a few entrepreneurs and analysts, "What should Google do next?"

An excerpt from the article:
Imagine you're Google right now: darling of Wall Street, $10 billion dollars in the bank, the brand-new owner of one of the hottest video-sharing sites on the map.

What would other high-tech entrepreneurs do now if they were running Google?

"There's so much work that needs to be done around search," [Technorati CEO Dave] Sifry said. [We need] "a Google of intention," driven by users' real-time needs.

Nick Denton, publisher of ... Gawker Media, wrote ... "I would get search working, because the results are cluttered with commercial rubbish that ought really to be in the advertising zone."

Henry Copeland, founder of the BlogAds network, wrote ... "Use the collective intelligence of its users to eradicate spam."

There were, of course, a few more outlandish ideas -- buying online auctioneer eBay Inc., for example -- as well as a few geeky ones involving free database design software.

But all in all, the consensus seems to be that Google needs stay focused -- deepen the moat around the core search business, as one analyst said.
I am briefly quoted in the article arguing that Google should go after e-commerce. I do think they should do that, but my complete response about what Google should do, appended below, emphasized core search and advertising more than e-commerce:
I would not stray far from Google's area of strength. Google is good at one thing, using technology to help people find the information they need. This job is far from done; abundant opportunities remain.

Aside from expanding their core search and advertising products with question answering, personalization, machine translation, and query refinement, Google should aggressively expand into e-commerce and look to helping content producers make money.

On e-commerce, Google should be helping people find and discover products they want to buy. Froogle, an early Google effort at shopping metasearch, has gone stagnant. This is an opportunity lost, a market the size of eBay and Amazon combined, and one that may grow to the size of Wal-mart. Google should be the first stop for anyone wanting to buy anything online.

On helping content producers, newspapers and magazines see their audience moving online, but are frustrated by the low revenues earned from an online audience. The market opportunity here is the size of the entire media business. Google already has taken a step toward helping small content producers with AdSense, but revenues and relevance need large gains to be able to support the mainstream media. Google should be expanding and improving its advertising network. Google needs to use techniques such as personalization and geolocation to make advertising more relevant, useful, and lucrative for content producers.

It is possible that Google could speed these initiatives along with large acquisitions -- acquiring, for example, would give a big boost in e-commerce -- but they will not. Instead, Google will use their $10B in cash to hire great people, continue building out their server cluster, and do hundreds of very small acquisitions. For the most part, Google will build instead of buying.

I realize my prediction may not be as exciting as a big merger or completely new initiative, but the right thing to do is not always exciting. I think this is what is mostly likely to build value and what Google is most likely to do.
What do you think? Did I miss a big opportunity for Google? Am I overestimating the value of e-commerce and helping content producers? What do you think Google should do next?


Unknown said...

I liked it. Personally, I agree that Google has to maintain its focus on core search quality.

John K said...

Build a merchant trust system that works like Ebay's used to.

Get rid of ad arbitrageurs. Eliminate the SpamSense world.

Build Digg for regular people.

Create an accurate version of Alexa, comScore and Hitwise combined.

And ... get rid of the quota and charges for the AdWords API

Anonymous said...

GOod suggestions.
+1 for a better Alexa
+1 for less spam
+1 for catching all those scammers polluting the web and loving AdSense.