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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

One reason Google will never fail!

What Google came up with in 1998 didn't make sense to a lot of people. It was a hard sell; hard enough that the co-founders thought they would hit a jackpot by selling the company for $1 million to Excite in early 1999. They had solved a problem which everyone thought didn't exist in the first place. "Search Engine? Who needs that?" In fact, the Adwords money machine (revenue model of putting in ads with search terms) was brought home years later.

Only time told that what they did was marvelous. Despite everyone's lack of foresight, they continued to fix what was a real problem (lack of a decent search mechanism on the Internet). Today, a lot of people seem skeptical about the company's ability to grow and compete with startups in different domains. Lars Rasmussen has been quoted as saying that "Getting Things Done" is now a problem at Google. The failure of Google Wave and the recent resignations at Google (particularly, the heavy employee migration from Google to Facebook) are quoted as symptoms of the problem but I don't agree.

The biggest reason Google will never fail is that they have the means and desire to attack problems which no one else is thinking of. These are the problems which either people haven't realized till now or they think they are unsolvable with state of the art tools. This, on the other hand, is the core strength of Google---they are the ones defining the state of the art---and this ability doesn't seem to have fallen apart over the years. Let me give you some examples. Even the best computer science and engineering guys would agree that these problems are extremely hard to address on a commercial scale. Mind you, this is not an exhaustive list.

Desktop Products

So everyone thought that the browser wars were over; Microsoft's Internet Explorer was the winner. What Google did with V8 Javascript engine in Chrome was mind blowing to say the least. It has been dubbed as "insanely fast," and thus, Google spurred a new era of "faster is better."

Picasa, the web albums and desktop tool, does "facial recognition." The tool lets you tag pictures, and once you tag a person's picture it automatically detects pictures of the same person in your albums. Try it and you'll be floored.

Less Famous Google's Investments

Driverless Cars: It's not science fiction. They have driven 140,000 miles with these driverless cars.

Google Refine: Create structure out of data! So, you have data and you want to create structure out of it? How abstract is that a problem to solve. Try Google Refine.

Google Transit: If you are from a developing country (like me), you will surely appreciate the level of detail available in Google Maps, and the help available with Google Transit. Developed countries, of course, already have much advanced navigation systems in use.


The Awesomeness Factor

  1. Google can tell you that your typical search query produces 0.2g of CO2. Is there any other company on the planet which can beat that kind of detail?
  2. Which software/ internet services company designs and builds its own servers?
  3. Which internet company generates power for itself?


Google's Hamina (Finland) data center

Lastly, it's not that Google doesn't have any problems. No business in this world is infinitely scalable. Cracks appear when you go from a 2 employees company to a thousands one. There will always be a new challenger who is leaner and meaner (hint: Facebook for ad revenue). But what's important to ask is "Do you still hold your forte?" and "Is your forte still relevant?" After all, hasn't Microsoft have a wonderful Q3 revenue despite everyone thinking that the company has gone too bureaucratic to do anything cool?