Google's recipe: to serve man?
The odds are pretty good that many of you found this article with the help of a large technology firm based on the West Coast. The odds also suggest that many of you will move on from this page to sites or services operated by the same company -- and that you may also use this firm's software to do so.
Ten years ago, the company in question could easily have been Microsoft. Back then, I wrote a long, somewhat angst-ridden column decrying the extent of this Redmond, Wash.-based empire: "It's easy to spend your entire day using Microsoft software and content, with every dime you spend going through a Microsoft server somewhere. Where does it all stop?"
Today's column uses similar language -- "You can easily spend a full day on the Web without leaving its sites or applications" -- to assess the reach and influence of a technology firm that only merited a one-paragraph review in January 1999.
That corporation, of course, is Google. Since my first, cheery description (its closing line "Bonus: Google, still in testing, has no ads" now seems unintentionally hilarious, given where Google makes its money), this Mountain View, Calif., firm has taken up an ever-increasing share of my coverage.
This week, Google announced improved, turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation software for upcoming smartphones running Google's Android software. The subsequent beat-down that stock markets administered to shares of GPS vendors started me thinking about Google's influence over the rest of the tech industry: When it says "jump," do other companies run a Web search for "how high?"
My answer, as you can read in today's piece, is that Google has yet to reach a Microsoft-esque dominance over the technology business. In some cases, it can knock out competitors in a hurry; in others, its product remains in third or fourth place. Here are the ComScore numbers I alluded to in the story; these cover the U.S. Internet audience at home, work and school in September, rounded to the nearest thousand:
- Yahoo! Mail: 105,458,000
- Windows Live Hotmail: 48,962,000
- Gmail: 39,251,000
- Google Maps: 51,996,000
- MapQuest: 39,801,000
- Yahoo! Maps: 10,457,000
- Facebook.com Photos: 44,796,000
- Flickr: 24,657,000
- Photobucket.com: 22,171,000
- Picasa Network: 9,701,000
So for now, I'm comfortable relying on Google for some, but not all, of my Internet services. (My major exceptions are personal and work e-mail, photo sharing, travel searches, personal finance and social networking -- but note that Google doesn't even have a viable product in some of those categories. Well, yet.)
Are you actually worried about any of this stuff, or have you learned to stop worrying and love Google? Is fretting over this company's success just a hobby of pointy-headed liberal media elites? Talk to me in the comments -- and in my Web chat, starting today at noon.
October 30, 2009; 11:07 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture , Policy and politics
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