Chrome Not Yet a Platform

This is perhaps the biggest exposed flank that Google has with Chrome:

Extensions could be a critical weakness. Google doesn’t have a great track record for bringing out the community to participate in its projects, and without the extensive plug-in catalog that Firefox has collected, Chrome won’t displace it.

[From Chrome: Nice, But Not a “Killer” Browser Just Yet – GigaOM]

Platforms are declared all the time, but it is only in the few that we see legitimate community supported platforms as evidenced by extensive third party add-ons and extensions. Firefox is just such a platform.

In the end it may matter little to the mass market because while I don’t have any statistics on the rate of extension/plug-in uptake in firefox, I can’t imagine it’s a large percentage of the overall user base. But that number could in fact be significant and just as the act of downloading and installing a new browser did not dramatically limit Firefox, the act of extending Firefox with a plug in may be more common than I am allowing and in that case Google will have a challenge if they are interoperating with Firefox extensions.

I won’t switch to Safari even though it is faster than Firefox by a wide margin because I can’t take my extensions and plug-ins with me. Here’s my list of must-have extensions and plug ins:

  • Feedly
  • Session Manager
  • Better Gmail 2
  • Google Notebook
  • Flip4Mac and Quicktime
  • Silverlight

I am also using a really neat extension from Outwit to extract data from web pages, like HTML tables into Excel, links and feeds, and source code.

AAPL Worth More than GOOG

And it’s a completely worthless comparison. Two companies in very different markets and subject to different economic factors related to costs and who buys their products. Lastly, it’s not a zero sum game folks… traders buying AAPL ain’t selling off their GOOG positions as a consequence. It’s also worth pointing out that AAPL is a hell of a lot more volatile than GOOG, a factor which taken in isolation drives more trading in the stock.

On Wall Street, the phenomenal popularity of the phone has fuelled a 44% surge in Apple’s share price in 12 months. By the close of trading on Wednesday, Apple’s market value had edged up to $158.8bn – a shade ahead of Google’s $157.2bn.

[From Google pipped – Apple the new king of Silicon Valley as market value overtakes hi-tech rival | Technology | The Guardian]

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Google Ad Planner

Look out comScore, Nielsen, and Hitwise. Anytime a company like Google puts out a product that is functionally rich and does it for free, the companies that sell something similar are going to suffer. This happened when Google Analytics came out, it will happen here.

What will be interesting to watch is how companies that are offering ad spend analytics will adjust to accommodate Google. I am thinking Rubicon Project and AdMeld specifically. It may be that these companies are not affected because they are optimizing spend across a portfolio of ad networks, of which over 300 exist to chose from.

To make your life easier, we’re introducing Google Ad Planner, a research and media planning tool that connects advertisers and publishers. When using Google Ad Planner, simply enter demographics and sites associated with your target audience, and the tool will return information about sites (both on and off the Google content network) that your audience is likely to visit. You can drill down further to get more detail like demographics and related searches for a particular site, or you can get aggregate statistics for the sites you’ve added to your media plan.

[From Inside AdWords: Introducing Google Ad Planner]

Censorship For Some but Not Others

“Senator Lieberman stated his belief, in a letter sent today, that all videos mentioning or featuring these groups should be removed from YouTube — even legal nonviolent or non-hate speech videos,” the statement said. “While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone’s right to express unpopular points of view.”

[From YouTube won’t take down all Islamist video –]

I guess Lieberman should have had the Chinese government send the letter to Google, those videos would be gone gone gone by now. This is the problem that Google created for themselves when they decided that censorship with a business objective wasn’t such a bad thing.

I’m pretty much black-and-white on this specific issue, if your group is an affirmed terrorist group then you have opted-out of civil society and don’t get to enjoy privileges like free speech. They are privileges in this context by the way, the Bill of Rights affirms rights you are endowed with and government must demonstrate a compelling interest before restraining you, but when it comes to private companies and properties they own, the only rights you have are declared in the terms of service and in a patchwork of laws created to address individual rights, e.g. data privacy, in a commercial setting.

The last time I checked, Congress has passed no law that permits as-Sahab or al-Furquan to enjoy the same protections as I do when posting to Youtube. Google is wrong on this issue, just as they were with China and ironically for the same reason even though it would appear the roles are reversed. They allow the Chinese government to exercise censorship for the purposes of control and they are allowing terrorist groups to operate on Youtube in a manner that promotes their own fascist agenda.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Facebook and Myspace deciding for us that some offensive language must be bleeped out. I actually find this just as troubling and I’m not hesitant about observing that I have put myself in a moral quandary here by endorsing policing of content in one instance while not in another.

If you ever get the itch to use the word “yuwie” or perhaps make reference to “” – don’t bother. “Some of the content you included in this message is not allowed by Facebook,” is the message you’ll get in response. Both of the above are small social networks, but you can’t even send a message about how something disgusting (like’s site design) made you say “yuwie, that smells bad!” On principle, the whole thing stinks.

In thinking it through I find myself drawing a line between private messaging systems and broadcast networks. While it is morally repugnant for Google to allow terrorist organizations to use Youtube to broadcast their propaganda, it would be equally repugnant for Google to filter out these same groups from Gmail messages. Google has a responsibility to monitor Youtube, while they have no business snooping in anyone’s email without a court order to do so.

Facebook seems to be taking an interesting stance, aggressively filtering private email messages while not seeming to care about what is posted on public message boards. While Marshall and I may disagree on the finer points in this debate, I do agree with him that there needs to be a much greater degree of transparency about how social networks are operating and what rules they are enforcing.

Yahoo! — Putting the “Open” in OpenSocial

Great news for Yahoo and even better news for OpenSocial, possibly even eclipsing the coup that was getting Myspace in. Given the momentum that OpenSocial has right now in terms of container support, it’s hard to imagine that much will happen to slow it down this year. Competing initiatives, like Insoshi, just don’t have the geography coverage that Google does and in that absence of homegrown initiatives at any of the big container partners, it’s likely they will throw their full weight behind OpenSocial.

I ran into Kevin Marks last night at a social event and we talked a little about this. I would look for the emphasis to shift to app developers and marketers who wish to add a social aspect to their projects and are increasingly realizing that just “being there” is not enough of an answer. For app developers, there needs to be a focus on lowering the cost of porting from one platform to another, and one container to another, which is often assumed to be a freebie.

For those of my friends who’ve been wondering what I’ve been so heads-down on lately, I’m happy to finally share the news that Yahoo! has announced support for the development of OpenSocial, by working with MySpace and Google to set up an independent foundation for its long-term stewardship. I hope this will turn out to be OpenSocial’s best “container” yet.

[From Greg Cohn’s Weblog : » Yahoo! — Putting the “Open” in OpenSocial]

That’s Gotta Hurt

What the market gives… the market takes away. Charts are fun, check out Citigroup vs. Google for the last 3 months. To be fair, if you stretch it out 6 months GOOG doesn’t look nearly as bad as Citi until you consider that the decline from the peak of GOOG over that time to today is the same 60% swing that Citi experienced. VMW has actually declined faster and at times with breath-stopping plunges over the same period of time. We saw this same behavior in 2001-02… if history is any guide I wouldn’t expect it to stop in the near term. We could watch GOOG get crushed down to 200 would be my back-of-the-napkin guess.


Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail: Houston, we have a problem

Glad to hear I’m not alone…. here, here, and here. I’m posting the link in entirety for emphasis and to point out once again that Google has a lot to answer for with the spastic approach to end user support featuring negligible communication, cryptic “maintenance” messages, and most significantly, contact on their terms only.

Ironically, I am using Apple Mail primarily because the fear of my gmail account getting blown away is terrifying (over 15k messages) so my desktop mail client gives me a backup of the message store.

This is at least my third mention of a problem between Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail, but I’m raising it again because many others have the same issue and I believe resolution is near. Switching from my hosted Exchange server to Gmail’s IMAP service has worked well in general, but for no apparent reason it just tanked for me about three weeks ago. There were no changes in my environment, nor to Mac Mail and I suspected something changed on the server side.

I spent the next several days doing my own testing and isolated the issue occurrence only when Mac Mail was running. No other client caused the delivery delays and constant message caching I was witnessing. My next step was to share my information directly with the Gmail support folks and over the past three weeks, I’ve written well over 1,000 words to them presenting the evidence in detail. It probably shouldn’t have taken that much effort, but I really don’t mind because I believe I finally got their attention on the right information. Here’s what they said:

“We are aware of this problem, and our engineers are working diligently to implement a solution for all users. We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused.

In the meantime, during the course of our investigation, we’ve identified specific technical circumstances that would allow us to implement a fix for your particular account by placing it under maintenance for up to an hour. You’ll be unable to access your account during this time. Please respond to this message if you’d like us to implement the fix, and also please provide general timeframes and dates during which the maintenance of your account would be least inconvenient.”

I provided them with the OK to take my account down and then proceeded to have no e-mail access for appproximately 18 hours… not the 1 hour I was told. I actually didn’t mind because that tells me all the more that there’s an issue between Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail. Unfortunately, I saw no change in the mail behavior after the maintenance, which was reinforced by the next message from the Gmail support team:

“We regret that your account will require additional maintenace in order to resolve this issue.

Please note that your account will be placed under maintenance again starting at 5:00 pm Pacific Time. We’ll make every effort to complete the maintenance as soon as possible, but please note you won’t be able to access your account for several hours while it is under maintenance.”

I set up a time for that maintenance (yesterday), but didn’t see the account go down. It was just under maintenance a short while ago for a brief time, so I’m hoping that the issue is now resolved. If so, I anticipate a note from the support team indicating it is. If I’m correct in my premise that there’s an issue that’s more global than just my account, I expect it will get quietly fixed on the back end although I’d hope for some public information to come from Google. Needless to say, I’ll be happy when it is resolved. I can avoid the problem by keeping Mac Mail closed and using the web or other clients, but I like to have choices about what clients I want to use.

[From Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail: Houston, we have a problem] To Become Search Site for Women

My first reaction was WTF, but this actually could be a winning strategy. However, just being a search site for women isn’t enough, they have to figure out a strategy for building community around women. In the final equation this just proves that being as good as Google isn’t enough to beat Google, as is the case with most competitive struggles.

In a dramatic about-face, is abandoning its effort to outshine Internet search leader Google Inc. and will instead focus on a narrower market consisting of married women looking for help managing their lives.

[From lays off 40 in makeover as women’s site]

Act 2: Buyer’s Remorse

Yesterday I wrote about the Techmeme blogger reaction to Google Sites, basically critical of it because it’s a pattern that is all too familiar: Google comes out with something new or updated and says it’s x or y and A-list blogger first reaction is to throw the company up on their shoulders and take a victory lap. There is little critical analysis.

I have been spending a lot of time in Sharepoint and when I read the various blog posts calling Sites a Sharepoint killer, it was evident to me that most of these commenters had never even seen Sharepoint, much less actually have used it. Sharepoint isn’t a wiki (which is basically what Sites is), so to compare Sites to Sharepoint on the basis of Sites superior wiki-ness begins with a false premise.

Even if Sites were competitively superior to Sharepoint on the basis of product features, that alone would not be enough.

Google’s competitive weakness with regard to Microsoft in SMB and enterprise accounts is partly due to the fact that their apps are lightweight when compared, but is more due to the account control that Microsoft holds as a key asset. Sharepoint is sold into SMB and enterprise accounts as a bundle, an up-sell to existing account, or offered as an incentive to get something else. Google simply doesn’t have the ground operation that Microsoft has, nor quite frankly the resources to build it.

What I mean by this last statement is that Google is starting to come under increased scrutiny with regard to expansion plans. As their search advertising business levels off the level of scrutiny they face will only grow, which means that spending a few billion dollars to build out a true enterprise sales and channel organization, or acquire one, which is likely to take years before returns are seen, is something they are not well positioned to do right now.

In my opinion, their original assumption was that they could flank Microsoft with the Google search appliance straight into IT and end users adopting applications as a guerilla insurgency within the enterprise. That simply hasn’t happened and probably won’t. Search appliance is doing well but those IT groups have little say in what business applications are adopted, and users as well as business decision makers have little incentive to risk going with Google when Microsoft is proven and already there.

Furthermore, the total cost of an application represents a package of associated items, the least of which is the license, so going with Google apps still means you incur support, training, and administration costs. If Google wants to really beat Microsoft in the enterprise then they are going to have to execute a full frontal assault, something they are ill-prepared to do.

I started out this post writing about the lack of critical analysis in the blogosphere, but an interesting thing tends to happen as the day goes on with announcements like this. Below is a snapshot of Techmeme later in the day when a number of bloggers started showing up with a “hold on cowboy” message that does reflect a more sober look at what Google is doing.

Maybe instead of criticizing the lack of critical analysis, I should modify that to suggest it’s a lack of immediate critical analysis that I find troubling. The problem with the blogosphere, like media, is that there is a race to be first rather than to be the most complete. TechCrunch has built a nice franchise on scoops and breaking news, and as a consequence everyone rushes to be a part of that early group.

What does all this mean? Probably not much on balance as my observation isn’t unique or earth shaking, it’s more a reflection on the traditional dynamics of media and PR, as well as human desire for recognition which is played out in the blogosphere with trackbacks and links. One thing that would be pretty cool to see is a trendline that tracks sentiment on particular issue or product launch over time to see if there is any repeating pattern.


It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…

Check out this snapshot of Techmeme today. As is typically the case, Google scratches it’s left ear lobe and an entire industry of bloggers kicks into gear dissecting what it means. The NYTimes claims it’s a Microsoft Sharepoint killer while Allen Stern declares they are going after pbWiki. The AP wire report, which also runs in the NYT has a somewhat different view of this, calling it a website builder. Rafe Needleman makes the observation that it’s a nice wiki even though Google never uses the word wiki. TechCrunch also calls it a wiki and quotes a Google exec calling it a “Sharepoint killer”.

So what do we know for certain: it’s a wiki and they are targeting Sharepoint. What is not said? Sharepoint is much more than a wiki, it’s probably more accurately referred to as a portal, and the wiki features are acknowledged by MSoft to be very weak. Microsoft does feature wikis from both Socialtext and Atlassian as add-ons for Sharepoint, lending credibility to the notion that they don’t see themselves as competitive in the wiki space.

Google could in fact take on Sharepoint but it’s going to take a lot more than a better wiki to do it. For starters, I would make Google Sites an OpenSocial container, which should not be too difficult given the fact that the same people were involved in both projects.

Google Apps is in total a threat but at some point Google is going to have to do something more meaningful than the bits-n-pieces act. Dan points out that Google is fighting the stigma of offering lightweight apps, but as long as they fail to release numbers such as how many companies are actually paying Google for premium apps, it’s unlikely that the market will take them seriously. Businesses are not moved by the notion of free apps because buying an application really isn’t the barrier companies face, it’s supporting users and meeting requirements.