Google Blogoscoped

Monday, October 4, 2004


In High Stakes, No Prisoners, Charles Ferguson (the guy who created and sold FrontPage) emphasizes one of the keys to an 80s/90s Silicon Valley business success: lock-in.

What lock-in basically means is that if you produce software, you need to make sure to subtly introduce a situation users can’t escape*. This ultimately means when another competitive product arrives (it certainly will, even if you pay a lot for patents securing your ideas), your users won’t leave you for something else – if it that something else happens to be somewhat better.

*You also need to consider other things, like making it hard to clone your product.

How does this relate to Google, and today’s webified software? Google often points out that alternative products are just a click away. On the web this is true – if you can find a better search engine, you can immediately switch (ethics, brand, and adjusting bookmarks aside). Of course, it takes a while before even a search engine superior to Google would sink into web culture deep enough to have traction. But let’s not forget word-of-mouth spreads fast in the days of blogs; just think about FireFox and its gaining market share (I may be too optimistic here, but I hope browsers competing with Internet Explorer will continue to become more and more popular).

In fact, I believe today’s web applications need to maintain their competitive edge by being essentially the opposite of lock-in: very open, flexible, APIfied and adaptable. Just take Google itself, certainly one of the biggest tales of success, and one that hasn’t had its happily-ever-after yet. You have the Google API, which lets you dive right into their results, in an open spirited way. New Atom feeds in Gmail, whatever they may bring. The option to upload your shop data into Froogle. Google by its very nature must stay closely connected to the web.

Google’s not going all the way, though... not yet. Not all of their web sites “get” it and become web services. Google News, for examples, doesn’t have a news feed at the moment. The “BlogThis” button of the Google Toolbar was a mild attempt at creating lock-in, because it only worked with Google’s Google Images has no API. Gmail has no export functionality yet. Neither does their Every lock-in violates Google’s self-proclaimed motto which they hold up so proudly. (This is not to say it’s easy to create flexible software; interfaces to the outside world must be written and maintained.)

The basic choice of user’s today can be between services creating lock-ins, and those that don’t. I’d rather entrust my web application needs to a site which allows me to grab my data and run. This means security to me, a real benefit. This extends not only to software but also other, less tool-oriented artefacts of culture, such as open-source (public domain or Creative Commons) books, which lately I’m much more likely to buy because I feel sure I get what I want after paying.

This also extends to “plain web sites” with no application level. I have been working with different customers in the past and it’s peculiar to see they are always afraid the customer may leave the site. This results in a low amount of outgoing links, and new windows popping up when a link does lead somewhere else. This also results in slightly ridiculous, non-web statements you’ve seen before on company sites: “attention, you are leaving this site” (or the semi-legalese “we aren’t responsible for external links” – why doesn’t Google display this around all of their search results? Google wants people to leave, and they appreciate the value this gives their site in return.)

In short, the paradox of future applications will be to provide every means for visitors to leave – just to make them stay.


Capt. Cornelius reports Bitoogle is now (the “global torrent search engine”).


Gawker Media (Nick Denton’s blog empire, which publishes Gizmodo, Wonkette and others) started the new blog Kotaku, edited by Matt Gallant and destined to be “a gamer’s guide that goes beyond the press release. Gossip, cheats, criticism, design, nostalgia, prediction.”

Otaku, by the way, is Japanese and means “ubernerd”. There are video game Otakus, manga Otakus, and so on. If you want to know more about Otakus, I suggest the excellent documentary “Otaku” by Jackie Bastide and Jean-Jaques Beineix. (I could not find an link, but has it in store along with another movie.) Equally noteworthy is the Gainax fanboy anime Otaku No Video.

Also fresh from Gawker: Screenhead, with “Gross Photoshop humor, idiotic Flash animations, laughable Japanese commercials”, and Jalopnik, a car-blog sponsored by Audi.

Google Millionaires

“Based on Google’s share price of around $130, senior vice president Bill Coleman estimated that around 60 percent of the 1,900 Google employees with the company at the end of March each now hold stock options worth at least $1 million.

While some workers may choose to go back to school, start a new company, or join the ranks of high-tech early retirees, analysts also note that $1 million is not what it used to be.

“If you live in Mountain View, California, and someone gives you $1 million, you might be able to pay off your mortgage, but you can’t retire,” said Coleman, referring to Silicon Valley’s sky-high home costs.

On the other hand, Coleman estimates that 400 to 500 of Google’s longer-term employees will have stock options worth $5 million or more. “Are they flight risks? Absolutely.”
– Lisa Baertlein, Google Challenge: Keeping Wealthy Workers (Reuters), Oct 2, 2004 [via Waxy.]

Audio Search

“Audio content on the internet is in chaos. To reign in the chaos, and to capitalize on internet audio file assets, Google will launch an audio search engine or audio file search tool by 2006, but probably sooner. (...)

I have listed some technologies (i.e., BitTorrent, Overnight Loading, Audio Blogs, Podcasting and Speech-to-Text) that allow me to speculate that Google will launch an audio search engine.”
– Oristus, Google Audio Search, October 3, 2004

Google Images Art Gallery

Kottke uses Google Images to show off impromptu Internet art exhibits.

Amazon Associates Redesign

The Amazon Associates Central went live with a major face-lift. The interface is now much easier to use, making important information faster to access. [Via Zawodny.]

Gmail Adds Atom?

Some Gmail users can see an Atom link in their account. The feed lists Gmail messages with summaries.

Still On Top of Seraphim Proudleduck

[Seraphim Proudleduck]

The many backlinks to this blog using the Seraphim Proudleduck competition phrase do their job well. Google Blogoscoped is still on top, with the usual fluctuations. (For a short period, the main page was completely out of the top 10, while an archive page of this blog inhibited rank 7.)

For your information (if you are linking here) there are around 35 tickets being handed out already (I will do an exact count when I win on January 1st, 2005). This makes for a chance of around 3% of you winning the race, in case you hold one ticket only; with two tickets, the chance is at around 6%.

As for the bonus prize (a one-year long stay at a PR7 site), there still is not a single Seraphim Proudleduck result at Google Images. At the moment there also is no result in Google News, hinting that this contest is not yet covered by major news sources.

On a related note, the “side competition" for the spellchecked Seraphim Puddleduck is being led by (There are 56,500 pages with the words “Seraphim Proudleduck”, and only 150 for the “Puddleduck” variant.)

Google Norway, Kenya

Both (Norway – apparently, “Google” means “sunglasses” here) and (Kenya) are now owned by Google, as the official Google Blog reports.

Opera Show Center

Opera adverties Opera Show as “the unique presentation tool in the Opera Browser which uses standard (X)HTML, CSS and JavaScript to create high-quality presentations."


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