The future of Google?

Forget content. Data is King.

Over the past few years Google have moved into many different markets, innovated in many new ways and, in terms of products, have made more adjustments than Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon. With the torrent of projects coming out of the Googleplex all seemingly heading in different directions, it’s difficult to see where Google’s business strategy lies as a whole.

A few months ago I read an article outlining “Google’s master plan” which outlined how the search giants’ overall business strategy was immensely simple:

“Get people to use the Internet more.”

The post was written by AJ Kohn and to this day is one of my favourites; not just because of its cynical outlook on the dystopian world of search but also because it’s actually a valid point.

“Google’s Evil Plan”

Believe it or not, despite the almost constant badgering about our digital economy in the information age, some five billion people are not connected to the Internet. To put it in another way; two-thirds of humanity are being denied online connectivity and the “economic promise” that comes with it.

Following this trail of thought, Google has much to gain from wider internet adoption. It means more users on its social network to help build the world’s most comprehensive database. It means more time browsing Youtube, more time using their search engine and ultimately more ads being served, clicked and paid for.

The way Google executes on this strategy is to improve speed and accessibility to the Internet by shortening the distance between any activity and the Internet. For instance, commuting to work by car can add an equivalent of up to five extra years’ worth of shifts at the office over the course of a working career.

That’s a lot of time to be offline; so Google are creating Driverless Cars to connect us. According to Nielsen, time spent on PCs and smartphones was up 21 percent from July 2011 to July 2012; Android and Google Glass were created to help us browse on the go. They made Chromebooks and services such as Google Drive for us to work with. Chrome to help us browse faster. They have even become an internet provider both in the US and in developing countries.

Sounds like a good plan but there is a major flaw in this theory. Competition.

Fly in the Ointment

The web is a wide and varied place and yet we seem to gravitate towards a relatively small set of websites time and time again. Social networking websites are a huge sector where we spend hours of our lives. The bad news for Google is that every second spent on these sites means lost ad revenue.

Despite the hype Google+ has not (yet) become the game changer it was touted to be. Facebook is still the world’s most browsed website regardless of whether people use a desktop or mobile device.

Google still faces stiff competition within search too. A recent article (and infographic) I wrote for Box UK highlighted the current marketplace showing growth for alternative search engines and offering a promising outlook for Bing in coming years.

There are a number of alternatives to Google products across the board, and whilst in search they are a dominant force, they are not so lucky in other product areas such as cloud storage.

What is interesting is how Google have begun to diversify the way they gather and store open data and user information to create a closed data system that is not only seemingly unrivaled, but also an extension of their monopoly on search and potentially the killer tool they need to gather more global impression share online.

Google doesn’t just want us online. They want us online and signed into a Google approved product to harvest, manipulate, sell and innovate on our data.

This really is beginning to make me feel like Winston Smith peering into the inner party, how about you?