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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Google and Real-Time Search, Advantage, Disadvantage, or Stalemate?

Google's announcement of an increased emphasis on real-time results streams supported by a host of partners, most notably Facebook and Twitter, launches Google more solidly and credibly into the social media world, but not as a primary source; rather, as a clearinghouse for relevant data; a meta-update engine, if you will.

There are a few potential analyses of Google's role and how it stacks up against these other providers:

1. The increasingly common position that said "Google and 'search' are losing ground to social media and social search, particularly through Facebook and Twitter." This has been a reasonably convincing argument insofar as Google's attempts to launch their own original services have not gained top-of-mind status. Orkut is not Facebook. Etc.

2. Position 1 loses some of its steam with the recognition, spurred on by this announcement and deals with the providers, that Google can act as an arbiter of intent, a layer that keeps a variety of information providers vying for prominence in Google's "arbiter" interface. While there are many data providers, there is only one Google. Google continues to roll on! And doesn't that remind you of how Yahoo built their empire as a "portal"? No need to place all your chips on any one direction in user behavior or content emphasis; shift as needed, swap providers in and out of the mix, as needed.

3. Someone might suggest, though, that "portalization" is death. Yahoo took advantage of their status as "data kingmaker" and "first choice Internet information brand" for a time, but then seemed to fumble it badly. If Google becomes an elder statesman of information, do they lose the focus and vision that allowed them to cut such a dashing figure in the first place? Well no, not really. Google has long been an information aggregator and not directly in the content creation business. The differences between Yahoo's history and Google's are vast. Despite Yahoo and Google actually being in exactly the same businesses much of the time -- search proper and information aggregation and product development around that -- Yahoo's implementations of this core business were often weaker than Google's, almost as if that were not their core business. Yahoo didn't even focus on their core. Google does.

Moves like the present announcement seem to head off any suggestion that particular social media properties will trump Google as the organizing force in our digital lives. As always, the battle is about which company will dominate the space for creating the primary interface or primary logic for organizing our digital lives. Google's working on many fronts to accomplish that end.

Either that, or I am completely wrong, and Tweetdeck is about to take over the world.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




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