Facebook = Some Other Tech Company
Comparing one tech company to another is an easy way to drum up a blog post, and the analogy game is fun to play.
- To pump a company up, say company “X” is “the next Apple, the next Google, the next Microsoft.”
- To tear a company down, say company “X” “the next Pets.com, the next AOL.”
And now, the new, convenient insult is “the next Yahoo!” Mike Elgan says Facebook is on a downward spiral just like everybody’s former favorite web portal, saying they were in the right place at the right time, and not really innovative – just copying what other companies have done.
The problem with this analogy is those two attributes could be said of just about every other tech company out there – yes, Apple, Google, and Microsoft included.
If I were to paint with as large a brush as Elgan does, you could say much the same thing:
- Apple was in the right place in the right time, just when PC hardware was affordable to the masses. They got inspiration for the Mac from Xerox Parc.
- Microsoft saw an opportunity to create software for all the hardware popping up and had the idea to turn that into a paid business. They have been hugely derivative ever since, from Windows to XBOX to IE to Bing – all mimicry of existing products.
- Google’s core businesses are still search and advertising. Everything else is looking at what other companies are doing and searching for that next big hit. They arguably have not found any. Android is the closest yet, and you can’t say with a straight face it’s not hugely derivative of the iPhone model.
Anyhow, my contribution to the the Facebook analogy game: Netscape – but before they were losing marketshare to IE. Facebook hasn’t yet gone public. They’re attracting tons of talent. They’re annoying Google in the same way Netscape annoyed Microsoft. And when Microsoft realized Netscape and the net in general could be a threat to their business, Gates turned things around in a big way by going “all in” behind IE. And that’s what’s going on right now with Google and Google+. So therefore, yes, I can see Google = Microsoft.
Another analogy I’d make is Facebook = Google – or the Google of ten years ago. Facebook has a huge lock on social – millions of users that aren’t going anywhere, or if they do abandon Facebook for Google+, it will take years. I’m talking about the late adopters that are still trying to figure out how to use a scroll wheel, but they get Facebook.
Facebook at this point could just follow the Google playbook and do pretty well for itself: introduce ads, email, word processing, etc. Meanwhile, Facebook is heavily intertwined with Microsoft. Microsoft Office with Facebook hooks, anyone?
I would say the only way Facebook could screw their trajectory up is by doing it themselves – Zuckerberg makes bad decisions, is ousted and replaced by a silly CEO, etc. – then they self-destruct like Netscape or go on a long, multiyear decline – then the Yahoo! comparisons would be appropriate. But depending on how Google+ plays out – I could actually see Google – not Facebook – being the company turning into Yahoo!.
Anyhow, I find the Facebook vs. Google thing highly amusing, because meanwhile, Apple is hanging out in the other corner, selling iPads hand over fist.