July 2nd, 2006

Life-Changing Applications Don’t Come Along Very Often

by

Google is taking a lot of flack lately because it’s launched tons of apps but none has had even a fraction of the success of Google search. BusinessWeek gave Google a big kick in the head, as did Scoble, and many others.

So why hasn’t Google launched anything as successful as the original search? Because it’s a pretty darn tough act to follow. Google search was life changing for everyone on the web, but life-changing applications don’t come along that often.

You can see this when comparing Google’s reach to other popular web apps, like MySpace, YouTube, Digg, and Flickr.

Google Reach Comparison

On any given day, more than 25% of people on the web use Google. (Yes, Alexa is imprecise, but gut check says this is directional correct.)

Even the much heralded (and hyped) MySpace and YouTube have only a fraction of the reach. MySpace does compete with Google on page views, but that’s from a lot a MySpace power users.

Google search is in a class by itself. Is it any wonder that Google has not been able to reproduce this kind of dizzying success?

I wonder if Google is like one of those musicians whose first album is such a runaway success that they are never able to outdo themselves — think Alanis Morissette.

Don Dodge wonder whether Google is a “one trick pony.” Perhaps a more apt phrase is “one hit wonder.”

What’s most sobering about the chart above is how much distance separates Google search from all of the other web apps chasing the same blockerbuster success.

I’ll end with my favorite refrain — the key to Google-like success is making apps that are life-changing for AVERAGE PEOPLE — even for Google.

Comments (9 Responses so far)

  1. ADD. They don’t know why they’re getting into all of these products. They have fantastic cash flow but terrible discipline on products,” says Kedrosky. “It’s a dangerous combination.” Via Mark Evans. UPDATE: E-consultancy points to a comment made byScott Karp, which suggests Google may be a one-hit wonder…”I wonder if Google is like one of those musicians whose first album is such a runaway success that they are never able to outdo themselves — think Alanis Morissette.”

  2. Is it simply to keep its employees busy and happy? Is there a master strategy in the works that will somehow tie everything together? Does it really matter if you’ve got an advertising business kicking off billions of dollars of cash flow? AsScott Karp points out, coming up with a second “life-changing application” is very difficult for a variety of reasons. Look at Microsoft, which has spent billions of dollars pursuing a smash-hit beyond Windows and Office. Microsoft’s efforts include television

  3. Scott Karpthinks so . The venerable web powerhouse has been taking quite a kicking of late – not from free-speech campaigners angry at Google’s policy toward search results in China, but from observers critquing the Mountain View, CA, outfit’s “ready, fire, aim” approach

  4. Scott Karp thinks so . The venerable web powerhouse has been taking quite a kicking of late – not from free-speech campaigners angry at Google’s policy toward search results in China, but from observers critquing the Mountain View, CA, outfit’s “ready, fire, aim” approach

  5. I really like Scott Karp’s insight and he has this great post on Google

  6. Scott,

    I couldn’t agree more. A couple of points I would mention here revolve around the ROI of getting a ton of apps out there. Even if only one sticks, it will be well worth it. Furthermore, while people say that Google has a small market share with their “other” products, it is important to remember that most companies (flickr, digg etc) that are getting the limelight still havent’ hit the big market that you call “average users” A fraction of market share of a fraction of a market isn’t as big of a problem as people make it out to be.

  7. [...] Branson Google-Bashing by Mark Evans on Mon 03 Jul 2006 09:17 AM EDT  |  Permanent Link  |  Cosmos BusinessWeek takes a nice, healthy run at Google and its ability to come upwith another smash-hit. In the story, “So Much Fanfare, So Few Hits”, BusinessWeek pokes a big stick at Google’s modus operandi to release new services (Spreadsheet, etc.) that receive lots of buzz but only modest acceptance by users. The lead quote by VC Paul Kedrosky sets the tone:”People give Google the victory in the beginning and don’t show up later to notice that things didn’t go anywhere,” he said. “Google has product ADD. They don’t know why they’re getting into all of these products. They have fantastic cash flow but terrible discipline on products. It’s a dangerous combination.”That’s a brutally honest assessment that feeds into argument that Google is a one-trick pony. It raises a few questions: strategically, why does Google insist of releasing these me-too services? Is it simply to keep its employees busy and happy? Is there a master strategy in the works that will somehow tie everything together? Does it really matter if you’ve got an advertising business kicking off billions of dollars of cash flow?   As Scott Karp points out, coming up with a second “life-changing application” is very difficult for a variety of reasons. Look at Microsoft, which has spent billions of dollars pursuing a smash-hit beyond Windows and Office. Microsoft’s efforts include television where it continues to hack away and video consoles, where the Xbox shows lots of promise. Anyone who’s into music knows the landscape is dotted with one-hit wonders. The difference between the many artists who come up with a single, unrepeatable stroke of music genius and Google is that Google has a smash-hit that keeps on producing mountains of “royalties”. As long as Google continues to dominate the paid-search business does it really matter if it comes up with another successful service – other than for investors who are paying for growth. [...]

  8. Aneil,

    I wonder whether there in fact hidden costs to releasing tons of applications to see which one will stick — specifically, the bad PR among early adopters that we’re witnessing in conversations like this. Google is a very strong brand, but it’s not indestructible.

  9. Scott,

    You’re right. There definitely could be some damage to Google’s brand as a result of this however I think the damage will be done in a very tiny part of the overall market. I don’t see the typical user complaining about Google’s poorly done “quicky” products because they have never heard of them. They have never heard of Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Delicious, or most of the other popular companies/apps that are all old news to us.

  10. [...] — Blogger Scott Karp on Publishing 2.0 thinks it’s unrealistic to suggest that every new Google product be as innovative as their search engine. “So why hasn’t Google launched anything as successful as the original search? Because it’s a pretty darn tough act to follow. Google search was life-changing for everyone on the Web, but life-changing applications don’t come along that often.” [...]

  11. [...] I really like Scott Karp’s insight and he has this great post on Google . [...]

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