A post over on O’Reilly Radar questions the stability of Google’s user-trust in the context of the discontinuation of its syndication service Reader.
What posts such as these miss, however, is that it’s not about Platforms – it’s about Missions. Platforms are simply buttresses for missions. Google’s mission is *extremely* stable – its Mission Statement is the most brilliant mission statement of any company – it’s the most encompassing yet focused corporate mission statement ever written. Google is currently the 3rd largest VC in the United States. It can afford to put its hands on anything, walk away from it, and then pick it up later (either via acquisition or reclamation) if there’s a pertinent market interest in it.
Does it “get” Social? It doesn’t matter because there isn’t much to “get”…other than creating a clean well-lit place for people to be social – whatever the heck that means when people are separated by electrons and keypads. Besides, time will tell – the social media stunads might not care for it, and it may not be all popular yet, but Google (unlike any other company) has plenty of time to grow the place. All that matters is data-collection for ad-placement upon *other* real-estate. Unlike every other social platform, G+ won’t need to insinuate advertisements into its users’ social streams (which would, in fact, make it a far more attractive social site once people get sick of algorithmic-based ads and sponsored non-sense on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. – how’s that for user-respect and Social-as-a-service?). Google can afford to fund the Social game long-term because it’s the data that informs the revenue streams…not the LOLcats.
Google has the following: Mobile (Android), Cloudy Stuffs, Social, Search, Maps, Youtube, Chrome, Chromium, APIs out of their gord, BigQuerry (and Dremel), and a panoply of diversified assets to spiral out from its empiric center. It also employs some of the smartest people in the industry, and has equity in ventures that very few people know about across multiple verticals, including: Life Sciences, Payment Processing, Energy, Gaming, Business Intelligence, and Data Analysis (think also indirect benefits arising out of symbiosis with CIA/NSA).
No other tech company comes remotely close to the shear size of cross-vertical power that Google possesses and expands. Google’s future has nothing to do with these little trinket toys like Keep or Reader (users may not see them that way, but in the big scheme of things, they’re just toys). RSS was a nice little scrape-script written when content on the web was becoming more dynamic. The times they have changed, however, and interfaces have matured (besides, what you are looking at when viewing social media sites is effectively RSS – FB, Twitter…they’re effectively RSS with CSS and other scripting commands layered on top to tart things up).
As for Google’s willingness to risk losing millions of Reader users (and I am one of them), Google’s omniscience of every single link clicked-through to ads informs the value of its assets. Google Reader may have benefited tech and other blogs, but Google knows just how tangible value all of that traffic actually did or did not render to its clients. Now, Google is privy to these numbers – whether or not they themselves were stunads in terminating the service (either as a move to force users towards G+ or for some other reasons) remains to be seen. But their decision only serves to lead to the essence of this post.
I’ve said it too many times – you own nothing on the web except your own domain. No company owes you anything. Google Reader isn’t yours, Facebook isn’t yours, Twitter isn’t yours, WordPress’ file-structure isn’t yours. The ‘self-hosted’ website you think is self-hosted isn’t yours – only if you own the servers that echo content to visitors. And even that ownership is tenuous. This is the nature of the Web. It will always be this way.
In a sense, “Stability as a service” may sound like a good thing to have in our time. The Internet, however, breeds nothing but instability. Alan Watts, not Seth Godin, is the man to pay attention in times like these.
Curious, then, that the ideologues of Open Source, Information-wants-to-be-free, Disruption-as-a-service, and the Social Media Revolution would be let-down when the planks drop out from under their feet.
Silicon Valley (the place and the metaphor) – and the stunads mesmerized by an ideology that sees life as a sequence of equations to be solved by algorithms - have a very important question completely inverted:
The question isn’t: “How will technology revolutionize the world”. The crucial question of our time is: “How will we revolutionize the technology.”
Google does what it does and will continue its shuffle of platform instability to serve its mission.
Complaining about the instability of a corporation’s data-traps isn’t terribly revolutionary, is it?
Then again, nor is this post.
But hopefully at least, it got you to think a bit regardless of how close to or far from the mark I am. And, in thinking a bit, you’ll think-through the importance of selecting ideologies that subsume and command technology’s trajectory and not the other way around.
Google products are free…of charge.
Democracy is not free. Its almost-impossible mission is to liberate us from our collective Stupidity-as-a-service.
Let’s not be stunads.