> Could you Quit the 'Big Three' in Internet?

Could you Quit the 'Big Three' in Internet?

Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | No Comments

Listening to “Tech Weekly” podcast on the Guardian website recently, right at the end of the show they asked the question; if Facebook, Google and Apple were to have a playground fight between themselves, who would win? None too surprisingly, each member of the podcast picked each of the companies for a variety of reasons.

Reading on TechCrunch today the question; “Are you mad enough to stop using Google? Can you even stop using it?” was asked. Both questions warrant a little further analysis in my opinion and I’m going to try to answer them both. First one first;

If Facebook, Google and Apple were to have a playground fight between
themselves, who would win?

Putting aside my dislike for Apple for a moment, they may be a big company, but they are not what I would call an ‘Internet company’, they are however a (self confessed) ‘mobile devices company’ (whatever that is!). They are also (not so self confessed), ‘closed software company’ in that they write operating systems that they rule with an iron fist and only the approved of the approved with a gold standard can enter into.

This undoubtedly puts them into a bit of an elitist position and it only takes a HP, a Dell, a Sony or some other technology company to produce a better device and the fashion will change. The problem with Apple is that they haven’t diversified enough in comparison to a company like Microsoft or Google and it seems the company continually revolves around one man; Steve Jobs, which is why they aren’t a clear winner in this fight.

Next up; search engine Google. Only they aren’t just a ‘search engine’ anymore, they are a mobile phone, emailing, social networking, online service and software, advertising company! This means they get a big tick in the diversity of business box and they are already a huge company that reaches into other people’s products and services as well as their own devices. However, the problem they face is that they may have perhaps moved away too much from their core business and inadvertently started fights with the other tech companies they came to rely upon (Apple for one), and that’s winning them no prizes moving forwards, especially as other companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo with Bing move in onto their core business (small numbers at the moment, but who knows what might happen).

Finally Facebook; this is a tricky one to assess. They have reached their 500 million users and no doubt have many more people signing up to the service each and every day. This means they undoubtedly have a lot of personally information on just about every single one of us – information and data equal value, in terms of what they can glean from what people actually post and ‘like’ on the site and what type of advertising they can tailor to us (much like Google does with Search).

Networking people together and allowing them to collaborate and ask questions and gain ‘crowd sourced’ answers provides a disrupted model to the traditional ‘Search Engine’ method of finding information. That doesn’t necessarily mean that search engines will die out, but Facebook has the potential to steal traffic in a big way.

The downsides for Facebook all revolve around privacy, security and history. Whilst the average Facebook user won’t be too concerned about privacy and security – those who perhaps understand Facebook and the Internet a little better are wary about the service and the value it does or doesn’t bring to each of our lives – looking at Facebook’s billion dollar valuation, its all based on the value of the price of each users data. In short, users equal money. The historical element of course is MySpace were in a similar dominant position only a few short years ago and somehow managed to lose out to a bigger and better network – with other social networks emerging, it only takes one of them to get the balance right and for users to flock to it to sink Facebook. What’s the likeliness of this? Probably not very high at all really, but it is a very real possibility (look at Twitter).

In my opinion then, based on these very quick and high level analyses, Google is my selection for winner. Which sets me up nicely for the second question;

Are you mad enough to stop using Google? Can you even stop using it?

Lets get one thing out of the way very early in this question, whilst it is very possible to stop using it (plenty of alternatives are available from rival companies), it would be very difficult to stop using it. I’ll freely admit that most of my ‘search’ is now done on Bing, I do find myself cross searching to Google if I fail to find out what I’m looking for on Bing (that’s not to say I then always find exactly what I’m looking for on either first time). Other people will undoubtedly using solely Google as their search engine.

This very blog is hosted on Google owned Blogger, my email is by Google. Some people’s phones are powered by Google Android (not mine however!), and I’ve no doubt that people use Google Apps, Google Earth/Streetview, Docs and Spreadsheets and other online Google services. All of which you can get from Microsoft and other such online vendors.

Would you ever switch to these products – yes, I believe some Google users would switch to these products if compelled to do so. Just as I’m sure users of Word Press, Hotmail, etc would switch to Google operated services.

Would someone be mad enough to quit using Google – I’m sure there are already some people out there who are suspect of Google’s already growing monopoly and avoid the companies products at all costs. Would I quit using Google products? I may quit one or two if another service became better suited to my needs (for example, if I was able to move my email to Microsoft Live Mail/Hotmail then I would consider moving if only to be able to use the “Mail” button on Microsoft Live Messenger and have that level of integration with my desktop apps, but this is purely as an example).

Would I quit all Google services forever and ever? I think it’s almost impossible for anyone to do so. They have diversified well and have so many offerings and services on their own devices and integrated into others (think mobile phones, as prime example).

To bring this post full circle, would I be mad enough to quit Apple/Facebook? I quit Apple two years ago quite easily. Facebook provides only a small amount of value for me as I prefer Twitter in all honesty, so if I was really motivated to do so, I could quit Facebook. Could I quit Microsoft? No, and for the exact same reasons I couldn’t quit Google.

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