Google Getting Bad Press

Some bad stuff in the media these last few days about Google. Boing Boing points out a Guardian article by Ben Hammersley that says Yahoo has overtaken Google. Of course, his “evidence” is about a notch above meaningless. He cites as signs: Yahoo Research is more transparent than Google Labs; Yahoo’s API is more elegant; Yahoo Maps has traffic conditions; Yahoo Mail has as much space as Gmail (not anymore); Yahoo built its own blogging tool while Google lets Blogger decay; Yahoo has Flickr (vs. Google’s Picasa); Yahoo has an RSS aggregator; Yahoo has video search; Yahoo has creative commons search.

Who cares? Yes, Google isn’t as good on the little details. Yes, Google has fewer employees and thus fewer products. All that matters is who gets the searches and the ads, and Ben completely ignored that. No one is switching search engines because of transparency or API. Google Maps is just weeks old. Webmail isn’t about space anymore, its about features. Yahoo 360 may be in-house, but Blogger is the market leader. Yes, Flickr is bigger, but Picasa is still a great product. Yahoo’s RSS reader is a seperate app, that many people who hate their search engine still use. And yes, Yahoo has video and CC search, one of which Google made a bad call on (which a different type of CC search), and the other will be used by a very small number of people.

Did I miss something where Yahoo upped its email storage space and hordes of people suddenly switched to Yahoo Search? The search game is (and this may surprise you) about search, and for the moment, no one’s algorithm is more accurate than Google’s. Now, if Google started succumbing to spam and got less useful, then you can start complaining.

Yahoo has had some momentum. Momentum is meaningless. Firefox had some momentum a few months ago; now its slowed down. MSN Search has some momentum. Its a long, slow process, and the company with the long-term strategy is going to win it.

However, none of this stopped Search Engine Watch from naming Yahoo the most outstanding search service in its annual awards, the first time in its five year run that Google hasn’t won. This despite the fact that the voting by SEW forum members chose Google as number one by a margin wider than 4-1 (76% for Google vs. 17% for Yahoo). They list Yahoo’s strengths as Yahoo Local, Images, Shopping and News, while Google’s big mistakes as Google Images and press releases in Google News.

I gotta agree with the Images complaint Google Images is sometimes so useless, that it is the first time a Google feature has pushed me to use Yahoo. So yes, it was a major mistake. However, none of that overshadows the fact that more people like Google and more people use Google. Yahoo may have made some good small moves, but until their algorith satisfies large percentages of people, its never going to happen.

Lets be honest, Yahoo has a lot of services, and a lot of them are great. If I could be satisfied with their regular web search , I might start using their whole site instead of Google. But I can’t, and I don’t, and there’s a reason I’m not the only one. They’re getting there, but by the time they do, Google will have had enough time to catch up in any other area. If they don’t, they would have blown it, and would deserve to lose.

Google also has some legal woes. In the suit by American Blind, while the judge dismissed one claim, the case is still going to trial. However, Google did beat Geico in the same damn case, so I wouldn’t exactly be pessimistic about this one.

Finally, Google released some information about its future plans and upcoming quarterly report. It’s first annual SEC filing says that it is planning on pouring more than $500 million in technology, capital and research in 2005, up from $319 million. They also plan to expand their payroll.

However, the information most investors are looking at is that recounted in this Washington Post article:

Google, which plans to disclose first-quarter 2005 financial results in several weeks, warned that its financial performance may not match the fourth quarter of 2004. The company gets 99 percent of its revenue from advertisers, adding that the seasonality of its business means that the fourth quarter’s holiday shopping season cannot be replicated in the first three winter months of 2005.

“Microsoft and Yahoo also may have a greater ability to attract and retain users than we do because they operate Internet portals with a broad range of content products and services,” the company said. “If Microsoft or Yahoo are successful in providing similar or better Web search results compared to ours, or leverage their platforms to make their Web search services easier to access than ours, we could experience a significant decline in user traffic.”

Posted: April 1, 2005 by Nathan Weinberg in:

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