Monday, 3 September 2007

Evil, my donkey

Some interesting, if possibly a touch brown-nosing, coverage of Google in this week's Economist. In a leader and a briefing, they write about the company's motto 'Don't be Evil', and discuss the concerns that many parties have about the growth of Google, of its privacy issues and of its staff issues too. Just in time for Google's birthday.

As the Economist notes, it will be interesting to are how well Google's approach holds firm once their earnings growth stalls or market conditions tighten against them. I'm sure that is a long way away but it will be important to watch.

Also interesting is their strategic diversification and their apparent strategic flexibility. There are always blind-spots in any strategy, and the more diverse the strategy the greater the number of blind-spots. I will look forward to seeing how they handle that.

One thing that is striking is how often Google is talked about as if it holds the monopoly on genius, particularly with the algorithms that it employs for advertising (its core revenue). I wonder if people think that they are more hallowed than they are. They are very impressive, yes, but they are not infallible.

Here are two screen-dumps of this blog, taken at the same time on 2nd September. As you can see, one is advertising stair-lifts for the elderley and disabled, and the other is advertising skiing. Now I can appreciate the diverse nature of posts on this blog, but surely no-one is going to be interested in both adverts. Since Google's ad placement strategy involves minority and diverse pages, shouldn't it be able to handle things like this and even far more obscure ones?

Yes, Google outperforms the other search engines, but the performance is still not massive. I saw today that the PPC for Google is 3.6%. Is it possible that Google's algorithms are more about redundancy than about relevance? After all, if you throw enough brown stuff at the wall, I'd guess that about 3.6% of it will stick.

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