Thursday, June 2, 2022

Throwback Thursday: Google Flops and Failures

This week I discovered another amazing application: Google Lens. Using your iPhone (they also have an Android version) you use the camera feature to capture words and have them transformed into text. It is literally amazing. I may write about it later, or may not. In the meantime, Google it. This is the OCR (optical character recognition) tool I was looking for 30 years ago but never found.

Here's another surprising Google tidbit: The median salary of a Google employee is over $350K a year. 

I published the following in April 2017. It was fascinating to me how many Google products have not lived up to their hype. And yet, no one can deny their power. 

Google Flops and Failures
In 1995-96 I wrote a monthly magazine column about the Internet. It's one of the ways I learn about how things work, by writing about them. My columns were very basic. What's a search engines? What is a browser? How does email work? What is the World Wide Web?

One column was called the Top 25 Search Engines. I essentially wrote a paragraph about all the search engines I could find, explaining their pros and cons, listing their URLs and making suggestions regarding why this or that was a favorite of mine. (Remember Inktomi?) What's remarkable is that even though the search engine market niche was a crowded one, Google didn't even exist yet.

What Google did was essentially very simple. They identified a weakness in the competition and exploited it. So many of those engines were getting bogged down with advertising, or were simply a bit slow loading. Google offered a clean, uncluttered appearance and an extremely fast delivery time. Before long they were the name of the game. You knew this because the name Google very quickly became a verb. "I think you should just Google that." Or, "I Googled 'chimpanzee' and got 19 million results in 0.75 seconds. Wow!"

Their success was such that they not only became the dominant player in search engines, they also built on this success with a whole batch of successful follow up products and services. Here are just a few: Chrome, Gmail, Blogger, Google Drive, Android, Google Maps, YouTube and Google Alerts. I myself prefer the Chrome browser, use Gmail, have been blogging nearly ten years on Blogger, am planning my next trip on Google Maps and am listening to Alison Krauss on YouTube as I write this. And I love those Alerts as an easy way to follow what interests me.

It comes as a surprise to many, however, that Google management doesn't always get it right. Their home runs have been massive and made the company a boat load of cabbage. But as the saying goes, even the best hitters in baseball strike out now and then, and some strike out a lot.

Google Flops 
I'm not highlighting Google's flops and fizzles to embarrass them. I assume they are beyond that. I'm just a gnat that has enjoyed my various and vicarious associations with Google by means of the tools they've provided me over the years. The reason for bringing these things up is to remind people: just because Google is doing something, we should all do it, too. In some ways they're just another company. They just happen to have a lot more money to buy things and try things.

Maybe that's one of the downsides to being the big gorilla. In baseball, the best hitters know how to wait for their pitch, especially in a big game. But companies can grow to a point where millions of dollars feels like chump change and they get careless. That is, they care less about swinging at bad pitches because it doesn't feel like there's anything at stake.

Remember when Duluth was competing to become a winner of the Google Fiber project. Well, looks like we got lucky. We didn't win. Here's the rest of the story.

And how many folks do you see in the Twin Ports wearing Google Glass? Here are a few other things Google was hoping would become important to us:

1. Google Answers. Not the right answer.

2. Google Wave. Didn't make the waves it was supposed to.

3. Google Audio Ads. Didn't add up.

4. Google Video Player. Sometimes it is easier to buy what you want than to create it.

5. Google Page Creator. It came. It went.

6. Google Buzz. Lasted about a year.

7. Google Notebook. Introduced in 2006. Was taken to the curb with some other junk during Google's "Second Spring Cleanup" five years later.

8. Google Glass. There are no doubt applications for it. Style wasn't one.

9. Google+  It's this one that triggered this blog post. I was listening to an audio book by one of the Google execs and he says in passing, in a throwaway aside, that Google+ was a flop. Interesting. What's interesting to me is that from the first time I was invited to do Google+ it was apparent that this was supposed to become Google's version of Facebook. I could see right off that this was never going to happen.

Oh well. You can't win 'em all. I'm grateful for those things they've done right. And I wish them the best going forward, in part simply for my selfish desire to keep Ennyman's Territory going a while longer.

Thank you, Google. Keep on keepin' on. And if you ever need a second opinion on something important, you know where to find me. :-)

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