Sean’s presentation titled, The New Era of Network Services, theorize that the internet is methodically shifting away from information services that aggregates data toward network services that gather social relevance. What made the above statement interesting is where he defined current web powerhouses like Google. Google is an information service that has served a valid purpose in the current web strategy but may not be a factor as the web evolves:
To be clear, he thinks Google will stay huge and relevant, but it’s dominance will go down because collecting data is less valuable than connecting people.
Is it bold to make the statement that Google will lose relevance? No, just a reality check that should make Google pay attention, something that Microsoft did not do 10 years ago.
Network services defined by Sean as facilitating a relationship between people or groups. Examples would be Twitter, Facebook, Ebay and PayPal. Information services collect and process data. Examples would be Google, Yahoo!, CNET, YouTube, and MSN. Simple enough, connect people will outweigh data collection. Google mastered the ability to find relevant results from the web and found an effective revenue stream for such efforts. Where Google struggles is the ability to be shaped by it’s community, aka Microsoft of old. Think about it, Twitter’s extended features, like retweets, hashtags and @user were created by the community, not by the developers. Facebook’s community vigilantly and successfully defended the look and feel of the interface, not the designers. When was the last time you helped shape the direction of Google? I am not saying that Google is not trying. The innovations from Google Labs have been stellar, however community implemented ideas are just not present across their product offerings.
Google has been trying to develop a community through acquisitions. Orkut, Dodgeball and Grandstation are just a couple of network services Google acquired over the years, unfortunately none of them have a major impact in this country yet. Google is actively trying to be a presence in community space. Google Wave and Latitude may provide Google a method for community support and expansion. Time will tell if that becomes true.
The weakness of all this is revenue. Network services still do not have a strong revenue stream as seen in Google’s ad model used in many of it’s information services. Community-centric technology faults on it’s ability to drive a paid model without community support. The ability to monetize this new reality may well force them to merge. A service that aggregates data in a social relevance and shaped by people or groups. Social search engines are nothing new (Delver, Whostalkin, Samepoint just to name a few) but most have failed to gain the numbers needed to rise above the noise.
I think Sean has a point about the future of the web and I think Google will need to pay attention. But I also think Sean is missing the point that information services will need to merge with network services for revenue viability. Without the money, we just have another dotcom failure.