The Post-Google World

Google. If we live in the “Age of Information,” then the world is centered around Google, the gatekeeper to all of man’s digitalized knowledge available on the Internet.

But that was a long time ago.

Today, the perception of Google as the God of the information age is fading into so much thin air. Yes, it is true that no search engine comes close to Google in terms of the total number of users worldwide.

Yet much to the surprise of many Google-advocates, the company has recently been toppled on two fronts.

A decisive “loss” for Google was the company’s loss in market share in China to Baidu. The Chinese search engine company is owned by an often impeccably dressed Robin Yanhong Li. A native of a town in Shanxi province, Li was born fourth in line and both of his parents were factory workers. His intelligence and insatiable curiosity to learn about “searching,” which—surprise!—is what search engines do, led him to found Baidu in 2000.

Yes, Li’s story imparts the typical “rags to riches story,” and yes, it does tell us that smart people with perseverance can do some darn amazing things (like beating Google). But what’s particularly frightening to Google is that even one smart man can topple the thousands of whizzes working on behalf of Google.

Google may have the power in numbers, but merely having wicked smart employees doesn’t mean that Google is invulnerable to new market entrants on its own turf.

Speaking of new entrants, there are some newcomers who refuse to play by Google’s rules. Would Google ever have guessed that its biggest headache would be conceived in a Harvard undergrad’s room?

Mark Zuckerberg has changed the Internet landscape forever. Facebook—Zuckerberg’s creation that was launched while he was still studying at Harvard—is easily the biggest, most infectious, well-thought social networking site to date.

And Facebook isn’t playing by Google’s rules.

Google’s goal was always to disseminate information to the world. If the information exists, then it’s Google’s job to make it available to everyone. In a sense, it’s a democratic movement, and it also empowers people as well.

Yet for all if its philanthropic ideals, Google’s goal has one crucial fault: the more information it collects, the less Google will reflect an accurate representation of the real world since people reveal information to their peers according to varying levels of intimacy.

In this sense, Zuckerberg has got the winning formula—Facebook users can choose to reveal their information according to a carefully tiered system of friendship.

But what does this have to do with Google?

Simple. If Google is trying to map “all” of the world, then Facebook is trying to recreate the “real” world. Imagine what would happen if Facebook users’ pictures appeared in Google image searches—an untold number of people would be laid off for misconduct outside of working hours and an even larger number of people would be fuming at Google, provided that they weren’t storming its headquarters.

By making user contents not appear on Google search results, Facebook has made Google’s quest for mapping the world unachievable. This made the crux of influence over the Internet shift decisively in Facebook’s favor.

Yes, Google is still important when it comes to looking up the nearest pet store, but nothing beats Facebook when it comes to networking and staying in touch with real people.

Li showed that Google’s being challenged at its own game. Zuckerberg showed that Google will have to rethink its corporate ideals from scratch if it plans to stay around.

So what do Li and Zuckerberg show combined?

It shows that a Post-Google World isn’t just a fantasy, but an ever-increasing probability. We seem to forget that Google is just another company. If it falls out of favor with consumers, then it will be the one that will disappear from the map.

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI

2 Responses to “The Post-Google World”

  1. Shogo Okuda says:

    Facebook is now a number one photo sharing website and it is the 6th highest web traffic. I think you are right that this is posing huge threat to Google. It’s always interesting to compare Google, where it utilizes complex algorithm to get to the results whereas facebook focuses on the social aspect. However, it is also true that this social aspect is bringing facebook some trouble with the privacy problem. The more the user expresses himself through facebook, the more privacy he is sacrificing. It is also interesting that there is no distinct “Japanese” search engine when Japan seems to have its own version of all the technologies (like Mixi, Nico-Nico Douga etc…).

  2. Jun Ohinata says:

    I feel that Google and Facebook are too different in what users look for un them to be compared to in this manner. No one goes on Google looking for pictures of friends and No one goes on Facebook to look for the number of the local Pizza Hut. Google does want to disseminate information but its users don’t look for it to disseminate all of the information on the Internet, and the users ultimately decide what each website is good for.

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