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General Motors Thought They Were Invulnerable, Too
By Ed Driscoll · June 5, 2006 04:24 PM · Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal

Last month, when I profiled Alvin Toffler's new book, Revolutionary Wealth, I wrote in TCS Daily:

The death late last month of John Kenneth Galbraith helps to illustrate just how much the American economy -- and indeed the world's -- has changed over the last four decades. Galbraith could plausibly write in 1967's The New Industrial State, that large corporations were immune to market forces.
To some extent, the Internet has restored that feeling amongst its biggest players. Drudge, Amazon, Google, eBay and a few others got there early, and each built unique business models that kept their customers more or less pretty happy over an extended period. And while the Long Tail is a growing phenomenon, by and large, the Internet has rewarded the early adopters who both got in before the dot.com boom/bust of 1999-2000, and weathered the storm. But lately, as Glenn Reynolds notes in his MSNBC blog, Google appears to believe it's as invulnerable to market forces as General Motors did in 1973:
Google has been a huge deal its founders have become rich, its name has become a verb, and its influence is international.

Lately, though, I've been wondering if Google has peaked. The reason is that, for lots of different groups of people, Google's reputation as good guys has been stained. And I'm not sure what Google really has to bank on, besides a good reputation.

Google has come under criticism from people on the left and right for its cave-in to Chinese demands for censorship. From "don't be evil," Google's motto has seemed to be "don't be evil unless there's a really big market at stake."

They've also come in for criticism from people on the right for alleged censorship in Google News, with charges that Google is purging itself of conservative news sites. And many people complained that Google, which puts up special logos for all sorts of other holidays, didn't do anything to recognize Memorial Day.

That last point seems minor, but for some people it seems to have been the last straw. And it made me wonder if Google's position isn't rather vulnerable. People like Google and use it, but its competition sites like Ask.com, Dogpile.com, and Clusty.com is just a mouseclick away. Ask.com even has a pretty good substitute for Google News.

Lots of people don't like Microsoft I like 'em fine, but then, I get a check from them every month but if you want to switch from Microsoft to OSX or Linux you need a bunch of new software, and maybe a new computer. To switch from Google to Ask, you just type different letters (and fewer!).

Of course, it's not just search engines. Jeff Jarvis notes that Google's ad business isn't doing especially well, and says that the reason is trust. So what, exactly, does Google have that will protect it from a sudden shift in consumer sentiments? Is it a brand, or a fad?

Like New Shimmer, it could be both! It's a brand that, like a fad that has peaked, could very well find itself in number two--or worse--if a smarter competitor comes along.

Just ask Yahoo.



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"Ed Driscoll has been writing professionally since 1995, on topics ranging from technology to pop culture to politics. Sadly, he no longer wants his MTV."--The Weekly Standard.com


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