Does Google Face A Disruptive Technology?

Google Next Victim Of Creative Destruction? is a paper by John Borthwick, a former top executive at AOL, who should know whereof he speaks. He recounts how Clay Christensen, the inventor of the concept of Disruptive Technology, suggested to a senior group at AOL that they should be concerned about other disruptive influences that might well spell eventual disaster for AOL in the years to come.  .. and it did come to happen. 

Twitter, Google’s David

Now Borthwick is suggesting the Twitter phenomenon may point to a similar sign of trouble for Google.  He sees search as fragmenting and believes that Twitter search will do to Google what broadband did to AOL.

Opinions on this seem to be mixed. Vaibhav Domkundwar comes out flatly and says that Google Will Not Be A Victim Of Twitter and Believes Borthwick’s Theory Is Flawed.  He bases this principally on the argument that Twitter covers only a fraction of what he calls the Now Web and that Google can easily expand into this space.

Others are less emphatic.  Kara Swisher seems more open to the idea, while Lew Moorman feels there may be more to the Twitter threat than people are acknowledging.

I’m with Lew Moorman on this one.  The essence of a disruptive technology is that it cannot be countered by edging out from the existing technology.  Usually there is something much more fundamental that means there is a severe disjunction between the old and the new.  As Borthwick said, the AOL people just could not get their minds around what would be a disruptive technology for them.  They believed they were the disrupters.

The NOW Web

To shake up ideas a little I have suggested elsewhere the notion of the NOW Web.   This is a term used by Vaibhav Domkundwar but I have expanded the space it covers.  It includes the World Wide Web but in addition all other packets of information that travel "online". 

Of course some of these are travelling within cell phone systems, some are on other wireless interfaces and others are on the traditional Web.  I have used the term Instants as the name of these information packets.  A Twitter status message is an example of such an Instant.  The reason why this is of interest is that it may start off as a text message on a cell phone before being integrated within a web page.

The experts will undoubtedly find fault with this over-simple explanation but hopefully it helps to explain a reality.  Such Instants may sometimes have an associated URI since they exist within the World Wide Web and sometimes not if they exist elsewhere in the NOW Web.  Of course if there is no URI for a given Instant, then there can be no ‘back link’ to that Instant.  The fundamental information that Google uses in its search algorithms is just not available for all these Instants.  Collapse of stout party as they used to say.

If finding the information that people want involves somehow assimilating all these Instants in some way that does not involve going through the traditional URIs, then there may be space for a Google-killer.  Perhaps this picture is flawed just as Domkundwar suggested that Borthwick’s theory is flawed.  The difficulty is that it is always tough to forecast what format the disruptive technology will take.   I look forward to seeing comments on whether this simple explanation may have any possible credence.

Related:  The NOW Web Is Not The Mobile Web

15 thoughts on “Does Google Face A Disruptive Technology?”

  1. If search fragments, it may be into more vertical apps…after all, how can Twitter replicate the sheer hardware power of Google?

    And, BTW, does Twitter have any competitors?

  2. Hardware power can be replicated with capital. If one believes in a company, they will get the capital.

    I think the problem with the potential for twitter to kill Google is what would they be storing or serving up that would drive people to them vs. Google. Twitter is made up of 140 characters for each tweet. That doesn’t give enough info to be useful.

    I don’t think Twitter stores enough info to be able to come up with a way to rank and present it. Twitter has its place for socializing, but I don’t see it killing off a search engine.

    I like your explanation of calling the data “instants”. I have to wonder though, how much of that data is something people wnat to store, search, and retrieve for later.

  3. I do not believe there would be long-term storage of Instants. The NOW Web is mostly ephemeral. In a short while all trace of most Instants would disappear.

    The aim is to understand as much as you can about what is happening at this moment in time. Only the more memorable or perhaps aggregates of the more important would justify being converted into online properties that would then exist within the World Wide Web.

  4. I don’t think anybody is a threat for google. At least for some time, google is pretty safe, and it is expanding its business in full speed, gmail is grabbing lots of users of yahoo and msn, google earth, picassa, maps, google adsense are doing fine and above all google as a search engine dominates more than 50% of market. Twitter has just one service, which is very good, but according to me, it does not create any threat for google.

  5. There are sometimes you just want to search for something but you don’t know how to type exactly into the Google search box? That’s when you tweet and ask your Twitter community.

  6. Twitter is a fad (although I use it), Google is a necessity. The two really can’t be compared. Google is not going anywhere, I think Twitter will fade as the noise to sound ratio becomes overwhelming.

  7. I must admit I don’t see Twitter as a threat. One problem is disruptive innovations often do not seem to be threats at first. Still all you can do is use your brain to try and predict what the future will bring. Google biggest threat now, in my opinion, remains themselves. They continue to do well, but if they fail to put a continuous focus on improving and evolving then others will find a way to take away Google visitors.

  8. I don’t see twitter and google being in the same boat, especially with the types of services they offer. I still think Google is getting even stronger, especially since a lot of webmasters now treat google services as part of their everyday must-haves.

  9. Well, first I read in a blog that twitter will overtake facebook, and now I read this, woow, And I don’t even know what the hell twitter is.. haha, I think I will have to search some info about twitter. Great post and great blog

  10. its unfair for twitter to be pitted against Google. If you have a good network (be it on twitter or anywhere else) you are bound to get quick replies for what you are looking for.

  11. I don’t think its easy to outwit google since they are in the industry far longer than twitter. Google are constantly upgrading to suit the needs of the users and if we are using a graph down here, i guess there still a wide margin difference.

  12. Twitter can never overtake Google. Google is far better than Twitter. Moreover the Whole Twitter Interface is confusing and I personally have to search and read too much. Google is the King

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