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.
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