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What, this is the third column in a row I'm writing about Google and (yet again), it's not good news.
Like many others (some of whom have already emailed me to express their disappointment), I received an email this morning advising me that Google is switching to a new news and weather app.
I don't use a smartphone... mine is a 2G dumb-phone that works just fine and I get all my cyberstuff via my desktop or laptop computers. Bugger farting around on a tiny touch screen!
So why are they wasting my valuable time by telling me about something that is of absolutely zero relevance to me?
Hardly "targeted advertising" is it?
But what if you do use a smartphone and do avail yourself of Google's news and weather app?
Well both the readers who have switched to the new app (at Google's request) have been rather critical of the results.
Apparently, as they so often do, Google has "fixed" stuff that was never broken and, in the process, turned things into a giant mess.
One reader, whose opinions I value greatly, stated "The new app is cluttered with massive images and I have to hop back and forth to find the parts I’m interested in. What a shambles!"
Yep... that's Google (and Yahoo, and Facebook and just about every large player on the Net landscape).
I recall when they "updated" and "improved" their web-based version of Google News. It took me some time to figure out how to actually get back to the search results that I had relied on for so long previously. Under the "new and improved" interface, my searches returned bugger-all and were pretty much useless.
In fact (call me stupid, many do), I still can't see how to refine the search results (by time-range, date or relevance) when using the official Google News page.
Compare that to the old-style search results which not only provide a better synopsis but also allows you to quickly refine or restrict the search via the "tools" option.
Have the people behind these changes never actually read any of the very many studies that quite clearly state that people are resistant to change?
Before you invoke the wrath of a settled group of happy users, you'd better be damned sure the changes are both necessary and worthwhile. Google never seems to bother confirming these criteria before blundering ahead and inflicting its own vision of what's best on the rest of us.
I think this kind of arrogance is important however, for without it, there'd be far less opportunity for new, up-and-coming companies with good ideas and a willingness to listen to their users. Those up-and-comers who are willing to exploit the vulnerability that arrogance creates have a chance to win over the hearts (and wallets) of the market and oust the reigning king.
This is why we see companies rise and fall over time -- it's all part of the nature of business.
From where I'm standing, Google has a very strong position and is firmly cemented as "king of the internet", however their day in the sun is rapidly coming to an end and I believe that in ten year's time, they may no longer be anywhere near as dominant as they are right now.
Why is that?
Well their arrogance is growing at an alarming rate, as is their need to chase every dollar that's going (hence the censored version of Google search they'll be rolling out in China). Add to this the growing number of very substantial fines and regulatory constraints that various governments (especially the EU) seems to be throwing at them and you can see that times are getting tougher for Google.
Meanwhile, waiting in the wings, poised to strike, are countless new startups with great ideas, better ethics and an ability to introduce fantastic new concepts and paradigms without the risk of alienating an existing user-base. These startups have everything (except critical mass) going for them, whereas Google is increasingly struggling against the tides of arrogance, greed and regulation.
So stay tuned because change is the only constant in cyberspace and tomorrow will always be different to today.
I'd love to hear what readers think. How many remember when it would have been totally inconceivable to suggest that IBM would no longer be the world's biggest computer company or that some upstarts in a California garage who built a crappy single-board microcomputer system would turn into one of the world's most valuable companies within the span of a single lifetime.
Let's hear your forecasts for the computer/internet industries in 10, 20 or 30 year's time.
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