The moves by Google over the last year have been astounding. Their profit announcement this week is proof that they are serving their customers well and that will please their shareholders. The challenge for Google is their size. Rather, the challenge for the rest of us is the size of Google. They are the Microsoft of our time. Even more so. Their size makes it challenging for competitors on a range of fronts. However, it is difficult to work out who is a competitor, for Google is playing in so many spaces and on a variety of scales. Sure Yahoo is a competitor. But from stories published over the last few weeks so are book publishers and newspaper publishers among others. The internet has been a leveler, allowing small and independent businesses to establish electronic real-estate almost as easily as much larger competitors. That opportunity is less today than a few years ago thanks, in part, to the Internet becoming big business in itself and thanks to the clever Google advertising tools which only larger businesses can afford. Google’s success attracts more businesses online and with them come more of the bricks and mortar world practices and independent businesses risk being drowned out again.
While the laws of economics meant that such growth and the attendant commercial power was inevitable, Google and other companies managing the freeways used to access online businesses have an obligation to keep it affordable.
My fear is that Google and any competitor their size will be like the giant shopping mall landlords who have priced their real-estate such that independent retailers give anything from 12% to 20% of their sales to pay rent. With shopping mall rent it’s a supply and demand situation based on finite space available. Google does not have similar physical world constraints and so ought not be under similar pressure on its pricing model.
I’m not a Google basher. Indeed I use their AdWords service and appreciate the sales the Google generated traffic brings. My hope is that it remains cost effective for small businesses like mine to get online and access the traffic Google and others control on their freeways.
We need a healthy small and independant business community online.