Worldwide connectedness. That’s the beauty of the Web. Find anything, anywhere, at any time.
It’s the idea Google used to disrupt and build a multi-platform empire – fueled by search dominance. But now it’s at risk of being gone for all us – and we will likely never get it back.
With its recent announcement about search changes, Google fully committed to its strategy of joining others in creating walled gardens on the Internet. It is big change by the Web industry’s leader.
Google was always about an open Web. It is what made Google the Web king – particularly in search. When the average user thinks of the transcendent Web experience, they think “Google it,” right?
Google let other companies worry about social. MySpace came along, whatever. Facebook started up, also a yawn. Twitter, not worried. Besides, they were all walled gardens. Google was the Web!
But as Facebook began rising toward 1 billion users, Google started to get worried. I was at a Google developer event last year when word of the Google+ social network was leaked. The story was denied by Google, but it was clear something big was coming from Google.
Google+ was later launched. Though the Facebook-Google+ rivalry was about social on its face, it was about much more: Facebook set out a goal of becoming the exclusive Web experience.
Yet Facebook had always been the anti-Google and, as a walled garden, they could never be Google. But now, over the past year, Google is pivoting hard.
Its new strategy will make it look more like the other walled gardens of the Web. Google-related results now get top billing in its brand-defining search results, clearly an effort to boost Google+.
As a marketer and digital strategist, it is job security. It’s one more platform with one more strategy to define and execute. As a techie, it bums me out. I loved the old Google’s “open” idealism. As a consumer, I am frustrated to no longer have a quintessential platform-agnostic Web choice.
The example that crystalizes it for me is the choice of my next phone. A longtime Microsoft user, I have gravitated toward the Mac platform, but hadn’t gone all-in with an iPhone. As a pre-iPhone Verizon customer, I opted last time for an Android phone and its tailored Google Web experience.
However, when I upgrade in April, I will be looking at a choice that will essentially define my Web experience for the next two years. The next era of the Web will be mobile, one we will each experience in distinct ways: from Apple’s iPhone view; Microsoft’s Windows phone view; or Google’s Android view.
We are well on our way to a splintered world-wide Web of many walled gardens. It reminds of the view of some in my former industry, journalism, who didn’t want to include outside links on the notion, “We don’t want them to go anywhere but our site.” It was a bad idea then and it still is now.