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March 22, 2005

Google and Flickr cont..

At the risk of sounding like  a Google thorn, let me pick few areas where I think Google's culture wont allow them to excel. 

Google due to all it's smart assembly line of Phds has this approach of  "we know what we are doing" and don't need any stinking user community telling us what to do.  And probably rightly so. They have demonstrated time and time again what they are capable of. Hats off to their engineering talent.  While I am on the topic let me say hats off to Apple and that company which not many people talk about nowadays - SGI.  They are all extremely creative companies. They create cool products (well SGI used to), have good fan following and generally get rewarded in the Wall Street.  (You cannot write any Silicon Valley story without talking about these three companies)

Smart people naturally have strong aversion to surprises. It goes against their prepared mindset. Google is not comfortable with user generated content.  It shows in their controlled corporate blogging policy and their overall secrecy around terms and conditions.  But then that's the corporate culture which ideally shouldn't  reflect on the application architecture or product evolution.  I suspect it reflects there as well.

Success of Flickr tells one thing that the next generation architecture need to not only incorporate chaos as a feature but actively break the barrier which stops users from expressing their creativity via their content or data.  As an application writer you need to constantly break the boundaries.  Let user drive the product management. It sounds scary but its less scary than the world we live-in and an extremely short window we get to innovate in.

I think both Yahoo and Amazon (A9) have realized this hole in Google's formidable revenue stream. They are going OPEN (Yahoo by integrating Flickr features and A9 by using open search). They will adopt RSS left, right and center. This is a great move from the user point of view. They get to decide how deep and intelligent search personalization they want.  Isn't this something Google should have had done long time back, but they won't sacrifice their ad revenue.  When are we going to get RSS in the Google News ? How does fair-user aggregation conflicts with fair-user content syndication ?

In this empowered-user era users will find their own way to get a cleaner and faster interaction experience. One can setup an email forwarding from Google to Bloglines  and get all email/RSS feed in one aggregator - and hopefully without pesky ads following him everywhere. Point is user has a choice and companies shouldn't hide those choices if they are easy to provide.

I like Google for what they have done so far but they should open up little more and allow user-driven experiments in their product line.  Add more of RSS and community features in their websites. I am sure they are doing it but they again they are assuming they know what users want.   Even the temple of user-centricity - Apple - never thought one day people would be putting Linux on iPod.

Flickr has taught us the thrill of discovery, lets build that into our architecture.

(Pankaj as always I got carried away, but I hope I answered your question)

March 22, 2005 in Emerging Technologies | Permalink


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