Wired: One area where people say that Google is indeed motivated by competition is the social realm, where in the past two years you have been working hard in a field dominated by a single rival, Facebook. That’s not the case?
Page: It’s not the way I think about it. We had real issues with how our users shared information, how they expressed their identity, and so on. And, yeah, they’re a company that’s strong in that space. But they’re also doing a really bad job on their products. For us to succeed, is it necessary for some other company to fail? No. We’re actually doing something different. I think it’s outrageous to say that there’s only space for one company in these areas. When we started with search, everyone said, “You guys are gonna fail, there’s already five search companies.” We said, “We are a search company, but we’re doing something different.” That’s how I see all these areas.
Page just tells it like he thinks it is with his “they are doing a really bad job on their products” line, huh?
Right now is where many will chime in with the classic ‘Well, Google+ is a ghost town / sucks / doesn’t even exist / ‘insert product insult here’ ‘ and in some ways those put downs are well deserved.
In other ways though Google+ is pretty misunderstood in my estimation. If you look at it for what it really is which is a productivity tool that is part of a much larger and broader set of productivity tools rather than pigeon-holing it as a social network it DOES look much different.
Page is obviously looking to rattle some cages and see if he can cajole Facebook into a hasty mistake or two to weaken them in the market. Will that happen? Who the heck knows but you have to respect the guy for giving it a go.
The statement would be even more outrageous if it was not for it being so true. In many cases, Facebook’s attempts at ‘progress’ have either fallen short of expectations, ticked off users on the privacy front or both. Facebook account holders have simply gotten used to accepting whatever they are handed from the product perspective in exchange for the ability to talk to friends, acquaintances etc. It’s a fact of the social media world that Facebook is the only game in town to drive this kind of engagement. That’s its true major advantage right now. It could also be viewed as its Achilles Heel if complacency or sheer arrogance takes hold.
Facebook is wrestling with how to make money and meet the lofty expectations of the public market. In the process it has looked a little premature and clumsy at times. Take Graph Search. Sure there has been a ton of initial buzz about it but it’s not even available to many at all so how can we know what’s good bad or indifferent about it? This ‘announce then slowly roll out a completely incomplete product’ tactic is old and tired but Facebook still subscribes to it. At least have something to let people play with rather than being put on a waiting list. Sure Google does things in a similar fashion but they have mastered the art to the point of getting away with it better than Facebook.
So Page gets to play the smug ‘competitor’ CEO who already has deep pockets and a cash cow that is giving milk every quarter without much interruption and that is his ace-in-the-hole. He knows that so why not toss a stone or two and see what he can rile up out of the Melo Park boys and girls?
What do you think of CEO’s making statements like this about competitors? Does it endear you to them or do you push further away? Does it impact your attitude about the product in a positive or negative fashion or not at all?
What’s your take?