My CNN column last week focused on Google and its struggle for relevance in the Web 3.0 world of Facebook “likes”. I’m certainly not alone, of course, in predicting the long term crisis for Google. But even the last week, since my CNN piece appeared, there’s more and more evidence to support the argument that Google is increasingly vulnerable to the structural shifts in the digital economy.
Firstly, Google is becoming increasingly embroiled in the courts. Today, for example, a Federal appeals court revived Rosetta Stone’s trademark infringement lawsuit against Google. Then, of course, there’s the upcoming EU anti-trust decision which, even if it reaches some sort of settlement, will likely weaken Google’s hitherto semi-monopolistic control of the European search market.
Most of all, though, Google is behaving increasingly oddly. With the self-styled “grown-up”, Eric Schmidt, no longer in charge, the inmates are once again running the asylum over at the Googleplex. Take, for example, Sergei Brin’s peculiarly paranoid rant yesterday about Internet openness – an argument suggesting what is good for Google = good for web freedom. And then, of course, there is last week’s Google stock split which, as the Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin notes, solidified “the founders’ control of the company by diminishing the future voting power of the shareholders”.
The issue isn’t really whether Google will be more or less evil in the future. It’s whether the dominant player in the Web 2.0 world will remain relevant in today’s social and mobile Web 3.0 world. With the kids back in charge, I’m not optimistic that Google can successfully reinvent itself.