The heads-up from Michael Braley that got my last few posts going included an interesting analysis at Hitchhiker 650 suggesting that ownership of the semantic Web devolves to those clever enough to extract semantics via a so-called 'normalization layer'.
It may be true that Google leads the search space, and verbulation of the company name (Google is now an entry in Merriam Webster) testifies to its public mind share in search (or maybe Merriam Webster is making a shameless play for attention!?). Their collateral gaze has been impressive as well, setting standards for innovation that scrambles markets and user expectations. They have a stunningly effective business model with only modest overtones of predation and nuanced hints of greed. They do great stuff, and everyone else is playing catchup. Maybe.
But a monopoly? The character of their business is not monopolistic. Yes, the financial capital necessary to deploy server farms on the scale of Google is an impediment, but there is a surprising number of organizations for whom this is not a serious barrier. Witness the competition raging among Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, with Amazon and others nipping at their heels. And the observation that recently MySpace became the number-one visited site on the Web further challenges the notion that any one organization (or even one sector) has anything approaching monopolistic sway over the Web.
Google is powerful because we love their stuff 'n style. Their competetive edge is innovation, and conventional wisdom credits them with being the best at channeling that innovation into attention, which attracts advertising dollars. If innovation is the Prime Raw Material of the new millenium, then success will accrue to those who learn to manage it most effectively. There are quasi-methodological approaches to doing so, but its more mystery than science.
Remember fusion power? The promise of limitless energy from 'burning' water to create a plasma as hot as a mini-sun. There's this issue of the containment 'vessel' though. Passion is the plasma of innovation. We don't know how to contain it any better. To manage it... touch it... is to quench it. You cannot create it with business plans or visions of fast cars and pretty boats. It is born of inspiration, temperament, ideology, hope, even love. Google is pretty good at attracting it and nurturing it, but I'm guessing they have no more ability to create it than anyone else. Get distracted, take your eye off the [fire] ball, and its gone, reemerging elsewhere. Is this a sustainable competitive advantage, let alone a prescription for monopoly? Nawwwww.
We return you now to your regularly scheduled anxiety of the month... Net Neutrality.
Image:(Red Tailed?) Hawk on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, July, 2006