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Business, Technology

The business of stealing business

There have been rumors floating around the internet (some call it a high priority project) that Google is working on a new service called Google Me (perhaps) that reinvents the social network in an attempt to ‘kill’ Facebook.  I would like to remind you that they tried this several times before in the forms of Google Wave, Google Buzz, and Google Orkut (ever heard of it?).

This got me thinking about how, in today’s digital age in particular, businesses make a usually futile attempt to gain revenue by encroaching on the almost 100% market penetration held by another company with a nearly identical product.  Perhaps the most recognizable example of this is the competitors for Apple’s iPod lineup and iPhone.  Companies (notably Microsoft) have been trying to come up with the ‘iPod killer’ (…Zune) for years.  And it almost never works.

I won’t say it NEVER works.  For example, Facebook did indeed do it to MySpace back in 2004.  But even Facebook changed up the formula to an extent.  So I’m not trying to say it’s a bad idea, I’m simply saying that stealing any substantial amount of market share from an already monolithic company/property/product is a delicate undertaking.

Especially when you notice that most of the time, when the capitalist is successful, they’re usually a no-name out of the depths of the Internet.  They’re almost never major corporations like Google or Microsoft, who can’t seem to stop trying and failing.

So again, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it IS important to note that the most successful companies are always the ones who come up with original ideas, rather than trying to kill everyone else’s ideas.

All of that being said, I do wish Google the best of luck with the Me project.  I use FaceBook regularly, but in the spirit of the preservation of power and a system of checks and balances, it may be time to replace to monolith with a more suitable candidate for our social networking needs.  And perhaps our needs have changed, and FaceBook isn’t prepared to deliver on those needs.  Whatever the case, if Google can come up with a viable replacement, I’ll jump ship.

Like I mentioned before, the ones that succeed tend to be the no-names from nowhere.  Here’s a project that has the potential to beat out Google for the Facebook replacement: Diaspora.  Check it out.

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