If you can put up with annoying ads and popups, Forbes posted an article by Eric Jackson called “Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years.”
Mr. Jackson’s premise is that companies like Google and Facebook won out over their dinosaur predecessors like AltaVista and MySpace not because of the brilliance of the former, but the dismal inability of the latter entities to cope with the expectations of the web. And just likewise, new companies like Instagram are exploiting the mobile version of the web, which will in turn destroy companies like Google and Facebook who likely cannot adapt.
Horsepucky. These are cherry-picked examples largely because they are well-known. Instagram is not quite a hit with everyone yet, and may never take off.
Google, Mr. Jackson opines, became a success because it offered better organization and faster responsiveness than AltaVista. He has this idea backwards: AltaVista failed because it could not be as organized or fast as Google in time. The reason Google became a success is because they give most of their best products away as a loss leader, which spreads acceptance, and bought the crap out of solutions that had few serious competitors: YouTube, Maps, and Blogger being three good examples. Google hit the top because it absorbed popular solutions.
This is how Microsoft and Cisco have survived, two examples that completely contradict Mr. Jackson’s light theory. Microsoft totally failed to embrace the Internet in a timely fashion, and many of its current technologies still show a woeful understanding of standards and security, resulting in numerous patches and updates. Cisco has never introduced a successful product they came up with: they, like Microsoft, simply buy the products that sell. Innovators routinely come up with new and better products, but fail to gain serious market penetration because Microsoft and Cisco continue to bring themselves new customers through acquisitions. Google does the same thing. Heck, the Google he describes has not existed since 2002.
Facebook, on the other hand, simply maintains brand loyalty by offering innovative ideas and getting people behind them. Often, the user experience is tightly controlled, but the coolness factor cannot be denied, especially by the younger set. Facebook can survive much in the manner that Apple survives: everyone writes the obituaries and predicts the eventual demise, but Apple and Facebook keep on going by offering their users exactly what they want next. Facebook, Mr. Jackson seems to forget, went through a monumental change recently that (a) forced many old-time customers to leave but (b) picked up millions of new ones. Facebook is more popular than ever, and like Apple, seems to outlive the folks who laugh at their business model.
Their success does not guarantee failure. On the other hand, simpler explanations exist for the big names that failed. Once, Borland Paradox was the unstoppable database monster. WordPerfect. Lotus 1-2-3. Netscape. Gateway. All of these failed for very simple reasons: people no longer wanted them. IBM and Motorola nearly went that way, too, and actually do quite well despite a perception of struggle. They adapt. RIM, with its Blackberry, is on the bubble but can easily come back; but to do so, they might wish to follow the Dell and HP models by leaping in a new direction that delivers on customer expectations on time, not months after your competitors release a better product.
In short, predicting the death of Google and Facebook may make a great headline, but the substance of the article seems to ignore the massive counterarguments in favor of a quick bathroom read. Mr. Jackson makes very good points throughout, but misses the mark with the main topic.