Didja see it?

It was so incredibly subtle, and nobody noticed it, but it just happened.  Google went from early adopter to fast follower.  Instead of bringing out market-changing products that disrupt, they’re reacting to other’s innovations.  As evidence I offer:

  • Google Reader, a superior product produced as a response to Bloglines, which I abandoned for the Google version;
  • OpenSocial, a clear reaction to the rise of Facebook, and an inability to make Orkut as successful as Facebook; and
  • Google’s purchase of YouTube, which came about because they couldn’t beat them at Google Video.

This is the natural way of companies, and is a pattern Microsoft followed as well.  It doesn’t mean we won’t see innovation from Google, only that it’s going to be rarer.  In particular I think the following things are long term going to be areas in which people say, "Wow, Google did that and nobody else was working on it/buying people in that space at their size":

  • GrandCentral: nobody at their size is in this space, and I’m in love with the service;
  • Google Booksearch: you can’t do anything truly innovative without pissing someone(s) off; and
  • Google Earth: there’s mapping sites, and then there’s Google Earth.   Not even close.