I can’t imagine this is an entirely original idea, it’s come up a couple times in discussions I’ve had with folks the last few days, but I think it’s both a brilliant conspiracy theory and a trend heavily rooted in reality.
Google is Most Threatened by Mobile
Think back to your experience on the internet before the iPhone, Android, or even Blackberry. As the internet evolved from AOL to Yahoo to Google, so did the way in which you manage and access your frequently visited sites. In the era of AOL, the early dawn of the internet, like cavemen with clubs, we pounded websites into bookmarks and favorites. During the Yahoo years, we discovered fire, an early innovation that paved the way for tools like delicious and stumbleupon. Like the wheel to the car, we had discovered cloud computing before realizing the full potential of web services that can store, mobilize, manage, simplify, and share our data. With Google, we jumped forward centuries in our evolution, to the information age; no longer were bookmarks and sites to manage our favorites relevant, with a simple search we could immediately find what we desired. Almost overnight, our behavior changed; no more did we type https://myspace.com in to the browser or sift through a list of saved links, a keyword in a search engine was a much faster path to the sites we love.
The Era of Google
Google became our gateway to the internet. While exalted for it’s ease of use and accuracy in discovering content, everyone used it simply to reach the sites that demanded our attention. You typed in “gmail” to get to your mail, “fantasy football” to manage your team, “hotjobs” to make a better living, “Jenniefromtheblock” to find a date (inside joke). While Google didn’t own and control our experience online (as is becoming the case with other internet behemoths), they were the path through which everyone went; resulting in an advertising engine unparalleled since the invention of the printing press.
Sure, in the most recent years, Google’s dominion has been at for a variety of reasons. Yahoo and Microsoft threatened to collude to compete. Facebook continues to learn more about you and other sites than any other before; holding the promise of a new experience online. Yet it was Mobile, with Apple’s revolution, that changed the game for Google.
The Era of Apps and Apple
What, might you ask, does Apple have to do with how you interact with the internet? If you are the unlucky owner of one of these pocket computers with a phone, you know that Google no longer holds open the door. Apps have replaced bookmarks. An endless list of entrepreneurs have recognized this, rushing to fill the gap left by Google’s inability to recreate the search experience for Apps and iTunes failure to effectively deliver quality applications; and the race to create app stores, app enabled TVs, and even refrigerators with apps in the door, are nothing more than a reflection (and validation) of the fact that you now navigate the internet with a finger and a phone.
Of course, the new experience isn’t limited to Apple, nor is Google out of the game, but with new smartphones introduced to the market daily, everyone has realized that the market is open on capturing your attention when interacting with content online.
Google’s Glimmer of Hope
If I were to predict what we are going to witness over the next few years, it’s an explosion of HTML5 powered sites that are by nature, both browser and mobile based. While phone manufacturers and app “store” entrepreneurs battle for your attention now, the war will be short lived, as the era of apps comes to a close and Google can again retain the title of gatekeeper. This very site is also, effectively, an app; though not available through Apple’s closed iTunes, were you to navigate here from your phone (via Google perhaps), you’ll find it rendered for the device with the option to save it as an app.
One can speculate that Google’s on-again / off-again relationship with Apple was not a battle for phone supremacy control of your gateway. Apple, brilliantly, put up roadblocks and distractions to keep Google busy just getting Voice on the iPhone and Android out the door. In the process, they delayed the inevitable possibility that Google replaces the app store experience as Apps go the way of the dinosaurs with HTML5 and Google regains it’s title.
With all the considerations to debate: Facebook, mobile, SEO, Google, Apple, etc., who really knows what goes on in the minds of the internet titans. But that, to me, makes this question all the more intriguing. How do you expect to consumed online content when in a matter of years it will all live in your pocket?