I don't understand this Google/Blogger thing

I have no idea what Google gets from buying Blogger that they couldn’t get for free. Judging from the response, I’m not alone. Blogging will never be a mass-market phenomenon (Blogger has 200,000 active users). The protocols that underlie blogging are so open that there are no obvious technical synergies. Giving preference to Blogger customers would throttle Google’s golden-egg-laying goose.

Dave Winer says it’s Google can offer blogging to their enterprise customers, but it’s not clear to me why that adds value to Google’s enterprise services. Mitch Ratcliffe says “The acquisition of Blogger gives Google a channel to put its automated searching capabilities into people’s hands…[it] also raises Google’s potential to reshape the Net by focusing on how links are made and managed.” But I don’t understand why they have to own Blogger to do that. Three years from now, Blogger will be a neglected subsidiary–not a strategic asset.

There are plenty of interesting grass roots efforts to make sense of blogspace, but we haven’t seen anything yet from the masters of extracting information from links. Buying Blogger seems like a step in the wrong direction.

5 thoughts on “I don't understand this Google/Blogger thing

  1. Barry — the reason Google needs Blogger today is that the Pyra team has successfully put a tool for linking and commenting on information into the hands of a lot of people. They are buying insight into link creation and management as much as the current tool. Blogger may very well end up a neglected subsidiary, but Google gets the people and the ideas it needs to continue to make its search API more useful.
    Will Blogger be a neglected sub someday? I don’t know. It certainly could be. However, with upgrades and new features that user pays for incrementally, it could provide a recurring revenue stream in its current form. If it becomes a corporate knowledge management tool — which would take some work — there are lots of reasons to the companies may think of Bloogling their project teams.
    And putting it in front of 100 million searchers every day won’t hurt.

  2. Google + Blogger = Go_Ogle, the Mother of All Online Dating Sites
    Here’s how I think it will happen:
    First, Google will improve the searchability of the “blogosphere” by making it easy for bloggers to append a file to heir blogs containing information about themselves and their blogger friends. This information will be encoded in an RDF dialect called FOAF (Friend of a Friend).
    Soon after, it will start to dawn on people that the FOAF file is effectively a static online profile, while the associated blog is akin to a living profile (in the ‘living document’ sense).
    One tipping (i.e. inflection) point later, usage of Google by date seekers will grow to an such extent that our (grand)children may read about it in their history texts. Online dating is at 26M users and growing, after all.
    Google will then acquire the makers of the best tools for querying RDF and launch Go_Ogle, the mother of all online dating sites.
    More on this, including a pointer to foundational code for GPLed Go_Ogle, at http://www.opportunityservices.com
    Frank Ruscica
    The Opportunity Services Group :: Have Fun to Get Ready

  3. Mitch:
    It’s just hard to believe they had to buy an entire company to do this. Especially since Blogger knows nothing about this that Google can’t figure out more globally by looking at the sites themselves.
    No question, Blogger is worth more with Google behind it than it is free-standing. But could Google get a better return on its resources at less risk of losing focus if it were to build or buy indexing/linking/analysis tools like Technorati, instead of a posting tool like Blogger?
    I think you agree that the real value that is being created by blogging is in the links, the context, and the meta-information, and not in the posting of that information to the Web. All that stuff is out there for anyone (especially Google) to capture and analyze. Buying Blogger doesn’t get them any closer. It’s like buying an airline to find out what people do on business trips.

  4. Frank:
    Sounds promising. “Find me more people like this one” is a very appealing request.
    I’ve met more interesting, compatible people in blogspace than just about anywhere else.

  5. Barry,
    I think the upside of Go_Ogle may prove too substantial for Google to ignore. Consider:

    • “Personals Comprise the Largest Paid Content Category on the Internet

      More than a cultural phenomenon, online personals are one of the fastest growing online businesses. According to a December 2002 study conducted by comScore and the Online Publishers Association, the Personals category grew 387 percent to become the largest online paid content category among consumers in the third quarter of 2002, surpassing Business Content. The online personals industry posted $87.2 million in revenue in the third quarter 2002 – nearly a quarter of every dollar spent on consumer content online.” (source: comScore Media Metrix)

    • “’I have 43 employees, and we’ll bring in $43 million this year. That’s $1 million per employee,’ [uDate president Martin] Clifford said. ‘We have zero cost of sales within our business …The margins are almost super-margins.’” (source: MSNBC.com)

    Moreover, I believe leadership of the market for online matchmaking software is the gateway to early leadership of the market for lifelong learning and career services, which will be worth hundreds of trillions of dollars in the coming decades (as I describe here). Toward understanding the relationship between the two markets, consider: according to a recent American Demographics survey, couples in the U.S. meet primarily at work (36%) or school (27%).
    Finally, I agree 100% about the quality and fun of interaction in “blogspace”. All the more reason to think the hypothesis may be sober…
    Beyond this, I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog for some time now. Good stuff.

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