Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Google - the Netscape of 2003?

I love Google. I love Google so much that I have the IE toolbar, and the toolbar for the start bar (I guess Google is calling it the Deskbar).

I use Google News as a poor man's Factiva and Nexis, and I use Google as a poor man's Lexis.

On that note, I wonder what the Google strategy is right now. Yesterday, in Dan Gillmor's blog, Dan posted Bill Gates unequiovacle denial of any Microsoft acquisition offer to Google, which is, oh, about a 180 degree difference from the New York Times story that has some sources talk about how Google was approached by MSFT about an acquisition. Gillmor's blog column also ran in the paper, but without the thought provoking comments.

When the NYT story came out, I called up a few of my friends / PR colleagues and got their opinion of the article - was this a Google PR move to bolster the IPO and the $15B valuation? Was this a VC PR move, to get their money out of the company? We came down that it was a PR stunt, that MSFT would rather kill than buy (remember Netscape, kiddies?) and my position was that the hype was back, that the overvaluation of Google might be part II of the VC community trying to restart the bubble, and once again, the investors are going to lose. Either way, though, Google is going to either go public, and make the VCs their money to cash out - plus more - or it's going to stay private and your are going to see a bunch of miffed VCs.

If the public does get fleeced by the Google IPO, I believe that it will set back the tech and Valley recovery by 6 months. That, combined with the hyping of social networking, smells too much like a pipe dream that the Valley is back. I think social networking is a great idea, but is there that massive amount of return that validates the amount of funding being poured into LinkedIn, Friendster, et al? There are some great social networking concepts out there - ones that take it a step beyond - but the market will bear out which sites and services win.

This is BAD for public relations. During the first dot-com boom, the PR people made the Kool Aid and prepped the Dog Food, ate and drank all of it, and got many reporters and investors to buy off on a scam dream. Were some PR people culpable for the dot-com scam? Definitely and I worked with some of them. If PR people continue to hype their clients with complete disregard, then these same PR people should take note of why reporters dislike PR practioners. In public relations, we should not be blind cheerleaders, but the voice of reason, the voice of strategy, the role of devil's advocate that is supposed to keep it real. Or, at least that's how I view PR, and sometimes for better or worse, how I try to work with clients with for POP!

The fact is that Microsoft has its sights set on Google. With the supposed 300 engineers hired for MSN Bot, the announcement of testing the News bot in Europe (hey, that's just like Google News!), Google may be the next Netscape. Yes, Google is a smarter company, and has more of a business model, but if you look at the history of MSFT and Netscape, MSFT did not make an acquisition offer or comment on Netscape.

If a company acts like a dot-com, they'll die like a dot-com.
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