Shared a link to a Forbes article today called Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Disappear in the Next 5 Years piece that details fundamental flaws that may keep today’s web giants from competing in a landscape dominated by mobile apps.
The article was a good read and makes some good points, but like a lot of tech journalism it focuses on trending, innovation, industry hindsight. Google, Amazon and Facebook might have trouble down the road but I doubt it will be due to inability to adapt to new paradigms. IMO if they have problems with adapting to a changing landscape it will be due more to corporate bloat than anything. When companies get too large, their swelling ranks of shareholders invariably demand growth — growth that can’t be satisfied by simply continuing to feel the brilliantly simple product(s) that made the companies household names.
McDonald’s is the obvious example: What started as an ingeniously efficient way of selling a narrow range of products grew over 5 decades into an amorphous restaurant corporation who can only maintain their place in the global market by implementing superficial, trend-driven changes to their menu offerings and constantly budgeting for exorbitant rebranding facelifts.
The real question for high-riding tech companies is: How good is your product? If the core product is good, and far superior to anything else out there, then it’s trend-agnostic. Rejiggering for a new mode of user behavior of mode of communication is a matter of creating an alchemy from a mix of seasoned leadership and young turks stepped in the latest ideas. If a leadership can listen and learn and identify great young talent to put new ideas on the table then it’s not a big hurdle.
Google, Amazon and Facebook all have amazing products. But they’ve all lost focus by messing with their basic formulas, and it’s that, and not the inability to adapt to trends, that has made them stumble.
Google wants to play in social, but for all the billions in cash that they have to throw at the problem they can’t figure out UX — which is maybe not a surprising blind spot for a company who made billions with a web page containing a single entry field.
Amazon are the undisputed king of search-based retailing, but they (willfully) stumble and bumble with online advertising. Worse, with the success of selling their brand as a boilerplate for small independent sellers, they’ve become indifferent to user experience and are seemingly adrift in that area. At one time Amazon meant books and other media, sold with revolutionary efficiency and economy. But when you shop at Amazon today, you ask: who are you really dealing with? It’s de-evolved from a focused online retailer into an eBay-esque supercharged flea market with expedited shipping options and a credit card racket on the side.
As of this writing Facebook has maintained their brand purity, but they’re considerably younger (albeit in web 2.0 years, where lifecycles sometimes seems as brief as the average horsefly). Even in their relatively young life they’ve already had to manage disgruntled users with various UI redesigns, and are bracing for more when they roll out expanded advertising.
Facebook needs to adjust their business model for monetization, so tinkering with the core product is necessary. But as the Forbes article points out, their profits don’t even come close to what they’ll need to generate to justify the $5 trillion (or whatever it is this week) IPO that everyone’s waiting on, so I expect to see the funding angels applying additional pressure to fiddle with the business model very soon.
I don’t think that a new mercurial world of mobile and device app-driven marketing and commerce should rattle any corporation’s online strategy if that corporation has their head on straight and sticks with what they know.
The really good news is… With McDonald’s strategy as a blueprint, we see that even if your product’s quality becomes a joke, and your company is running on nothing but marketing subterfuge, you can still manage to stay in the game. In McDonald’s everyone has a model for future success, whether they take the high or low road to get there.