Google Misses Another Chance To Be The Web Platform
from the strategic-errors dept
A few people have submitted various stories on the web about how Google has killed off their SOAP Search API in favor of their AJAX API, which is much more limited. Some are saying that this is more of a business decision than a technical one — in that the new API gives Google a lot more control over how their results get displayed. This seems like a bad decision. One rule of developing products for others to use is that you should never, ever take away features — and doing so to take more control over how something is used is doubly bad. Google should know better, and it’s surprising that they still went forward with this plan.
While there’s no denying that Google is a tremendously successful company, for years, we’ve believed the really big opportunity online is to become the web platform that powers much of what people do online. Rather than doing that, unfortunately, they seem to be focusing not on being the platform that powers much of the web, but the platform that sells advertising to any kind of media. Given the company’s success in making money on ads, this makes sense — but it’s much less defensible long term (and so far the company has failed to find a real followup to its success with web-based ads). In the meantime, Google has ceded the efforts to power web services to folks like Yahoo and Amazon — though neither have been able to get enough traction in that area to matter.
Still, what makes this that much more interesting, is Tyler Hall’s submission to us, where he notes that the company he works for relied on Google’s SOAP API for what they do, and found that since the API went down quite frequently, they had to write their own scraping tool as a backup, which they’ve now released publicly for others, under the EvilAPI banner. Tyler wonders about the legality of this, but he’s certainly not the first to do something like this. We wrote about a very similar effort to get around the limitations of Google’s API two years ago. And, given that Google’s entire search engine is based on scraping the web, they’d get a ton of pushback if they went after anyone else for then scraping their results as well. Overall, it seems like Google’s new mantra of trying to focus more has them focusing on the wrong thing. They’re focusing much more on the advertising business than the platform business, and if you look at it historically, that’s almost always the wrong choice. Google hasn’t made many false steps so far, and you’d have to believe they have better insight into what they’re doing than any outsider — but it’s difficult to see how this is a good strategic move.