Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Google & AOL: Defending the Brand

The Google brand is extremely valuable (duh). I wrote recently about it being The Guide, a prized position in the world of Internet brands. That is, Google is seen by many to be the one entity to which they can always turn in the often confusing world of being online. It bears repeating: using the Web (and using search) brings many people closer to the world of computers and technology than they have ever been and may be comfortable going.

Google made a strategic business decision to buy up a piece of AOL. There's no real synergy between these companies, their culture, or their technology. Google has had a tendency to buy companies that it perceived as being interesting (Blogger), or offering technology that it felt it could use (Applied Symantics). AOL offers a very interesting and compelling service, but Google forged an alliance to protect its position. It couldn't lose the traffic AOL brings, and it really couldn't see that traffic go to its competitors.

So...

Google made a corporate decision here. This was not a move fueled by a technology vision, but out of corporate necessity. They may very well do something cool with AOL, but I'm not so sure. Consider the communications that Google has engaged in concerning the move, particularly Marissa Mayer's blog post. Her bullet-pointed list conveys an arms-distance relationship with AOL.

The biggest threat Google faces is figuring out how to maintain its credibility as it grows. Currently, the company has an amazing feeling around it: it seems like a group of people focused on pushing technology for our benefit. We worry, however, when they appear to make a move for their benefit. But this is something they need to do, if they are going to remain the strong company they are.
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