Battelle: Google’s next phase

John Battelle comments on Danny Sullivan’s notes on Google no longer defining itself as a search company., and their enormous ambitions: “Google is clearly no longer just a search company, and Danny is right to declare this fact. Google is bigger now, and it has to act like a bigger company. Along with Yahoo, it is one of the first truly “new media” companies of our era. Search is its core editorial product, the internet is its distribution network, and advertising its revenue stream. What’s new is that the company breaks some pretty sacred media company norms – distributing advertising across editorial sites that it doesn’t control, for example, or abstracting traditional editorial judgment behind opaque curtains of algorithmic logic. Just wait until Google starts to distribute video ads attached to net-based television programming. Don’t think it will happen? I’ll bet you dinner it will.”
One of the most fascinating things about Google’s developing itself as a portal play is that Larry Page and Sergey Brin had these ambitions 4 years ago. I remember sitting in a room with Larry at Netscape, Winter 2000, when they were a small company, and Larry talked about how they wanted to grow that single search box to become the dominant navigation and starting point for Internet users. I doubt they had any sense at that point that advertising–taking a page from Overture in particular–would become key to fueling their growth,but the ambition was there. And now look.
(Side note: Back in 2000, many of the Netscapers urgently wanted AOL to buy Google. Smarting from the fact Yahoo had started on Netscape machines, many on the team felt Google was a must-buy. A top executive, however, who shall remain nameless, didn’t want to even consider the deal, saying “AOL users don’t care about search. Forget it.” Of course, enough reason prevailed for AOL to invest and get those warrants that are going to make them so much money now that the IPO is going through–and within a year, as the ad market began to tank, first the Overture and then the Google ad words revenue was what was propping up ad sales.)