I’ve always likened Google “grand strategy” to the powerful Roman Empire. Rich, global, and influential. All of this crying about how Bing is copying Google’s search makes me want to vomit in my mouth. Yes, Google is hypocritical, which I’ll demonstrate, below, but more than anything else, it makes them look weak and insecure. And for any powerful raging conqueror of empires, this is the absolutely worst way to appear.
You Build it, We’ll Make it Better
The Roman Empire was not so much a creator of new technology, historically speaking, but they were incredibly conquerors and innovators of existing technology. The Romans took the very best of every civilization in the world they came across and integrate it into their own society and military.
Rome didn’t invent the aquaduct, but they built 11 of the largest aqueducts ever seen.
Rome didn’t invent the Trireme, but they did built a damn powerful one with some serious ramming power, and eventually conquered Carthage, the most powerful naval force in 300-200BC. (The Punic Wars)
Rome borrowed from Greek Gods and transformed them into Roman counterparts, waved high over the battlefields and found in art and literature. Rome took the best elements of the world’s art and architecture, gold and riches from Egypt and so forth.
If you could sum up the Roman Empire’s relationship with everyone else in one phrase, it is “You built it, now we’ll make it better.”
Google is the World’s Most Successful Internet Copycat
Google is similar in this aspect. They have a long standing tradition of finding the best opportunities on the Web and throwing their weight behind it, financially, productively, and in infrastructure. Google is an innovator – adapting the very best ideas into their culture, embracing it as their own, and improving upon it. The unique business model of “free” and a culture of innovation has made them enormously successful. But, likewise, Google rarely produces an original idea. And their grand strategy has never, and does not, require it.
Google is easily the Internet’s most successful and longest running copycat. And they do this very effectively, making products “one” with the Google brand, so whether acquired or copied, the origins aren’t really important anymore. Here are some examples:
Orkut (2004, no longer exists) – MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004)
Google Maps (2005) – Mapquest (1999)
PPC Advertising Model
Overture (1998) – Adwords (2000)
Internet Voice Chat
Google Voice (2009) – Skype (2003)
YouTube (Acquired technology)
Google Analytics (Acquired technology)
Mobile Operation System
Android (2008) – iOS (2007)
Free Online Email
Gmail (2004) – Yahoo Mail (1997), Hotmail (1996), and Others
Google Offers (Coming this year) – Groupon (2008)
The point is, very few if any of Google’s most successful products are original ideas. They were all copied and integrated into the Google brand in some unique form, launched with Google’s brand and influence to back it up.
Building a Profitable Empire
Building an empire does not start with conquering militarily – unless you intend to wipe out and segregate every living person of that society, the people will rarely join the side of their conqueror this way. The culture divide is vast, and often the conqueror finds growing contempt by the people left behind, and even rebellion. (Especially when it comes to taxing, so bear with me.)
Effective empire-building starts with trade. Trade agreements lead to roadways for merchants and travel (Think: Adding Google Search to Websites as a convenient search option), providing a reasonable means for merchants to profit (think: Adsense), and for growing the coffers through taxation (Think: Google profits from the Ad clicks). In the end, there is always a means to increase revenues, and working with Google means more markets and more money. And Google holds the reigns to the technology to keep them at the top of the heirarchy.
The grand strategy has nothing to do with developing something new and creative. Google rarely creates. Looking at the grand strategy, their success at its very core is as dated as Rome. The culture of sophisticated innovation, a means to profit, open roads, and securing revenue to fund further innovation allows them to grow rich, sustain influence and grow more powerful.
So shut up, You Crybabies
A Roman would never whine, kick and scream, accusing someone else of “copying”. Rome also wouldn’t seek out and “>endulge their feelings to popular bloggers to write about it.
Could you imagine the most powerful force in the world, crying about being “copied” because some other army builds a Roman-esque battering ram instead of throwing rocks at the door? No. The Romans would drive them away with every last resource they had, and even if they did suffer a defeat, it wasn’t long before they boldly marched right up the gates of their enemy with something more powerful and innovative, usually borrowed and improved upon from another conquered people. Then the conversation goes something like this: “You came with our battering rams, we here with the onager. Do your worst.”
Be like the Romans and keep doing what you do best. Stick to the grand strategy: Shut up and make things better.
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