Right after talking about Google wave, I ran across this story about the release of Microsoft bing. I like to use google as an example in classes when I talk about intellectual property ideas. The google search algorithm isn’t patentable, and yet they’ve made a ton of money off of it. But I suspect that they have always been aware that at some point, someone might come up with a better algorithm, or even a different way of envisioning web searching. To some extent, Wolfram|Alpha is trying the latter. As near as I can tell, though, microsoft is trying neither of those with bing. It seems that they’re mainly just trying to….. ummm, well, I’m not exactly sure.
In any case, the point here is that google’s place has never been entirely secure. I think this is the reason that they have been constantly looking for other ways to take advantage of their algorithm (adwords, gmail ads, etc.), or for entirely new applications (google maps, google docs, etc.). It seems like instead of trying to constantly defend a monopoly that will eventually erode, they’re acting like it’s already gone. Which is exactly the correct way to approach innovation. If you can’t use strong IP protection like patents, one very good strategy is to get out in front and then keep innovating so that no one can ever catch up. This way, when someone introduces something new that might match your current offerings (like bing, or wolfram|alpha), you’ll be introducing the next thing that is still 2 or 3 years ahead of everyone else. This strategy works well, as long as you keep coming up with good ideas!
On a somewhat related note, David Warsh has written a more academic entry about the auction process. Warsh is one of the best writers around when it comes to explaining economics. His main point here is that while firms like google, microsoft and other tech firms have figured out how to make auctions work (as described in the Wired article I linked to two days ago), we haven’t made much progress in getting this knowledge to work in government settings. This demonstrates both how knowledge is often sticky, and consequently really difficult to replicate.
Finally, when I was talking about blog metrics I forgot that the definitive site for modern internet metrics is Avinash Kaushik’s. He has this post, which is specifically about measuring the success of blogs. The whole post (well, really, the whole blog) is worth reading. But the short version is that he recommends trying to measure:
- Author contribution – focusing on things like posts/week and words/post, with an emphasis on consistency more than gross volume.
- Audience growth – looking not at page hits, but rather metrics like unique visitors and feed tracking (a HUGE one for blogs)
- Conversion rate – which is basically how many of those visitors join in the conversation, mainly measured through comments/post
- Citations – who is referring to you? This is exactly what technorati measures…
- And the last two are costs and benefits – measured in both time and money if possible
The thing that I really like about this is that Kaushik’s measures all get at blogs as conversations, rather than as broadcasts. I think that this is the crucial distinction to make if we’re trying to understand how a blog is doing…