Yesterday was my first day writing for the Googling Google blog. Nothing fancy, just a "Hi there" and a Microsoft vs. Google piece. And next thing I know, I have an email from my mom saying, "You certainly received some negative feedback on the proxy post..."
After 4 years of writing for ZDNet, I don't sweat "negative feedback" too much. In fact, this sort of feedback is an important barometer for whatever subject I'm discussing and can point me towards trends, concerns, and new ideas. Sometimes it's just nonsense that I dismiss out of hand. Obviously a vocal minority can skew a discussion, but a growing number of people are no doubt concerned with the way that Google does business.
This doesn't seem to have much effect on the billions of people who use Google, though. Which leads me to my original question. Has Google become the Walmart of the tech industry? And, if so, what does that mean for their brand, their success, and their ongoing innovation? After all, despite the people who decry Walmart's business practices and their effect on local economies, Walmart is doing pretty well for itself financially. So is Google, for that matter.
Is it a bad thing to be Walmart? I shop there all the time and the company allows me to buy virtually everything I need (often organic, energy-saving, or otherwise green that wouldn't be affordable in another setting) at really low prices. Similarly, Google enables really inexpensive, highly effective advertising on the web for the same small firms who just might have been put out business by Walmart. It also makes vast information stores accessible to countless users.
Is it a bad thing to be Google? Walmart has certainly had to focus on rebranding to deal with image issues, including providing the above-mentioned green products and engaging in philanthropic efforts. How will Google recover from its recent gaffes? Can it run its business as successfully while addressing privacy issues better than it did when it rolled out Buzz?
Walmart has managed to move past many of the image issues that have plagued it over the years and remains wildly successful. Can Google do the same and continue to innovate in search, cloud computing, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, devices, and operating systems? We'll find out, won't we? 2010 is still pretty young. It should be a wild ride as the Internet and a variety of businesses and models built around it continue to explode, leaving the old Mac vs. PC flame wars that used to fill our Talkbacks behind and opening the door for plenty of Google vs. anything else flame wars.