Who will kill Google?

Paul Graham wrote an interesting piece a few days ago about the “death of Microsoft”. Not death in the sense that Nietzsche proclaimed to God, but in the sense Microsoft “killed” IBM. IBM remained (and remains) a strong company through the Microsoft era, but they were no longer ruling the IT industry. The same is true of Microsoft now, but Google holds the throne.

This begs the question: Who will kill Google?

As that question is probably impossible to answer, an easier version is: What will kill Google?

We can say that each of the three previous kings represents an era in IT:

  • IBM: The mainframe era
  • Microsoft: The desktop era
  • Google: The web era

What is the next era? Will it have to do with the semantic web, i.e. “The data era”? Will it have to do with P2P, i.e. “The distributed computing era”? Or maybe the exact opposite – characterized by massive central data storage and computing, i.e. “The massive data center era”?

What other candidates are out there? And who is likely to grab the throne in each scenario?


  1. With computing, positioning and connectivity becoming ubiquitous and new kinds of interfaces getting ready to hit mainstream, I think the next era could be personal / local.

    Google work within the ad model. I suspect the next player to usher in a era will use a different model.

    Anything more specific then this is too much speculation for me 🙂

  2. So “The personalized era”.

    Not bad.

    Interestingly it’s hard to imagine that someone could dominate that era, as it is – almost by definition – very hard to dominate globally in local knowledge and content.

    In the last few months I’ve been speculating that this will be the future role of telecom operators – providing local and personalization services, utilizing their biggest strengths, such as: trust, authentication and presence information, billing relationships, local presence and customer support.

  3. My guess is the data web, the atomic unit of the web will be a data collection instead of a blob of text with arbitrary links. This is (obviously) a huge task, lets give it 8-10 years to materialize.

  4. I would think that what will eventually eliminate the importance of Google will be the Personal Mainframe. The PM operates from your home, it needs intelligence and crawling and would be your binary self, it operates from your home computer but you access it from anywhere using “any” client. While Google searches the Internet for everyone, your PM searches the internet just for you, it’s a social crawler and delivers content that is relevant to you, eliminating much of your need for Google. While Google is striving to achieve this with personalized search and connected systems such as desktop search and online documents they are ultimately doomed due to privacy concerns and the privacy hostile environment in the US which does much to eliminate trust in centralized storage of personal data. Your PM is your portal to all your personal data, your music, photos, videos, games and it even stores your passwords, all in a secure manner – a locked box, if you will.
    The PM is probably 10-20 years off but we’ll eventually get there.

  5. Very interesting. Let’s call it: “The personal mainframe era”.

    I’m not entirely sure that the hardware for this would necessarily have to physically sit in your home, but I do agree with the vision that every user will have vast personal storage space and computing power that he feels (and is) in full control over.

    In order for a single player to dominate this era, I guess it would have to be an early mover in the field that would get into a dominating situation before standards for “personal mainframe solutions” would arise.

    (…this one really got the brain going…)

  6. Yes, a single dominant player is hard to imagine regarding something that would need to be this far reaching. IBM might fit the bill though with their dedication to the mainframe and Linux as you would probably need many small VMs operating from the mainframe serving different clients with data from a single datastore (so when a new gadget arrives it comes with a VM. You install this VM on your mainframe, it connects to the datastore and network on the mainframe and you’re up and running – no settings necessary). It would be ironically poetic to have IBM kill both Google and Microsoft.
    Regarding where the hardware would be located I’m convinced that the ideal place for it is the home. Of course an online backup is needed (preferably distributed so your data is never available from a single provider) but I would still side with the hardware operating from the home. The home computers 10 years from now will be powerful enough for this and as the internet gets faster this sort of streaming will be easy to have from your home as providers would love to bill you for high throughput VDSL2 connections.
    When this happens and when providers shorten their lag the “computer” spreads out across the internet. Many see this happening already with the construction of huge datacenters which will offer online apps and much of the cpu cycles needed but this can also turn out the other way around. Instead of a huge processing nodes in the “center” of the internet we could just as well have a multitude of processing nodes on the “outer ridge” of the internet, the home connections. Large datacenters can never keep up with the demand for cycles in the long run but the home computers will with their huge amount of unused capacity.

  7. Stumbled into this discussion and got me thinking. I would like to think of the next revolution as a knowledge era, combining semantically categorized information and the ubiquity of Internet and alike in the mobile world. What I see, being a knowledge worker as I assume all of you are, is the ever increasing need for making real sense of all this data that is readily searchable in all your gooles and all the information we all create on a day-to-day basis without really realizing it. I believe the real problem lies in the putting away the data, not the searching, well at least not as that technology is developing. If putting away your data and created information is made easier by some sort of an agent, call it a “personal trainer” if you will, the value could increase many times over. This could then be interlinked with the limitless resources on the Internet.
    Of course the trend is in this direction, the increased intelligence of web crawling search engines as well as Google desktop indexing your content, but I believe real progress begins when information is initiated with categorization in mind. Eventually, time is the critical factor in our lives and if this would be the best saver of time, it would be a sure winner.
    Of course if I knew what company is likely to grab the throne I would vote with my money! Actually, the R&D strategy of most (larger) companies today is an M&A strategy so the actual winner may become one of the old giants – just don’t take this as a stock tip!
    The localization of information is also valuable but I think it will be just another factor in the equation. Regarding access to computation I tend to think of it as the next power-supply, ranging from all sorts of personal devices to Internet accessible resources seamlessly provided on-demand according to need. The Google way and with open standards, on-one will dominate that market.

  8. Would that be “The era of the digital personal servant”? Actually somewhat related to gummih’s ideas above. Getting digital help with the information overload will surely be a big thing.

    As a matter of fact I heard this guy yesterday talking about how he outsourced some of his daily tasks – including flagging email that really needs attention – to India 🙂

  9. If we want to talk about the next “big thing”, gaming could really leapfrog.

    Bringing together positioned+semantic data, positioned avatar(you), high-speed mobile access and “physical” interfaces like the wiimote, should make for some interesting possibilities.

    Collecting many of the above points and my own thoughts regarding the digital personal servant, the following should bring us closer to a mobile version of the knowledge navigator:

    *Sematic web
    *Open standards
    *Voice recognition (coming along with developing IVR services)

    The digital servant will recognize your silos of disk space (home and online) and raid them into a single indexed fault taulerant volume. Pushing the data into the places where it is most likely needed (google style).

    Whoever creates the mainstream digital servant may “kill google”. Microsoft has everything to pull it off, except for the guts. Apple ? … would be a bit poetic.

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