In the dog days of August, mere weeks before the credit crunch crippled Wall Street in September, I compiled this piece pondering some of the things I'd like to see from Google before 2009.
As I write this in the wee morning hours of Christmas Eve, I realize that Google has proven quite frugal, making it a cinch for the Grinch. OK, without further testing of my Seussian skills, here are the things I wanted to see from Google before 2009.
- I wished: Android would appear on smartphones. Yes, I wanted—no, demanded—that Google ensure that its vaunted mobile operating system made its way onto smartphones. I got my wish in New York Sept. 23 at the unveiling of the G1 by T-Mobile, Google and manufacturer HTC. The phone hit retail in October for $179. As 2008 winds down, reports are rampant about a G2 successor to the G1, as well as different Android phones from Motorola, Samsung and Sprint. Would it be too greedy to expect an Android netbook in 2009?
- I wished: OpenSocial would be used in Google Apps. OpenSocial is currently live on orkut, and developers can also test out their OpenSocial applications in the iGoogle developer sandbox, but no stitching of OpenSocial into Google Apps. On a positive note, OpenSocial seems to be gaining momentum, recently integrating with Twitter and proving easy to implement. Expect more momentum in 2009 as OpenSocial, Facebook Connect and MySpaceID vie for partners.
- I wished: Google would settle the YouTube suit with Viacom. Viacom sued Google because its YouTube unit includes copyrighted Comedy Central content and other Viacom content uploaded by users. Now Google has to limp into 2009 trying to make money on YouTube while continuing to combat Viacom. Adding salt to this festering wound, talks between Warner Music Group and YouTube to renew their content deal bogged down.
- I wished: Google would successfully crack the YouTube monetization nut. This hasn't happened, though YouTube now accounts for one-quarter of all Google searches. The Google video-sharing powerhouse did introduce sponsored video advertising options this year. No word on how those are faring.
- I wished: Google would bring us more mobile, social ad mechanisms. Eh, Google's batting .500 here. Google failed me on the social front, though so has every other social network from Facebook to MySpace. Chatter that social ads won't work has grown louder with 2008 winding down. However, Google redeemed itself on the mobile front earlier this month by letting AdWords advertisers show desktop text and image ads on Apple's iPhone, the T-Mobile G1 and other mobile devices with "full" Web browsers.
- I wished: for a more aggressive PAAS (platform as a service) effort from Google. Specifically, I wanted a Google Web services platform to rival Amazon Web Services. No dice, though Google App Engine is a fine building block and has been used by Salesforce.com and Zoho of late.
- I wished: Google would go beyond universal search into deep Web, semantic or more contextual search. Probably too much to ask for, but my concession seems to be SearchWiki, which lets users create their own context by tailoring search for their return visits and other consumers.
- I wished: Google would resolve privacy issues with governments in the United States and abroad. Google lowered its data retention policy for search user log data from 18 months to nine months in September. Just last week, Yahoo lowered its policy from 13 months to three. It will be interesting to see how low Google and Microsoft go from there as the three top search vendors prepare to meet with the European Commission on retention and privacy issues in February. Google is counting on U.S. President-elect Barack Obama for more latitude on the privacy front than those in the Bush administration gave it.
- Finally, I hoped: Google would stop hemorrhaging top talent. Google in 2008 lost a number of employees to Facebook, including Gideon Yu, Ethan Beard, Justin Rosenstein, Ben Ling, Sheryl Sandberg and Elliot Schrage. That seems to have slowed down. No doubt the icy economy has triggered hiring freezes this winter. The key to Google is its talent, which is responsible for creating great search algorithms and a solid business model. Google needs its talent to continue to prosper in 2009.
That's does it for my wish list. Clearly, Google didn't deliver on much of it, but I have two conclusions about that, both related. One: After such a fast start to the year, I was too demanding in the latter half of 2008.
Two: I published this wish list before the bottom fell out of the economy on Wall Street in September. This has since spilled over to Silicon Valley.
Google may have been a bit Grinchy to some of us, but perhaps expectations were set too high given the recession. But that's the challenge of dusting off the old crystal ball. Who knew?
P.S. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. I'll be blogging sporadically next week during the slow New Year's week.