Google May Have Made The Worst Mistake In Its History This Week

Larry Page profile

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Google has made mistakes in the past.Like Wave. And Buzz. And releasing unfinished products. And allegedly taking money from rogue Canadian pharmacies for illegal ads (that was a $500 million mistake).

But its core business — the search engine that is still responsible for the vast majority of its traffic and revenue and profit — has never been threatened.

Bing? Nice try, but nobody outside Microsoft really believed it was enough BETTER than Google to make the switch.

Until this week, when Google started putting stuff from Google+, its new social network, into search results.

Within the last 12 hours, Gizmodo has called Bing a better search engine than Google, and Dave Winer at Scripting News said he was sick of Google’s clutter and would switch to Bing if Microsoft promised not to muck it up.

Read that Gizmodo headline again: “Google Just Made Bing The Best Search Engine.”

That’s unprecedented.

Forget all the complaints from competitors and the antitrust talk — that’s a slow-moving train that was perhaps slightly accelerated by Google’s latest actions. Plus, until some official somewhere actually rules Google to have monopoly power, Google is perfectly in its rights to do whatever it wants to its own products. (Update: there have been some government decsions in which Google was deemed to have a dominant position.)

In tech, you don’t lose because you make competitors angry. You lose when you make your customers angry.

Google has an incredibly strong brand, and two influential Web sites don’t equal the mass of Internet users. But that’s two more influential Web sites than were cheerleading for Bing yesterday.

This is exactly how Microsoft wins. It identifies a threat. It builds a competitor. It gradually improves it. Then it sits and waits for the competition to stumble. It happened to Netscape. AOL. Sony.

Microsoft has lost the touch in the last few years, but maybe it’s finally starting to get it back.

Keep a close watch on the ComScore search numbers over the next few months. Then we’ll see if this is just  a couple of tech bloggers making noise, or if Google has just made a really bad mistake.