Before there was Google, there was Yahoo. Before there was MSN, there was Yahoo. The starry-eyed Google founders did make a serious attempt to sell off to Yahoo back in the days. But Yahoo was not interested. Yahoo already had a search box, and search was thought of only one of many things netizens wish to do. The action was elsewhere. Search was nowhere close to a central function that it is thought of today. Back then AltaVista was the search king, and Yahoo was good enough.
A few years after Google tried to get sold off to Yahoo, Sergei Brin would go on dates, and he noticed there were not too many second dates. I don't know if this story is true, but Larry Page said it somewhere. This was in 2000 when dot coms were crashing left and right, especially dot coms that did not have any revenue whatsoever, like Google at the time.
Bill Gates did make an attempt to buy Google. Buy it "at any price," he ordered his lieutenants. This was perhaps a year or two before they went public, or maybe even right after. This time around the Google founders knew better than to sell.
But search just kept getting bigger and bigger. Google became the sexy company, always in news. In a scramble Microsoft made an attempt to buy Yahoo. What actually happened after that offer was made is murky story. Jerry Yang has been hammered with the story that he refused an offer he should not have refused, especially with where Yahoo stands today in the market. Jerry says he did mean to take it, but when he went for it, Microsoft was no longer interested. Then they came back saying they just want Yahoo's search business. Yahoo minus its search would not be a Yahoo no more. A portal like Yahoo without a search engine?
Google is search king. The competition is not arithmetic where if MSN search and Yahoo search were to get together they would eat away Google's market share. Challening Google search is an innovation challenge. But at this point Google's search business is so capital intensive, it is hard to imagine a startup that will come at it from behind.
Google might not get challenged by another search startup, more likely it will get challenged by a startup that finds another central internet application. Facebook comes to mind. Facebook is not search, it is not email, it is not shopping, it is a new application. I am not saying Facebook will grow bigger than Google. Search will stay a central application online. And I expect Google to keep innovating in that search space.
The next sexy company might not even be a dot com. It might not be a 2D company, a rectangle on a screen. Maybe all the key internet applications have already been found. Now you can just keep making it better and better and better. But perhaps there is no fundamental discovery to be made. I'd love to be proven wrong.
Jerry's two big career mistakes. He should have bought Google. He should have sold off to Microsoft. Ha.
In The News
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