What Would Google Do?

This excellent book by Jeff Jarvis is essentially about how the future of business and society will be impacted by the web. It focuses on the empowerment of the consumer and the changing business landscape.

Unlike most of the other books on this site it deals with present technological change more than exponential change in the future. As the title suggests it focuses on Google but also on the new business reality that Google’s business model represents.

This book gives a lot of business advice. One interesting point it makes is that some of the most profitable new businesses are “platforms” which provide what Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook calls “elegant organization”. The users provide the content.  Jarvis contrasts the business model of Yahoo which was to provide content with the much more successful Google which attempts to act as a conduit for users to get off their site as quickly and effectively as possible and onto the target of their search.

Other important trends this book discusses are a movement towards a free model, the end of middlemen, the rise of specialization as opposed to mass marketing, and a move towards digital rather than physical products.  Interestingly he says network businesses often try to charge as little as possible in order to prevent any competitor from coming in, rather than the old model of charging what the market will bear.

From a sociological perspective one of the main issues that the book deals with is a societal move towards openness and away from privacy. Jarvis emphatically makes the case that we have more to gain by opening up and sharing than we do to lose.

The only negative thing I can say about this book is he is clearly on Google’s side and he doesn’t address many of the downsides that technological change will bring. For example some have criticized Google and Facebook for the fact that they encourage users to build on their platform then take the information and put ads around it. In a sense Google has monetized nearly every webpage and Facebook has monetized our social connections.  I suppose consumers cannot complain too much since it’s their choice to use the free products.

Filled with countless real world examples this book is imaginative, insightful and would be valuable for both business owners and futurists.

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