''Don't be evil'' ... Google. Photo: Tamara Voninski
Google used to be holy. The company's motto was, and presumably still is, ''Don't be evil''. How about changing it to something more practical, like, ''Don't be irritating''? Google was once a brilliant research tool with no pretensions. Now there is overt manipulation and a desire for more control. Google has begun forcing me to consider joining its stupid social media network.
My response has been to switch my search engine to Bing and abandon plans to activate a Google Mail account. Why are they trying to turn themselves into Facebook-plus? A Reuters poll released this week found 34 per cent of Facebook users had reduced their time on the site during the past six months and 80 per cent had never bought anything via the site and don't want to. Time spent on Facebook is being eroded by explosive growth in mobile phone usage.
Another survey found a significant erosion of respect for Facebook since it became a public company on May 17.
Three weeks ago the stock market was overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to trade shares in Facebook when it launched trading. A record-smashing 565 million Facebook shares were traded. The company placed a value on itself of $US104 billion.
As of this morning, the market value of Facebook was half that, at $US55 billion. The company's shares have fallen 32 per cent from the $US38 issue price to $US25.87 yesterday. As the price fell to this new low, one analyst predicted Facebook, despite having 900 million users, would follow the value trajectory of Yahoo! Inc.
''In five to eight years Facebook will disappear in the way Yahoo has disappeared,'' Eric Jackson, the founder of Ironfire Capital, told CNBC. ''Yahoo is still making money, it's still profitable, still has 13,000 employees, but it's 10 per cent of the value that it was at the height of 2000. For all intents and purposes, it's disappeared.''
Actually it's only 9 per cent of peak value. Yahoo! has seen the destruction of more than $US150 billion since peaking in 2000.
''I see that happening for Facebook,'' said Jackson. ''When you look over the three generations [of the internet], no matter how successful you are in one generation, you don't seem to be able to translate that into success in the next generation. Look at how Google has struggled moving into social [media], and I think Facebook is going to have the same kind of challenges moving into mobile.''
Google's share price has stagnated for four years. It is lower today than it was in 2008. Facebook, even at its quickly reduced market value, is trading at a multiple of 66 times earnings. This is almost five times the historic average for companies. It means the company priced itself when it came onto the market at about 80 times its present earnings.
This is hubris. Especially considering that Facebook is being cannibalised by Twitter. ''The world is getting faster, it's getting more competitive, not less,'' says Jackson. ''So no matter how dominant they are in one generation … something new is going to come along that we haven't seen yet. It probably doesn't exist. Yet people are going to be fascinated by it and not Facebook.''
History confirms the expectation of accelerating commercial flux, of intense cycles of insurgency, dominance and decline. Yahoo! was founded in 1995, Google in 1998, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006.
The creative destruction of capitalism has never been more creative and never more destructive. Accelerating innovation changes the way people communicate and consume.
On February 6, this column singled out the Australian brand that combined patriotism, glamour and solidity like no other. That brand was Qantas. We suggested patriotism, prestige and solidity combined may not be enough for Qantas to survive as an international flag carrier within 10 years. In the ensuing four months, the company's share price has slid by a third to a record low as losses in the international division have climbed to $450 million a year.
The numbers show just how reckless and stupid was the union campaign against Qantas last year. Again, technology had transformed the competitive landscape. The internet may have been a boon for the Qantas budget operation, Jetstar, but it has obliterated many advantages once enjoyed by the international division.
No company is safe. No brand is safe. Dominant one decade, irrelevant the next. Adapt or die. And former customers will step over the corpse.
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