When I write an article, I typically follow a process which begins with a simple question, “What fascinates me?” (not to be confused with Arsenio Hall’s “Things that make me say hmmm.”) I consider myself a fairly simple person--therefore the time it takes to develop an answer to this question typically is very short-lived! But recently several items have struck me as just plain intriguing.
One hit me while reading The Search by John Battelle--which I recommend for any search professional. It’s the sheer recognition of success that search forefathers have achieved and its relative place in history. Those of us who have been in this industry since these early days, as John discusses, can boast of a “been there, done that” attitude.
But the sheer monetary results have been obscenely impressive especially considering it’s only been a decade since this all began. More money has changed hands related to the Internet, and more specifically search, than that of any other medium in such an infantile stage.
To take this topic a step further, consider some of the individual wealth that has been generated and cited in The Search. Bill Gross, founder of Idealab and Overture, whose most successful venture to date, sold for over $1.63 billion. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google founders, reported $12.8 billion respectively. Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, reported $2.6 billion.
To put some perspective around this and truly formulate the scope, each of these companies was founded in the last 10 years, where others in the same valuation range have been around for over a century. But what is truly fascinating is to ponder what will be done in the near future, if so much has been accomplished in such a short time frame thus far.
Second on my list: Google geeks, as I refer to them. And, no, this is not going to be a Google bash--quite the opposite, actually. These are people that I define as those who simultaneously criticize Google publicly for every minor (or major) bump in the road--yet fail to recognize that Google is the hand that feeds them, so to speak. This group typically spends seemingly every waking hour tracking, optimizing, researching, living and breathing search. Sure, in many respects that is required by the job itself of SEO consultant, but Google geeks take it to an extreme. This group, in my opinion, is single-handedly responsible for propelling Google employee and blogger Matt Cutts to his current cult-like status (no offense, Matt, but I just don’t get it).
And to be clear, this is not so much a commentary on a distinct group of people that I am looking to expose, it’s their behavior I find fascinating. We have all seen them take the Q&A portion of SES sessions and turn it into an inappropriate attack on some Google panel representative. We have all witnessed the never-ending blog posts demanding heads to roll when AdWords has a hiccup.
I once witnessed a Google geek threaten an entry-level Google representative during an iMedia breakout session. I can only picture in my mind the same group complaining when Commodore went defunct, now left to spend their time discussing “The Matrix” on remote movie blogs while working to find the next big Google blunder. Absolutely fascinating to think, that it doesn’t cross their mind that they would not have a job or anything to discuss (or have food to put on their tables) if Brin and Page hadn’t created the engine they obsess about in the first place.
Last: Craig Newmark, owner of Craigslist. Now let me say I do not know Craig personally, and my commentary is based solely on other media reports and interviews by Craig himself. We’ve all heard the adage “it’s business,” which usually precedes an excuse for someone who is about to waver in his value make up and morals to do something that is only for his own self-interest .
Past commentary by Craig, and his seeming unwillingness to compromise his creation, is valiant, bold and somewhat reckless all at the same time. Regardless of your position on the state of Craigslist, you cannot help but admire his gumption. It is not only a stance regarding his own property, but even more, a refusal to sell out to the global markets’ drive to commoditize everything in this world, especially the Internet.
With the Google mySpace deal complete, it really puts in perspective how much a principal can stand for--billions, as I noted earlier. Following eBay’s investment, Craig posted in his blog, “eBay is about helping folks get everyday stuff done, on a level playing field – they emphasize trustworthiness and reputation, and try really hard to listen to people. Basically, we’re both about building community, and humanizing and democratizing the Net and there’s gotta be more of that.” That gets a big thumbs-up from this guy, high on the list of things that are absolutely fascinating.