Yes, I'll just say it. I think that Google is overrated -- and I don't mean just a little bit.
What's shocking is that I've discovered that there are two other people on the face of the earth who actually agree with me. One is new ZDNet columnist (apparently he doesn't like being called a blogger) Andrew Keen, and the other is Donna Bogatin, whom Keen recently wrote about.
Before I tell you why Google is so overrated, let me first say that Google.com is my homepage and has been my favorite search engine for a long time. In the late 90's I used to bore my wife by telling her how cool it was that this little company called Google used a farm of cheap off-the-shelf servers to create the world's best search engine. While Yahoo and Microsoft were throwing tons of money at the problem, the little guys at Google simply outsmarted them. It took a few years to convert her (she was an AltaVista user back then), but like the rest of the world, she eventually became a Google fan, too.
When Google came out with it's IPO, a lot of my non-technical friends and family asked, "So are you going to buy Google stock?"
I just looked at them with a quizzical smirk and said, "Why would I do that?" As much as I loved Google's technology, the pragmatic business side of me looked at Google and saw no business model that was even close to being worth investing in.
At this point, you're waiting for me to do a mea culpa and write, "Boy, did I screw that up!" However, I honestly don't think I made a bad judgement about Google. No one could have predicted that Google's paid search ads would take off they way they have and been such a financial windfall, and anyone that does is not being honest.
Sure, it would have been nice to buy some Google stock and cash it in now that it has skyrocketed to obscene heights, but I don't believe in using the stock market that way. I have this old fashion notion that the stock market is for investing in companies that you believe in from a business standpoint and want to support in their business objectives, and not for trying to make a quick buck.
Even with its huge growth in paid search, Google is not a sound long-term business in my view. It is a one-trick pony that is due for a "correction," in stock market parlance. It has no other substantial revenue stream from businesses other than paid search, and that golden goose is currently under attack from a lot of different directions.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not rooting against Google. As an employer, Google has done a lot to improve employee benefits and work atmosphere, and as a result they are raising the bar for other technology companies as well. I love them for that.
I just think that most of the world is under a mass delusion about how good Google really is as a business, and it could come back to bite investors and the rest of the technology world, if we're not careful. And I am really glad to have found two other human beings that feel the same way, as I discovered in Andrew Keen's recent column (don't call it a blog post).
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).