For years, Google has been the leading innovator in the world of technology and online functionality. Its search engine blew all other search service out of the water when it debuted in the late 1990s, and ever since, it’s been launching new functions, new features, and even new enterprises that have challenged the status quo. Google Maps, Gmail, the Panda update, and Google Chrome are just a few products and features that have changed the way we experience and use the Internet.
As we turn the corner on a new era of technology, Google is still a major household name and is still coming out with new products. But competing technology companies are starting to get the drop on Google in several key areas, leading me to question—is Google falling behind the times?
I’ll start with the easy one: Google+. Originally launched in 2011, Google+ was heralded as the “new” Facebook, which presumably many people would flock to upon seeing how much better it was than other social media platforms. Users with Google accounts were forced to sign up for an account, and SEO boosts were given to personal and corporate brands who adopted it as a regular social media platform. There was only one problem: people didn’t like using it.
Earlier this year, Google finally threw in the towel (so to speak). Google+ still exists—kind of—just not as the be-all end-all social media platform that it was once purported to be. Now, Google rests firmly behind Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and dozens of other social media platforms, a sign that not everything Google touches instantly becomes a success.
Google Now is actually pretty cool. If you have an Android device, chances are you’ve already made great use of the digital assistant feature. Its voice recognition is spot-on, and it basically performs a Google search for whatever it is you’re looking for. It’s impressive, but when compared to the other major players in the market—namely, Siri and Microsoft’s new Cortana assistant—it seems to lag a bit behind. Google Now debuted long after Siri had already made a name for itself, giving it a significant disadvantage when it comes to brand awareness, and now Cortana and other digital assistants are paving new ground in the industry. Google Now is certainly impressive, but it’s being beaten out by other, more established companies and algorithms.
Devices with the Android operating system have similarly failed to pull ahead in the long race for tech dominance. Despite years of competition and constant upgrading on both sides, there’s still a significant debate between supporters of Google’s Android iOS and Apple’s iOS. According to some relatively unbiased reports, there really isn’t a clear winner when it comes to raw functionality, but sales are still leaning toward Apple as the leader. Google can’t quite make the innovative breakthroughs necessary to turn the world on to Android devices.
One of Google’s biggest achievements in the online world was creating an advertising system that nearly any business could use to get more attention for their online brands—Google AdWords (and PPC advertising in general). Over the years, Google has made innumerable tweaks and additions to AdWords to make it easier and more effective for marketers, but recently, its ad platform has taken a backseat to some other competitors.
Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook have been supporting video ads in their PPC campaigns for months to years now. As users have not only accepted but demanded videos as a form of advertisement, they jumped immediately and started embedding them into their results. Google, on the other hand, has resisted such a move until recently. It’s coming out with video ads to match, but it’s very late to the party. Plus, Facebook, Bing, and Yahoo ads are generally less expensive these days, and fewer business owners are relying on the search giant for their paid inbound traffic.
Possibly in connection with the lack of recent innovations and tech leadership, Google has been facing tremendous regulatory problems, particularly overseas. The European Union is reviewing the company for antitrust law violations, and many independent European countries have targeted the company for fines regarding privacy violations or monopolizing the industry. For the most part, Google has headed off these complaints by refusing to compromise its vision and making concessions where possible without interfering, but the pressure may soon become too much for Google to handle. Google has a huge name and an even bigger reputation, but big companies can only hold onto their empires for so long, and this added pressure certainly doesn’t make it easier for Google to stay on top.
On the surface, it appears that Google is falling behind its competitors in a number of different areas, but you have to remember, Google isn’t always the first on the scene. It wasn’t the first search engine to start crawling the web; it was just the search engine that functioned best. It didn’t offer the first email service; it just offered the one that functioned best. Similarly, even though Google is a beat behind some of its competitors in these key areas, its products remain top of the line. The competition may drive them to create even bolder, better products—even if those products are a little late to the market. In any case, it will be interesting to see how Google and the general market start to develop.