The Wall Street Journal reports that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has admitted that Google missed "the friend thing". Well, that's a shocker. Really, Eric?
Not only did Google miss the rise of Facebook, it has a track record of mangling - or at best "sub-optimizing" - initiatives. One of my favorite examples? Dodgeball.com. This service, co-founded by Dennis Crowley of foursquare fame, was an innovative location-based social software service for mobile devices.
Google saw the promise of it, acquired it, and managed it so well that Crowley left two years later after what he called an "incredibly frustrating" experience. Google shut the service down in early 2009. Crowley has since grown his self-proclaimed "sequel to the 'dodgeball' project" - foursquare.com - into a social location-based powerhouse with millions of unique users and enviable growth.
Think the Dodgeball example is an isolated one? Ever hear of Google Latitude? How about Google Buzz? Even if you've heard of them, are either of them any more relevant today for you than MySpace, the one-time king of social media services?
Like many mature businesses, Google is grappling with change and the challenge of perpetuating its success. What should it do as the sizzle of its core area of activity cools? And, like many mature businesses, Google is struggling as it grasps for the great "what next?"
Fortunately, the firm has a very solid, very large, very profitable base business. It's still riding high, but it's looking sluggish. Having missed "the friend thing", will it be able to spot or take advantage of or even come up with "the next thing"? Or, will Google end up like another tech behemoth, Microsoft, admired for its business success while mocked for its apparent lack of innovation?