About a week ago, a co-worker came back from a conference and proclaimed that there was a lot of rumblings at the event that "Twitter was going to replace Google" and she really thought the speaker was on to something ... I have respect for the co-worker, but my first reaction was a simple - "What? Wow - I just lost a lot of respect for you..."
I'll first say that this clearly wasn't a nice way to start a discussion - and to that note - I didn't genuinely mean it. Let me explain..
I started working at Google in 2003, before it went public and right before the hype of all hype of IPOs. Throughout the first few years - I could not read the NY Times or WSJ without seeing multiple stories about Google. (BTW - this was first-hand lesson that you can NEVER trust 100% what's in the paper - even if it is one of the apparent reputable ones) ... Anyway - Google was (and is) a huge business success. With this success comes the naysayers and the ever-popular game of "who's next." I can't tell you how many stories I've read over the years that have proclaimed that XYZ company (icerocket, Kanoodle, myspace, etc) was the "next Google." So - yes - when someone says that XYZ company is the "next Google" I'm touchy and defensive on the subject.
Facebook, Twitter, and tons of other companies are innovative and unique in their own ways... I'm sure they'd love to be as successful as Google one day - but right now - they are not there yet...The argument for Twitter replacing Google went as follows:
1) Mobile devices will dwarf PCs in the future in terms of ways to connecting online (I agree).
2) Twitter is far more mobile friendly than Google (I agree it is today - but don't think that means too much)
3) Social connections are a growing way that consumers are getting recommendations, etc. (I agree).
4) Algorithmic search will be secondary to social search in the future (sometimes - yes - but not always and definitely not for everyone around the world).
Anyway - those 4 points are the crux of the argument. And as you can see -- I agree with some of the facets. But I don't see how anyone can think any of it means that Twitter will replace Google.
There is a lot that makes Google ridiculously unique - but at the core to it's success is the business model. I've never seen a business scenario where EVERYONE involved (Consumer, advertiser, publisher, and platform) are happy with the outcome consistently. In the Google ecosystem - they are ... Google creates holistic satisfaction (well - not everyone - but 95% of those that interact with it) Google focuses on the end users happiness - but the fact that advertisers and publishers are happy too - definitely doesn't hurt. Google does this GLOBALLY in both highly connected countries (more mature) and not (with tons of growth opportunity). What about Twitter? How is their business model set-up? How many satisfied paying customers does it have? Is it able to put ~$1B in the bank every quarter (for the last 8 quarters+)?
I think Search will evolve - but Google will evolve with it. The company knows that search in 2009 is a fraction of what "The ultimate search experience" will be. I drink the kool-aid - but yes - I think the resources at Google's disposal will allow it to be the leader in search - whether on a PC or elsewhere...whether it's algorithmic, vertical, or social search.
So - in summary - until the business questions are answered - I don't see anyone joining the online business success ranks of Google. It is bound to happen some day. I would just recommend that before any journalist or speaker at a conference say that some company is going to replace or is the next Google - that they stay away from the hypothetical. The proven business model is obviously something that evolves over time - and while I have confidence that Google will continue it's success - that doesn't mean that someone else can't/won't come up with something better. I just haven't seen it yet...