Google, MySpace Come Crashing Back To Earth - InformationWeek

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3/3/2006
04:16 PM
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Google, MySpace Come Crashing Back To Earth

Google has some maturing to do. It needs to prove to corporate America that it understands the needs of large companies and is committed to making whatever software it provides a success in the enterprise environment. That includes helping make the software secure and not shifting the total burden onto the customer.

Every few years, Somebody Important in the tech industry anoints a new king. Microsoft gave way to Amazon, which then begat Google, the reigning monarch. Along the way there are princes and other royalty we watch to see if they have the stuff to someday take over the crown--Marimba and dozens of others, now victims of the Internet bubble, were in that camp. And now MySpace is there, too.

But the past week provided even more evidence that both MySpace and, yes, even Google are, at their core, companies run by human beings who like all of us make mistakes and whose reach is sometimes greater than their grasp. Good thing, too, or else there would be precious little innovation.However wonderful that reach, we live in the real world, and that world is an increasingly tough place for both companies right now. Investors are getting very nervous about Google, and it appears from the reports I've read that the firm's recent Analyst Day was a far cry from last year's love-fest at the hippie-dippie cafeteria. Many are wondering if Google can stay on top, and the company's CFO didn't help engender a warm fuzzy feeling when he said--the day before the analyst meeting--that the days of big-number growth in the online search market are pretty much over.

Which is why Google needs to enter new markets like enterprise search. That makes sense. But if I were running IT at a large company, I'm not sure I'd adopt Google's enterprise search package, or any other of its software for that matter. At least not yet.

Maybe it's me, but I'd want the company to acknowledge that the security issue is something their best and brightest 1) know is important and 2) are working on. But apparently not. A Google senior product manager recently said the company understands and acknowledges the security and privacy risks in its Google Desktop 3 for Enterprise beta software. But the company believes, he said, it's really something that the individual corporate user needs to worry about and resolve.

When I read that, a big loud buzzing sound went off in my head. As in: Danger, danger!

Contrast that to the approach taken to enterprise search by Oracle. Larry Ellison not only talked about security being a core component of his company's enterprise search package, but Oracle also managed to get the word "security" into the product's name. Those sly dogs.

If you were an enterprise ITer, which company's package would you probably give the more serious look at?

This just goes to show that Google has some maturing to do. It needs to prove to corporate America that it understands the needs of large companies and is committed to making whatever software it provides a success in the enterprise environment. That includes helping make the software secure and not shifting the total burden onto the customer.

As for MySpace, it's having entirely different problems. The company has pretty much single-handedly defined the social networking space for the teenage through young-adult crowd. But what started out as a way-cool place to connect with friends old and new now has a big black cloud hanging over it. After at least a half-dozen cases of sexual predators meeting their underage victims on the MySpace site, the company's CEO said it will be taking extra security steps and hiring someone to oversee both security and education.

Bravo. Some may say MySpace could have been more proactive on this front and instituted stricter security before it got to be a problem. Perhaps. But I don't blame MySpace solely for this situation because I live with two teenage girls and know that they'd be on that site around-the-clock if my husband and I let them. And they would be telling the world everything about themselves and actually used to before we did something to help them understand for themselves that divulging less info is a much better idea.

I'll be blogging about this more in a separate entry at some point soon, but I mention it only to say it's something with which I've, sadly, had some personal experience. A couple of our girls' friends have gotten into jams by actually meeting people they "knew" only from an online chat room--nothing too serious, thankfully---and I realize how lucky we've all been.

It's a very sad commentary indeed that something originally set up to bring happiness to a group of consumers--in this case, kids--has been so horribly twisted by a relatively few sick individuals. I'm glad MySpace is dealing with this, and I'll support the effort by continuing to try to walk the line between watching out for my kids and their friends, and teaching them how to do it for themselves.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below.Google has some maturing to do. It needs to prove to corporate America that it understands the needs of large companies and is committed to making whatever software it provides a success in the enterprise environment. That includes helping make the software secure and not shifting the total burden onto the customer.

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