Friday, January 19, 2007

All your bandwidth--and your money?--belong to Google

And after they dominate that, then what? Things ever bigger, of course: Dominating the financial markets

As more bandwidth becomes available, new ways to use it up an order of magnitude or so beyond what the current network can handle will always come about. Bandwidth need follows its own version of Moore's Law

There will always be huge new bandwidth consuming developments. Today's is video. Yesterday's was bitTorrent. What can scale up most rapidly to meet internet bandwidth demands? Peer-to-peer (P2P). So the question becomes: who can scale up a large P2P solution the fastest? Robert X Cringley has one answer: Google.

The kind of P2P I'm talking about is where the web pages and files you want from the internet are duplicated somewhere physically near to you--so you browse the internet, but a large portion of your bandwidth needs are handled by duplicate files located near to you. That way, your bandwidth needs affect only a small portion of the internet--the portion closest to you. (Well-explained here by Cringely.)

Google is building a lot of data centers. Places where they can store parts of the internet near to each of us. Then as the companies we rely on to give us bandwidth today can't keep up with our video and other high-bandwidth needs, Google steps in to give us a virtual increase in bandwidth by storing (caching) key parts of the internet near us.

P2P is also more responsive to the kind of brainpower culture Google brings to the game than traditional bandwidth. There are many stories of well-funded organizations failing to handle the technical side of scaling up the bandwidth and features of an existing product. Friendster and Yahoo! Search Marketing are two of my favorite stories of failures to execute. Took 'em both years to get where they thought they could be in months.

Google understands the technical side of scaling up with smart features better than probably any company that has yet existed. Giving us a high-bandwidth internet connection through P2P is tailor-made to their expertise. One question will be: What to cache? They can't store the whole internet.

But who better to figure out how to handle user requests in real-time than Google?

Can Google use their core competency to dominate financial markets?

Finally, for the most interesting part: What if their stock price quadruples again when they are perceived for dominance in this new area? With the money from that kind of market valuation, what will they choose to do next? That kind of financial power begets other kinds of power as well. It gives them great leverage to increase ... their financial power! Really the question is, what can Google do if they have one more big success?

Right now there are a lot of programs trying to read news in real time and make automated investment shifts. At the potential kinds of valuation and dominance Google could achieve, they could toy with dominating computerized investment intelligence (I won't call it AI) just as a means of protecting their finances. Google is already more expert at reading text and understanding what it means, and matching text queries to other text--it's their search technology! They could easily extend this to automating the reading of news and linking it to financial decision making.

And once they start playing seriously in that area, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to dominate there too. Part of their business model seems to be "do the smartest thing, in the smartest way, with the smartest people." You know there are things they would love to do if only they had another few hundred billion dollars more. And computerized investment programs would be a great way to get there, if they could find a legitimate reason to move in that direction.

What I'm saying here is that they can create a positive feedback loop that makes them bigger and more powerful without a visible end in sight. Google to date has demonstrated an excellent positive feedback loop, but they're still a young company as far as charting new directions.

Really any additional huge success on their part can begat more huge success, because they will think big. They are trying to think of things no one has ever considered before. Moving into Artificial Intelligence in the financial markets (there, I said it) is just one possibility.


  1. Interesting. You're saying that no one is quite in a position to think as grandiose as Google is, because of their combination of business dominance and ability to execute technologically.

    I agree. We've never seen anything like Google before. It does seem unlikely that their biggest plans would fall flat on their face.

    Things that fail from smart companies tend to be either failure in the face of competition for something that does have a market, or something that is ahead of it's time for the market. (And things that try to hard to create a need that people don't recognize.)

    Google is likely to lead against competition, and unlikely to attempt something ahead of it's time. Their culture seems to be optimizers of existing technology, not inventors...

  2. This is tangential to your point, but...

    akamai did the get-content-closer-to-the-user routine back in '99. I'm not sure how much caching local copies of, say, the top 500K on Alexa will really help, since most -- certainly more than half of the top 500 sites on the net -- already do something like this.

  3. True, though I think Google wants to:

    Enable order-of-magnitude greater bandwidth without order-of-magnitude greater prices (internet as the new television);
    Do it for smaller sites;
    Do it for larger sites as an infrastructure provider.

    If certain areas can stream movie or television content at only incremental bandwidth price increases, that would constitute a disruptive technology---I think Google is always trying to be a disruptive technology provider as a way to leverage their excellent execution and market leadership.