Google Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

12.50pm AUGUST 1st and I was trying to make plans for lunch (priority #1).  No problem, I’ll just check my gmail account and use Google Maps to find the address. 

Gmail, Google Maps,, and failed to respond (for at least 20 minutes).  

There is some chance that there is just a problem with the internet connection, but that would prevent me from publishing this post, so the internet connection must be fine.

Perhaps the internets [sic] is broken?  Typing “” into the web browswer and pressing enter loads Bing instantly.  A few sample searches confirm that the internets [sic] is still out there and seems to be working just fine.

The only logical conclusion is that the Google server must have crashed today.  I have not experienced this before and (after spending my lunch hour writing this post) it makes me much more inclined to use Bing in future. Even though it was a 20 minute abberation, down time is not what we have come to expect from Google. 

Perhaps this problem only affected myself or the Hong Kong metro area (let me know if you experienced similar difficulties!).  Or maybe it was something more significant: the roll out of Google+ has stretched Google’s global server capacity to breaking point. 

But let’s not run away with ourselves. 

This post is not intended to be a Google bashing.  However, my experience today raised a couple of interesting and important questions relevant to any consumer orientated company operating in an industry with low switching costs:

  1. How much tolerance should we (as consumers) have for a company that fails to perform as we expect? 
  2. How can a company that offers an increasingly homogeneous product build consumer loyalty?
  3. How concerned should shareholders be that a momentary failure to perform could disillusion millions of consumers and cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars ($$$)? 

The switching cost of moving across to Bing is zero after all … time for lunch.

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6 Replies to “Google Bites Off More Than It Can Chew”

  1. 1 – very little. That said, Google track record is pretty flawless on the whole. Separately, Google +’s traffic would be a drop in the ocean compared to the rest of their services and would not have been the cause.

    2 – there are lots of ways. Building massive network effects is one and Google, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay etc are great examples of this. Additionally and specific to your example, search is not a homogeneous product. Bing and Yahoo suck and that is why nobody uses them (they in face were proven to be cacheing google’s results and repurposing them recently). They may perform ok on many items now but not on the whole they suck.

    3 – They should be concerned about avoiding these incidents with good planning (solid hosting and growth projections specifically) but it is not something that they can avoid the risk of. It is somewhat similar to a retail store doing a massive marketing campaign and having too many people in the store one day. You lose revenue but it is happening because you likely have a good product / offering.

  2. Great comments, James.

    1 – agree.

    2 – search is not a homogeneous product, agreed, Google still reigns supreme on search. But I can’t think of any reason why there will not be convergence in the quality of offerings provided by search engines.

    3 – agree.

  3. 2 – because they already have such a massive head start (literally over a million computers all working in unicen with a massive history of the internet mapped out + Google’s proprietary algorithm. That is why no one has and no one likely will be able to catch them without spending 5bn+ just to have a go.

  4. I agree that Google has a massive head start and that the other search engines are currently inferior. Nobody will catch Google quickly. But I would almost certainly guarantee that Bing, Baidu and others are spending big money monthly to improve their product. It may take Bing 5 years, it may take them longer. Afterall, they are chasing a moving target.

  5. One big ‘next issue’ for search will be walled-garden content, which is one reason why Google wants to move people off facebook to Gplus.

  6. A little off topic but… The dream of larry page is to be able to store memories externally or on the net and the navigate interwebs with your mind. A google chip that replaces the handset and makes us telepathic. The chip will fittingly run on the android os which google incidently owns (perfect name as well). Was bing and yahoo founded on such dreams?

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