I Am Not An Economist

Dave Winer is making an effort to wean himself off Google. When I first read this, I thought he was nuts. I mean, Google is great and wonderful and there’s nothing approaching it in the area of search. At least, there wasn’t when I first started using Google a few years ago, and I haven’t been inspired to look for alternatives since. Regardless, ceasing to use Google just because they bought Blogger seemed? wrong. But on reflection, it does make some sense. After all, Blogger does compete directly with UserLand Software (Dave Winer’s company) in the weblog-creation space, and of course it’s not a good idea to use your competitor’s products or give them business.

Or is it? It seems to happen all the time. Not in areas where you directly compete, but many companies are large enough that the left hand and right hand are far enough apart that it doesn’t matter whether they’re the same company (except to the stockholders). For example, Apple competes directly with Microsoft in the operating system market, but works hand-in-hand with them in the application software arena. There’s no reason that Dave Winer can’t support Google’s search business while competing with its Blogger holdings.

It might even be a good idea. I don’t know what Google’s grand plan is for Blogger. Neither does anyone else. Maybe they don’t have one. Maybe Pyra Labs was looking to sell, and they had pals at Google who were willing to put up the cash. If there’s no grand scheme to take over the world, and weblog publishing turns out not to integrate well into Google’s overall vision (search), maybe they’ll look to sell it again in a year, or sooner. So Dave should definitely do all he can to make sure Google’s Blogger business does poorly (presumably, he’s doing this anyway). But it seems to me that the worse the search business does, the more Google will be looking to it’s other assets (e.g., Blogger) to make up the slack. The better search does, the less Google will care about putting effort into other parts of its business. So by switching off Google, and urging others to do the same, Dave might actually be encouraging Google to compete more heavily with him.


One thought on “I Am Not An Economist

  1. So long as we’re assuming that Google plans to compete fairly, I don’t even think Dave ought to be trying to “make sure Google’s Blogger business does poorly.” Dave should only need to make his product as good as possible; if it’s good enough, enough people will buy it, and Dave will do okay. If he can’t do well enough for enough people to use his product instead of Google’s, then he’s probably in the wrong business. If he’s worrying about making Google’s business do worse rather than about making his own do well, he’s expending resources that could be producing more stuff-of-value on simply redistributing existing stuff-of-value from Google to himself. In a perfect marketplace, that would sink him, because some third party would come along and, by being more efficient, gain a competitive advantage that would cost him all his customers.

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