Low Usage Numbers Not so Alarming for Google

Techcrunch is reporting on the low usage numbers Google products (specifically their Google Talk IM program) have compared to some of their competitors. Here are some more numbers regarding Google and their competition, from the NY Times. Though Michael notes that the scores given do not include usage of the program through the embedded client-software in Gmail, the numbers are still pretty shabby. He recommends that Google “roll some heads and figure out a real product strategy.”

While “rolling some heads” every once in a while is not such a bad idea, I do not think that the Google product line is in as much danger as one might think. The New York Times story referenced earlier (In the Race With Google, It�s Consistency vs. �Wow�) hints at the reason: Although Google might be losing the footrace in terms of numbers when it comes to news, email and IM, they are making up for it in terms of quality and most importantly, the “Wow” factor. They use the type of technology that the techies and Slashdot crowd like (compare Google Finance with Yahoo Finance to see what I mean), and this most-important sector of the market is the ones who are driving tomorrows technology trends. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL have had years to build up huge subscriber bases with Email and IM, so it is understandable that Google has a long way to go. However, their growth is stagnating and their products are not so attractive compared to what Google (and other similar companies) have to offer. Put it this way: whenever I hear from a friend or acquaintance that they set up a new email account for personal use, 99% of the time it is a gmail account. That is why these numbers don’t really seem to me to be such bad news for Google int he long-term. They do not capture the overall market trend, especially among the market-movers.

Ebay Scared of Google

Reuters (and the WSJ – Reg. Req.) is reporting that Ebay has:

had talks with both Yahoo Inc and Microsoft Corp to determine whether one of them might be a suitable ally against common threats from Google Inc

Apparently, they are scared because in the last year they have witnessed Google “assaulting its turf in multiple ways”.

I don’t know about you, but I think that Ebay’s poor performance recently should be attributed more to mistakes and lack of initiative on their part, rather than an invasion by Google:

  • The purchase of Skype, though risky and full of initiative, has yet to pay off for them in producing any sizable percentage of new revenue of users
  • Their basic interface and sales model has not changed in years. Though this is not something that is necessarily required, in Ebay’s case I think that a more user-friendly, intuitive and less-complicated design is in order.
  • The one thing that any Ebay user can count on is higher fees once or twice a year. Not a good way to keep your bulk customers
  • Does anyone really think that Google Base is eating into their marketshare? If they are, whose fault is that?

If anything, I think that the biggest threat right now is Craigslist. It is much easier to use, much more popular, and spreading like wildfire (and you can’t beat the price).

So what is their big solution to the “Google Threat”?

An alliance in which eBay would boost its advertising spending with its chosen partner and provide access to data it has collected about its consumers

I am sure that Google is quaking in their boots right now.

The Dangers of an Irresponsible Webhost

Throughout the life of this domain, it has been hosted by at least half a dozen webhosts. Most offered good deals, had good track records (I always researched them before going with a specific host) and not too many complaints. Initially, the service was almost always good.

Yet for each and every one of them, something ended up going wrong. One of them just totally messed up the DNS of my subdomains and couldn’t fix it. One of them had a three-day service outage and wouldn’t offer a refund (they had a 99.9% uptime “guarantee”). One of them kept having these annoying 3-4 hour outages for no apparent reason. Etc, etc, etc.

So it was with my last webhost, ServerDivision. Apparently I am still on their mailing list – last night I received an alarming email. Its text is also featured on their homepage:

I am writing to regretfully inform you that the ServerDivision servers will be taken from us and most likely shut down permanently effective April 1, 2006. This is out of our control and is a decision by The Planet datacenter due to problems perpetrated by the previous owners of ServerDivision regarding services that ThePlanet issued during October and November of 2005. We were notified of this at approximately 3:00PM EST on March 30, 2006. Unfortunately, this is beyond my control and I am unable to prevent the shutdown. Please transfer all content you wish to retain off of the servers before April 1, 2006. No invoices have been generated or will be generated for March, 2006 as a good-will gesture on our part. I sincerely wish there was more that I could do. We are petitioning ThePlanet to leave the servers running longer to allow you time to remove your files but please do not count on it.

We have tried our best… and we wish that you the customers and we the current owners had not been defrauded in this way.

ServerDivision CEO

Note: A number of you have contacted us asking if this is an April Fool’s joke. We only wish it was – unfortunately we have been defrauded and the repercussions of that fraud happen to fall on April 1. This is not a joke.

Ouch! Their servers are going to be “shut down permanently…due to problems perpetrated by the previous owners”. They must have done some seriously bad stuff to upset The Planet (a very large datacenter) so much that they punished the “new owners”. Now all of their paying customers have one day to remove all of their data from the servers. If someone is away from their email and doesn’t check it before April 1, tough luck.

What lessons can be learned from this?

  1. If ServerDivision is your host (or more importantly, if you host your client’s site on ServerDivision), stop reading this right now and get your data!
  2. Always keep up-to-date backups of your material
  3. No matter what guarantees a webhost tells you, you might one day receive an email like the one above. Always know what your next step is, where will you move your site, how will you do it, etc. (I have had a good experience so far with Dreamhost)
  4. If you are planning on buying a webhost, make sure you thoroughly research everything the previous owners have ever done, otherwise the same thing that just happened to ServerDivision’s new owners could happen to you

(I wonder what it is that they did? It must have been pretty bad and illegal, since the new owners are being punished for the since of their predecessors.)