How (and Why) Google Needs to Invest in Open Source
As more and more people start using the internet, and as websites get increasingly full featured Google continues to see growth in its userbase. Open Source CMS platforms (Drupal, WordPress, etc.) are increasingly the go-to technology for many companies with over 800,000 sites using Drupal or almost 60 million on WordPress. As big as these numbers are, they are a drop in a bucket compared to the 4+ million Google searches that occur each day. So why should Google care?
Not Just Google.com
Google's reach and penetration in the internet goes well beyond Google.com. Sites currently include everything from social sharing, to maps on contact pages, to analytics rely on services provided by Google. This is in large part because Google provides some really great services for free, but the decision tree for selecting these services is undergoing a subtle but inevitable shift.
When selecting services for inclusion in websites there are several factors:
- Service Offering
- Legal restrictions
- Level of integration
When it comes to #2 (Service Offering) and #3 (Cost), Google generally knocks it out of the park. When it comes to Maps, for example, they basically wrote the book on mapping APIs and it's free! #4 (Legal Restrictions) generally are whatever the lawyers or business plan require. However, when it comes to #1 (Awareness) and #5 (Level of Integration), they are facing growing competition.
When I'm searching for trivia, business, etc. I use Google, however when I am building a website and I'm looking to add features I am going to search specific databases and/or review sites that talk about WordPress Plugins or Drupal Modules. These specialized databases allow me to do things like filter for compatibility with the specific version of the CMS I am using, look at usage and code commit history and generally make more informed opinions about the add ons. Additionally, networks and communities exist, which allows me to draw on collective experience of my peers, making the level of integration key.
Sure Features Are There, But Are They Integrated?
That brings me to the core of my argument for increased participation by Google. Ease of use and level of integration with a service can be as important as the features of the service. For example, Google Analytics may allow me to do financial funneling for products I post to my website, but if another service offers me that and I can toggle that service by clicking a checkbox, I'm likely to opt for the latter even if that means I need to pay a fee (think free social sharing with paid analytics integration). My time is valuable (and expensive), and an easy-to-integrate service will likely save my customers both time and money.
What Google Can Learn From MailChimp
A great study in success by investing in platform integration can be found in MailChimp. MailChimp offers a great newsletter service (we at Metal Toad subscribe to the paid service) AND they have great integration within Drupal and WordPress which is a supported by the company with a $1 Million Integration Fund. Not only does that build buzz and goodwill within developer communities, but it creates a higher-level of integration.
Given the scope of Google's services the opportunity (or cost) is huge. Here's a quick list, that reads like the top bar in my GMail account:
- Authentication - Google+
The opportunities and the means for integrations are there (the APIs exist), but it's time for Google to start investing money integration of their services with the rest of the internet, or face growing competition across numerous fronts in a world where being free just isn't enough.