Google, Pinterest, and the visual web: The counterfactual

The best strategic moves are often the most unsung (or, what could have been)

Ryan, it’s important to emphasize how difficult it is (and therefore how infrequently we) acknowledge counterfactuals. Specifically, in this case, I’m talking about how amazing Google is, having already tackled technical challenges like image search, visual & voice recognition, video indexing, etc.— all of which Google itself identified as existential threats, long before any of us were talking about them. I know we subconsciously acknowledge these feats, but it’s worth mentioning the strategic prowess required of Google to survive and thrive in so many verticals and horizontals. Pinterest’s perceived visual search moat is a great example of how Google has repeatedly positioned itself for the next epoch(s) — whether the visual web, video-first, or the voice interface.

Of course it still has its challenges, but what’s important to note is that Google would be in a precarious position were it not for those investments, that R&D, those acquisitions. Were it not for all that, they might already be obsoleted, disrupted.

But that’s the thing about counterfactuals: we don’t consider what might have been; we only consider what is; therefore we don’t appreciate Google’s formidable foothold in so many of “the next big things,” like the visual web. Pinterest could have been the winner-take-all in that niche, but it’s a remarkable feat that Google fended-off such an existential threat with such prescience and execution.

You said “The company that can index, categorize, and surface this information best, may become the next Google.” Maybe Google is already the next Google?

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