Google, Pyra, etc.
February 18, 2003
I should probably clarify some points. I've been linked to a lot as the requisite naysayer voice about the Google/Pyra deal, and that wasn't my intention in my post at all. I unequivocally think that Pyra making this deal is a good idea for them. And I'm an unabashed weblog evangelist, so established companies stepping into this space is 100% positive in my mind. Even in regards to the rumors of AOL moving into blogging, or Lycos' rather unimpressive entry into the space, I am totally in favor of it and think that the more people participating, the better.
My observations about Google's role were related to some of the specifics, particularly that they were only going to be able to focus on part of the weblog realm through their relationship with Pyra. It's something I was concerned about (keep in mind, my post was written in the minutes after I found out about the deal) because I realized that I track about 80 to 100 weblogs regularly, and of the ones I follow, four or five are Blogger-powered sites. That's a radical shift, given that it used to be nearly every weblog I read ran on Blogger.
Granted, I have a disproportionate interest in technology and the weblog world, so maybe my list of sites that I read isn't typical. But I am leery of those sites not having full access to the benefits that Google extends to Blogger/BlogSpot sites. In short, the Deja purchase made sense because it opened all of Usenet to Google's users. Google getting into weblogs makes sense if it opens all of the weblog world to Google's users. Assuming Google continues to be as smart as they've been and opens their weblog interfaces to the tools vendors who make the sites I read, all's well.
In short, I do think that focusing on one vendor in the weblog space is short-sighted on Google's part, so I'll stand by my original post. But don't misconstrue my concerns for anything other than excitement about the development. I'm impressed by what Pyra's accomplished in this deal, and excited that the profile for the whole weblog world will be raised, and frankly fascinated to see what comes next. I just want to make sure that "what comes next" applies to all the sites that I read.
As a side note, I'm kind of terrified at the insularity of the weblog world, though I realize I'm part of it. I have to keep up on this stuff; It's my career. But to those of you who don't work in this area, take a look at the top of Daypop and Blogdex and you might realize why people criticize and malign weblogs as being unimportant and overly self-referential. Replace every mention, on all the hundreds of sites, of the Google/Pyra deal with a reference to the Google/Deja deal, and see if you think that the attention is disproportionate.
Also disconcerting is that the weblog world keeps carrying on the print tradition of having a "token dissenting voice". My comments, and even more, the astute comments my readers left, about the Pyra deal were much more nuanced than just "It's bad!" but that seems to be the direction that the interpretations went. Isn't one of the points of microcontent media supposed to be a greater variety of voices and opinions instead of the binary yes/no of the major corporations?
All grumbling aside, I've been in the IT industry for a long time. When I started my first company, Windows NT hadn't yet been released, Netscape didn't exist, the biggest networking software vendor was Netware, and the Pentium brand name hadn't been announced. With that perspective, I know that weblogs are important and they matter. But they're just one piece of a whole ecology of software, platforms, devices, and tools that encompass the realm of online expression.
Seems like we're finally ready to take the next step, and we've reached the end of the beginning of weblogs. I'm hoping it gets even more interesting from here, and I bet it will.