It's stuff like this that convinces me Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is desperate for growth at any price. Why else buy Finnish start-up Jaiku (for undisclosed terms), an outfit whose lofty purpose is to get users to share the most boring details of their daily lives through frenetic Internet or wireless blasts to a network of peers.
The service, like U.S.-based Twitter, is a so-called "microblogger." It's like News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) MySpace or Flipflopboy's Facebook, but the flow of information is more immediate, inescapable, and completely immaterial.
Sittin' on the toilet. Update coming soon ...
Clearly, services like these appeal to the increasing narcissism of the world's youthful tech crowd, where people measure their self-worth by the number of so-called "friends" they have online. (Geezers like me figure five text messages a day is plenty.)
Nowadays, people collect virtual "relationships" the way kids used to collect marbles or pogs. And when a stack of avatars on a webpage isn't enough of a self-esteem boost, there's always a pile of communications. Finally, the minute attention media pays to celebrities or oxymoronic "reality-TV stars" seems to create a sense that everything anyone does is interesting. (It may be to students of psychology and sociology, to be sure.)
And that's worth how much money?
I doubt you'd ever hear the wireless or handset industry complain about this message-driving drivel. Verizon, (NYSE: VZ ) , AT&T (NYSE: T ) , Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , and Apple (NYSE: AAPL ) have plenty to gain by hooking users on the increasing use of text messaging and minute-by-minute Internet connectivity. They get paid to provide the network that carries the goods or the gadgets used to initiate the transfers.
However, there comes a point when you have to wonder about just how Google thinks it can monetize a free service that coordinates the traffic, especially when drivel is the standard fare. (Warning: These are actual Jaiku messages. Readers should not drive or operate heavy machinery.)
- it's actually chilly inside this morning... 47 degrees outside.
- Shopping! How I hate it..
- At school using Internet. . .
- Chok Kang and Justin kindly made me realized that all my 23 years of taking cough syrup w water was wrong. Arrrgghhh!
What, me worry?
Or does Google even care? After all, it's got barrels of cash to waste, and everything it does is saluted as genius by the media. Purchases are classified as "innovation." And the stock keeps going up.
My guess is none of this will matter to Google shareholders or the Wall Street Hallelujah chorus. We're back to dot-com mania, where big companies are chasing new concepts for no reason other than to get a foot in the door and keep others out. Doesn't make a bit of difference if that door leads to a good place or not. After all, there's no indication YouTube is destined to be a profit earner. Nor any of the online "office suite" that Google has cobbled together.
Foolish final thought
But again, in today's market, I don't think anyone cares. And woe unto the skeptics. Raise a sliver of doubt, and you'll be told "you just don't get it." (I guarantee you that faithful Google and Apple shareholders are already tapping out similar diatribes as you read this sentence.)
Even a proven disaster, like eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY ) ridiculous purchase of Skype, doesn't do much to the stock price. eBay blew the equivalent of about two years worth of net profits on the Skype acquisition, but when it admitted this blunder, investors didn't bat an eyelash. Can you imagine the reaction if, instead, eBay came out and said, "Oh, we won't be earning any profits for two years"?
Today's shareholders, apparently, only care if you make profits. What you do with that money afterwards is of no consequence. If you whiz away millions or billions on lousy purchases with no return, and never pay shareholders a penny for the use of their capital, they'll applaud anyway.
That's not the way investing should work. It's not the way investing usually works. But then, we're not living in usual times.
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