Killing Google, From the Inside Out

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Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is Cuil again. TechCrunch reports that Anna Patterson, founder of the now-defunct search upstart Cuil, has returned to Google as a director.

Previously, Patterson helped shepherd the Google Base directory for cataloguing content to be ranked in its search engine. What role she's taking now isn't entirely clear, but last month she gave a talk at Washington University in St. Louis in which she was identified as Google's "Director of Research." (Kudos to TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis for finding that gem.)

Her return is timely. Yahoo! may be laying off hundreds, but Twitter and Facebook are flush and working on ways to capitalize on new social advertising models that could threaten the search king's core business. Groupon has a similar idea that recently set off a $6 billion bidding frenzy in which Google was involved.

And don't forget Bing. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) this week released a new version of Bing allows users to rank results according to the likes and links shared by friends on Facebook. Mr. Softy has also struck a deal with Open Table (Nasdaq: OPEN  ) to allow users of the Bing mobile app to make restaurant reservations from within local search results.

With all these innovations, Google's going to need as much help as it can get to keep search users loyal. Patterson can help by offering an outside-in perspective, beginning with the shortcomings that led her and others to create Cuil.

Steak rather than sizzle may be where she'll have the most impact. Cuil earned fame for indexing more than Google but with a far less complex infrastructure. Just 150 servers catalogued the entirety of the Internet and sliced it into areas of specialty to help better predict meaning.

Now that Cuil's gone we know the reality didn't match the vision, but the vision remains compelling to this day. There must be lessons Google can learn from Patterson's experience leading Cuil. With competitors getting more aggressive, now's the time to put them into play.

But that's my take. What do you think? Is Google vulnerable, or a monopolist that needs to be broken apart? Weigh in using the comments box below. You can also rate Google in Motley Fool CAPS.

Interested in more info on the stocks mentioned in this story? Click here to add Google to your watchlist. Click here to add Microsoft. Click here to add Yahoo! Click here to add Open Table.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google and Open Table are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended subscribers open a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is killing Wall Street, softly.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2010, at 3:54 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:


    Thanks for writing.

    >>You asked us to choose one negative or another negative, an absolute loaded negatively biased question with no positive alternative!

    Hoo boy. You're either genuinely confused, or desperately searching for something to scream about.

    The choices reflect two different states of the business: vulnerable, or so strong as to merit the government attention it's been getting.

    But here's the bigger point. All I asked for was your take. What do you genuinely think about Google's business prospects right now? What do you like? Dislike?

    I'd love to see you contribute to the conversation. So far, you're 0 for 1.

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2010, at 5:37 PM, kmdale wrote:

    I'm a fairly new Google Alumnus, so I *should* be more likely to be negative on Google? I mean, I left the tech holy land less than two months ago, so I should be disenchanted, right?


    Caveat: it's hard to write the following without sounding like a Google-head (with apologies to bobble-heads the world 'round), but I'm still very positive on the company.

    Google is continuing to do amazing, game-changing things in the industry. Innovation is alive and well at my alma mater, and I'm proud to be known as an ex-Googler. I saw nothing internally that gave me concern, and the last time I checked, we live in a free market environment where others with equally brilliant ideas are welcome to compete. "Monopolist" connotes specific business practices that are designed to squeeze out the competition - Google has not, does not, and will not do that. I've been fairly high up on the inside, and I can personally attest to that.

    So, to answer your question: vulnerable? Not a chance. Needs to have it broken apart on monopoly fears? Not warranted.

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