Dominating the space

18 Dec 2008 - 5:48pm
7 years ago
1 reply
568 reads
Steve Baty


Although Google well and truly dominates the search space, Facebook and
iPhone are not in the same class. Facebook's dominance is market and
demographic-specific, being out-performed in some age brackets by MySpace
and Bebo (pre-teens & teens); and countries, by a wide range of competing
social networks.

The iPhone is definitely dominating the media, but Nokia is still the
largest seller of mobile devices globally; and Blackberry is a very strong
competitor in the smartphone market specifically. There are also cultural
and geographic differences: iPhone has had a fairly luke-warm reception in
Japan (if memory serves) for example.

It's also worth pointing out that Google does not just dominate the search
engine market. It is also, as a direct result, dominating the online
advertising space, where five years ago the dominant market player would
have been someone like DoubleClick. Which is not to argue the point, but
reinforces your underlying point that market leaders change.

Since we're talking about online/digital type markets, you might as well
throw in Netscape capitulating to Internet Explorer, and the current rise of
Firefox as another example of the changing landscape.

In each of these cases the forces at work are very different. Google's
success was tied to a very different approach to the problem of finding
things on the Web. Where others were developing more and more complex models
of directory-style indices and keyword search, Google came out with an
offering that was stunning in its simplicity. And delivered results on a
scale not matched by any of the competing services. Where Yahoo and MSN,
altavista et al were curating collections in the tens of millions; Google's
early offering delivered results drawn from a collection numbering in the
billions of pages. It was faster; less complicated; easier to understand;
and more likely to return a meaningful result. It was also easy for
advertisers to understand and buy into.

Competition for Google as a search engine could come from an unlikely
source. It is possible that a social network like Twitter could erode
Google's dominance as our primary source of 'finding things on the Web'. I
already receive a large amount of my resources via Twitter; with a
substantial collection being delivered via RSS feeds. More importantly: I
trust those sources much more than I do results in a search engine. So as
these services grow and extend their reach, the value of those networks as a
source of information will also grow, with the value of each successive
connection being much greater than simply +1.

Facebook's success - and I'm not arguing it's success (let's not turn this
into a discussion of whether or not it's making a profit, revenue, or is
likely to survive) - as a social network came from several factors: it was
targeted at college students (initially) rather than attempting to compete
head-to-head with MySpace in the teenage market; it provided a platform for
other businesses to develop applications to enhance the overall value of the
service (arguable, but still a factor); and opened itself up to non-college
participants in time for their early adapters to be graduating and moving
out into the world. MySpace, on the other hand, hasn't really 'aged' with
it's members, thereby providing the opportunity for Facebook to capitalise
on that end of the market.

The 'next Facebook' may already exist; or it might be just around the
corner. Or it might be that Facebook evolves and strengthens it's market
position. The first hurdle it needs to clear is to introduce a strong
revenue model that allows it to survive and enhance itself. Time will tell
whether or not they can do that successfully.

The iPhone, for me at least, represents an interim step between the mobile
phone as a purely communications device, and the truly personal "connect me
to the world and keep me entertained" device that we'll see in 5-10 years
time. The iPhone's days are numbered, although it represents a great leap
forward towards that future device. It has some unique characteristics that
make it appealing: the touch interface, with the gestural elements that make
it much richer experientially than other offerings; the integration with
iTunes, and the iPod capabilities of music, movies, TV & photos; and,
perhaps most significantly, the introduction of the App Store - and all of
the third-party applications - that open up a wealth of opportunities for
both iPhone users and third-party developers to use the iPhone as a platform
more so than a stand-alone device.

The iPhone has helped to redefine what we expect from a 'mobile phone', but
it's importance for me is the direction that it gives to other device
manufacturers as to how they'll need to compete in the future. It may be
that the iPhone killer won't come from Nokia, Motorola, HTC or Siemens, but
from Apple themselves. And that's just fine by me.


2008/12/19 Mike Scarpiello <mscarpiello at>

> Google (search), Facebook, and the iPhone (smartphones) are overwhelmingly
> dominating their spaces right now, making you wonder if anything will ever
> eclipse them.
> But just a few years ago, Yahoo, MySpace, and the Razr were in the same
> positions.
> So the question is when, and what products / companies do you think will
> superseed these behemoths?
> Discuss!

Steve 'Doc' Baty | Principal Consultant | Meld Consulting | P: +61 417 061
292 | E: stevebaty at | Twitter: docbaty

Contributor - UXMatters -
UX Book Club: - Read, discuss, connect.


24 Dec 2008 - 4:52pm

Suggest any product that starts to lose focus on its core strengths
and starts to compete on functions and features is entering the start
of their own decline. If products extend nicely on their core, they
have a better chance of success.

Makes me think about what happened to Palm? It seems their products
are in need of a major overhaul.

Its all been said before, but the "eco system" of a product set
plays a critical role now as products start to copy each others UI
and form factor. Hence the continued importance of upfront and
ongoing research to bridge into design to help differentiate.


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