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On Platforms and Stickiness

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Tim O'Reilly recently started an interesting thread on Google Plus. His central argument: I want to spend as little time as possible on Google. In his view (and that of many others), Google should take people someplace else. Maximizing "time on site" is very un-Google.

Sure, for years Google has been essentially a means to an end. But should it remain that way? Why is Google trying to become stickier?

Let's distinguish search from the overall Google platform. With respect to search, results take users in many if not most cases away from a proper Google site -- and I don't see that changing in the near term. But it's high time that we begin thinking of Google as a platform, not merely as the dominant search engine.

Google no longer aims to be (primarily) just a conduit to another platform or network or website -- and the company is hardly alone here. The Gang of Four (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) and other emerging platforms are building different planks precisely because they want to be seen as ultimate destinations, not merely and exclusively as interim stops to somewhere else. The strategy here is both offensive and defensive -- every minute spent on Google represents a minute not spent on Facebook.

So, at a higher level, what are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are trying to do? That's a huge question worthy of a pretty big book. Perhaps that question is best answered in the negative. What don't they want to do? In short, push you off of their platforms (to those of competitors).

Brass tacks: Use Google as sparingly as you like, but don't be surprised by its increasing attempts to become stickier.