In the “how not to miss the point” column…

John Battelle writes about: Can We Please Bury the Netscape Metaphor? and I am in complete agreement with the points he makes.

Netscape as a phenomena was built on a small clever idea and a massive, insane over-reaction by the stock market. The company itself had very little depth outside the one clever but not original idea. If you want a model for what Netscape could have been, look at the outfit that sells the Opera web browser - a small company with a respectible product that is both competitive and steadily evolving. There is no way Netscape could ever have met the expectations set by the stock market. They had to take the money from the stock market and try to build a company to match the stock price. In the end they failed - not for lack of trying, but simply because building a successful large company from scratch is quite difficult.

Google is almost exactly the opposite of Netscape. They started with one small clever idea (an unusually effective search engire) and spent years building steadily on this base. Google also built something more valuable - customer trust - by clearly putting the interests of the customer first. In the years before going to the stock market Google made a series of very smart, largely incremental improvements to their collection of offerings. As a user I am continually pleased with the service they provide. As a software developer I am repeatedly impressed by their choices both in enhancing their existing services, and in their amazing good taste in acquisitions.

Google is much more likely to succeed that Netscape in that they earn their position everyday. Google is also more likely to succeed against Microsoft for essentially the same reason the makers of large computers could not succeed against the makers of small computers - the new approach is fundamentally different, and the older company cannot compete without largely abandoning their existing business model.