Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When Google Enables Sharing, the Ecosystem Changes

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 6.49.24 AMWhen Google Enables Sharing, the Ecosystem Changes:



I’m now writing for the Huffington Post, covering the Collaborative Economy. The content will focus more on news insights in this rapidly changing market and what it means to corporations. I may cross-post the articles (like below) when it makes sense, or just link to them in posts. To me, the Huffington Post represents the crowd, collaboration of media, as they’ve thousands of writers who now comprise of a mainstream media network.

What does the potential new Google Mine project mean to the internet? Here’s a breakdown on how it could change the world.
Yesterday’s news leaked out that Google+ is potentially planning on enabling their own users to share goods and products with each other –rather than buy them from retailers and brands. To be clear, this will reduce the revenue to brands and corporations that are locked in old business models of selling. The goods news is, there’s a solution for corporations, called the Collaborative Economy, which means that their own business model must change to enable sharing of products and goods, and eventually allow customers to participate in core business functions.
For a few months, I’ve been tracking this trend, including a list of over 200 startups that enable this , but to hear that Google themselves may enable this, will have some radical ecosystem impacts.
First of all, we don’t know if Google will enable this, they’ve a number of side projects that stay behind the scenes, and those that do, become in perpetual beta. Also, Google has a track record of many products that don’t work (which they sunset after a few years) so there’s no guarantee this will work. Google social product track record is littered with failed attempts like Sidewiki, Dodgeball, Wave, and many others. But let’s imagine it does launch, what impacts would it have on the marketplace:
Scenario: To bring this to life, let’s imagine that I want to go on a family bike ride, but I don’t own any bikes.
The feature set requires users to map out and take inventory of the products that they might want to share, and also to request products they may want to borrow from their friends. This requires two steps: A thriving ‘marketplace’ of owners and borrowers, and two, that users upload their data and explicitly say they request something. This means one of my neighbors would have to upload to Google they have bikes to borrow, and I would have to explicitly indicate I want to borrow the bikes.
If this came to fruition, Google can tap into a greater resource of their search engine, and make these free products available in their search engine results page. So when I’m searching on Google search for new products, Google could instead indicate that a set of family bikes are available down the street, reducing –I mean eliminating– my need to buy them. Instead Google’s software would match up the person who’s offering it, and connect me to them to borrow it. Expect several reputation systems to be working, both from a social graph perspective (do I know them or do we have friends in common) and they can see my ‘Google Mine reputation score’, which I would expect to emerge.
I borrow the bikes (a normal behavior by the way in Europe, NY, and progressive cities) from my neighbors and off and joyful ride!
Don’t expect savvy corporations to stand by idle: For corporations, it means they must tap into this trend and enable their products to be shared, potentially yielding new offers to rent bikes, or even provide advertising on bikes in their neighborhood. There’s even a possibility to encourage customers to try a certain brand of bike, with the opportunity to upsell new bikes later, or even a subscription service to access bikes on demand.
The broader ecosystem of the sharing startups are disrupted. In particular, Yerdle , who I met with last week, is a startup that encourages neighbors to use Facebook Connect to find friends that have products and goods they want to gift to each other –reducing the need to buy. This project, founded by Walmart’s former Chief Sustainability Officer shows promise if it gets traction. Furthermore, if Google launches this sharing service, expect that Facebook will, as we found that most of the sharing websites are already using Facebook Connect.
In summary, this disruption (where customers can share, rather than buy) is imminent and cannot be stopped. The goods news is, we’ve already published how corporations can avoid disruption by joining the Collaborative Economy in this research report, that also has slides, and a video all for your consumption. I’m dedicating a great deal of my mind share to helping the corporate world prepare for this looming change, and I need your help by helping to spread the news.