Time Magazine ponders “Can Google Get Any Bigger“? Looks like it can:
However, for all of its success, Google’s online dominance has been limited to search. In web-based e-mail, for example, Google’s service, Gmail, is in a distant fifth place to leader Yahoo! Mail, which is over 12 times the size of Gmail in terms of visits. Google has barely made a peep in social networking; MySpace, the #1 social networking site, is over 300 times the size of Google’s Orkut service. Even mainstream information such as Google Finance is an order of magnitude smaller in visits than the industry leader in financial information Yahoo! Finance.
Avnish Bajaj of Matrix Partners on why he thinks the “Web 2.0” paradigm won’t work in India:
“People talk about the Internet being convenient, but it is not so in India. You need to go to a cyber café or you have to dial up a telephone line or use a slow broadband connection. Whereas in the US, 150 million households have broadband access all around the clock, sitting at home. When you have such a situation you can do social networking, but where is that happening in India? Do you think a person will go to a cyber café or any public environment to discuss everything about their life?”
“…there is a cultural barrier, as not many individuals will express themselves as in Myspace.com. Also, there are infrastructural barriers. Fundamentally it is not about social networking but about community building. In India one needs to first create a product according to people’s needs and subsequently a community will form around it.”
While I’m glad Bajaj has debunked the Web 2.0 craze, I’m not so sure about the cultural part. While MySpace is a little extreme, Orkut is very popular among young adults (between 15 and 22) in urban India (and no, “urban” now includes Tier-2 and 3 cities from the Hindi heartland too). 75% of India’s Internet users surf from a public location (cyber cafes). I don’t see a reason why either culture or lack of a personal, home computer ought to dissuade users from socializing on the Internet.
After all, it’s happening. Right before us. See what your kid brother/sister/nephew/niece means when he/she wants to “check mail”. They mean they want to check their scrapbook!