Sunday, September 14, 2008


On Thursday, Google bought Korean blogging software company TNC (Tatter and Company). Along with an improvement to its earlier Blogger software, it’s one of two developments this week that puts Google on a collision course with MySpace and Facebook.

One of the most interesting reports from the Korea Times, the notoriously nationalistic Seoul business publication.

Google said the takeover will help it expand localized products, as well as provide advanced services to Korean users. …

The current Web search market is almost completely dominated by local firms, with atop and its rivals, including and, following closely behind.

Portal Web sites in Korea have been deeply engaged in the business. The service has now become the biggest meal ticket for them in combination with advertising.

Google, the world's biggest search engine, has failed to flex its muscle here, as it has a relatively small base of user-produced contents compared to its Korean competitors.

Since the success of Jishik-iN, a Q&A database service, it was contributions from active users, which lifted Naver to the no.1 spot.

Industry officials said that is the reason for the acquisition. Google will spur development of user-oriented contents using the blogging tool, which will contribute to strengthening its search ability as well, they said.
Chang-Won Kim, the acquired CEO also argues that TNC will help Google overcome a fundamental difference of the Korean market:
Speaking of Google in Asia, one piece of fact that my American friends have really hard time perceiving is that Google is an underdog in this part of the globe. Korea is the world's sixth largest market in terms of internet users, and yet Google has a market share that can only be described as "minor" in Korea.

Why? Korean web users mostly use Yahoo-like "portal" services and never really venture out. Part of the reason for that is, Korean portals are so good. But portals have built too thick of a comfort zone for Korean web users, leaving little room for startup innovations. Hence less motivation for startups, hence less diversity and more portal domination (in this age of de-portalization, that is), and so on and so forth - the cycle goes on.

Now as a part of Google, TNC will try to better the situation. We will commit ourselves to increasing Google's market share in Korea. Of course, Google isn't entitled with God-given right to become #1 in every region it operates in, just because it's Google. It's actually more about the Korean web industry than about Google.
Even more interesting than Google’s continuing push into user-generated content, Chang links the acquisition to Google’s ongoing efforts to expand the role of social media in its business model:
While other blog services seem to be exploring the idea of integrating social networks with blogs only lately, our new blog service Textcube (link in Korean) had already implemented the feature much earlier.
Which brings me to a second and related Google Web 2.0 development last week. The official Google blog reports the introduction of the concept of a “Follower” to Blogger (the service I use for my five blogs). The blurb by Blogger product marketing manager Mendel Chuang explains:
At Blogger we're passionate about helping communities form around blogs. To further that goal, we've introduced a new feature that lets you easily follow your favorite blogs and tell the world that you’re a fan. To follow a blog with the Followers' Gadget, simply click the “Follow This Blog” link. You can show your support for the blog by following it right from your Blogger Dashboard or in Google Reader. …

We’re also in the process of integrating with Google Friend Connect to add even more engaging social features to Blogger.
In other words, Blogger will infer community from self-identified “Followers,” all integrated through Google’s single-signon “OpenID”. Through the OpenSocial APIs, it brings along orkut (owned by Google) as well as LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo, among others. Updated Sept. 15: Although once outside the OpenSocial network, MySpace has subsequently provided its own implementation.

As part of Total World Domination, Google is aggressively pursuing social media, too. Given that Google has a business model and Facebook and MySpace (like most other Web 2.0 startups) do not, this is even more evidence that the days of standalone social media plays are ultimately numbered. MySpace still has its sugar daddy, but I wonder whether Mark Zuckerberg will rue not selling more shares to Microsoft last year (even if he was wise to turn down the earlier Yahoo offer).


Anonymous said...

MySpace has actually implemented OpenSocial:

Joel West said...

Dear anonymous,

Thanks for the catch. I've updated the blog entry.

Serves me right for relying on news accounts rather than looking at the actual APIs or at least their websites.