The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

the original googler
Becoming a victim of your own success can be a bitch. So it is in the case of Google. While on the one hand it loves that it's brand name is quickly becoming synonymous with conducting Internet research, on the other that level of ubiquity can lead to brand deterioration. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Incidentally, the Xerox example cited in the article is a curious one. These days, someone using the word "xerox" as a verb or lower-case noun is showing his/her age. The company was so vigorous in stamping out the use of its name in a generic fashion that by the time I was growing up (1980s), it was supplanted by the more sensible "photocopy" (or even just "copy"). I think it was a dumb strategy; now Xerox is just another dime-a-dozen copier company, whereas with strong brand correlation it could have been a real hegemon in the industry.

Anyway, back to Google. Note that if these Internet wunderkinds really want to push this sense of propriety, opponents can just fire back with good ol' Barney Google. Largely forgotten today, Barney was a wildly popular comic strip character in the early part of the last century. He even had a song written about him--no mere search engine can say that! Alas, he eventually got dumped out of his own strip in favor of some redneck hillbilly sumbitch. Still, he can claim to having the "Google" moniker decades before the Web was even born.

Yeah, yeah. I know Google's story about the origin of their name. Doesn't matter. In the intellectual property arena, it's all about who cross the finish line first (at least, usually). I don't see any fuzziness here--Barney Google debuted in 1919, some 80 years later.