Book review: What Would Google Do?

In What Would Google Do?, Jeff Jarvis conveys his lessons learned from the greatest technology success stories of the past decade. He draws on best practices from Etsy, Craigslist, Amazon, and of course Google. I took notes of interesting, new concepts as I read but sadly didn’t end up with much. It may be great for corporate old-schoolers, who Jarvis seems to be talking to, but if you’ve been following blogs and news in this space this book will feel a little slow and obvious.

I managed to solidify a few key points that I’ll take with me as I engender my next big tech company in the next year. First, the best position is to create a platform on which others can build. I can expect to earn little or no profit for a while under this model, but hooking developers on my platform is a very powerful strategy. I need to extract the minimum value from the network of developers and related web services to take the network to its maximum potential size and value. This enables my developers and partners to charge more, which increases their dependency on my platform or network. Another positive side-effect is that competitors don’t want to jump into a space where the efficient leader’s margins are low.

Today’s web 2.0 method for growth is to forgo paying for marketing and instead create something so great that users distribute it. Later revenue can be found and extracted, but we’ve seen the revenue-maximizing strategy fail on AOL and Yahoo while Google stole their users to frame the world’s most powerful advertising machine.

These are the most powerful pieces of advice I discovered in WWGD:

How can you act as a platform?

What can others build on top of it?

How can you add value?

How little value can you extract?

How big can the network atop your platform grow?

How can the platform get better learning from users?

How can you create open standards so even competitors will use and contribute to the network, and you get a share of the value?

I’ll certainly be applying some of these principals to my next ambitious venture. As far as the rest of the book, I recommend reading a summary instead, unless you’re brand new to the Web 2.0 business world.