. . . Thursday July 30, 2009

Microhoo: Eyes on Someone Else’s Prize?

The web has a way of always making you want to be something else. You might be one thing, but then you see all of these other things and you think, damn, maybe that’s what I should be. Sure, I’m all good with my incredible wife and ridiculously awesome kids and enough free time for the occasional post, tweet or one-eyed nap on the office couch, but then you get a boatload of traffic from Gruber or Kottke and you think, “Why can’t I be them?”

Why don’t I have as many followered as Ashton? Why don’t I have as much access to private air travel as Sergey. Why can’t I convince people to have 3am meetings with me like Zuckerberg? Why isn’t my site as popular as Evan’s? Why did I stop writing my technology blog just before people started to get famous blogging? Why can’t I even achieve a notoriety equal to my cat Mister Winters who pulled a do you believe in miracles-like upset to bring home the Best Tonkinese Premier in Region 2 prize in 2001?

With all of the peephole and sex tapes released on the net over the past decade, would it have been so impossible for at least a cameo? I’m no Lexington Steele, but I’ve got to be worth a few million downloads.

You shouldn’t care. But the web is addictive and weird that way, so you do. If you’re not careful, you focus on being something you’re not. You end up working on stuff that doesn’t reflect any of your personal passions. You become obsessed with every stat. You want, for a reason you could never explain, to be web cool. You start buying up weird new domains in the hopes that, maybe this time, you’ll hit the next big thing.

All of this is especially tempting if you have a few hundred billion to throw at your effort. Which brings us to Microsoft. While there is no doubt that they are getting the better business-terms end of the bargain with Yahoo and that, after years of futility, they will likely become a major force in the search wars, I still wonder if the entire effort is misguided.

I worry that Microsoft’s obsession with Google and search (the same affliction that ultimately caused Yahoo to take it in the Bing) will come at the expense of the businesses where they still have clear leadership. If I were Microsoft, I’d worry more about the cultural, technological, and marketshare explosion over at Apple than I’d worry about search. And to the extent that I’d worry about Google, I’d be more worried about their efforts to move apps online than the search stuff. That’s the big advantage Yahoo got out of this deal. At least they got out of search (which they’ve been terrible at for years) and can now celebrate and focus on all the areas where they hold a leadership position.

All that said, I have a weird feeling that this post could vault me past Gruber.

Concentration is important!