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Five years ahead.

The online world has rather unpredictable historical patterns. From personal computers to online e-commerce has created an environment that virtually eliminates accurate predictability. Nevertheless, it is possible to look at the recent internet history and make semi-viable yet educated predictions.

Generally speaking, it is important to look at the current major players that have a history of influencing the online and technology world. Some of the most significant players include giants such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN in online ventures. In terms of hardware and technology, Sony, Microsoft, Dell, and similar major players may also have great influence.

Based on the limitation of this particular entry, we will mainly concentrate on the most well-known player Google. There are many aspects to the online world, however, if the most recent history of Google is any guideline at all, one can safely assume that Google will continue expanding its advertising wing via further penetration into audio, visual, and print media, maintain dominance in online advertising by increasing advertisers’ ROI and publisher income via more accurate targeting which may eventually lead to greater interest in behavioral targeting, purchase more startups in the security software industry, as well as an overall increase in relevancy which can be achieved utilizing partnerships such as AOL. The possibilities are, of course, endless and only limited to the imagination.

All of the potential growth for Google certainly comes with potential pitfalls. Issues could include an overflow of ads, public distrust in Google privacy policies, small but more advanced competitors in niche markets, cross-functional competitor alliances among larger competitors such as MSN and Yahoo, domestic or foreign governmental regulations, and legal liabilities. Most of the potential issues can be brushed off based on the financial ability of Google. However, the single greatest threat is certainly within the end users’ judgment on two top issues: Google’s relevancy and privacy policies.

On both of these issues, competitors may have already irreversibly failed. MSN and Yahoo have repeatedly handed user information to domestic or governmental agencies, which fundamentally undermines the end users’ trust. On the issue of technological expansion, Yahoo and MSN have failed to realize the rapid advancement of Google and are virtually left behind. However, Google may encounter problems with end-user trust. The recent announcement that Google cookies may last as long as two years before self-deletion, purchase of Double Click, selective quality of customer service to smaller advertisers, and click fraud, may illustrate a great deal of public relation dilemma for Google.

Arguably it has not harmed Google’s share prices or financial well-being; however, it is important to point to one potentially devastating issue. Google as a young company, as well as the internet in its entirety, are recent phenomena that have not been subject to more subjective measurements such as brand loyalty. Google decision-makers need to consider that their action may result in end-user alienation, which may carry over generations.

Similarly, Google’s realization and strategic vision should not be limited to Western nations. Considering the potential markets and spending power in the Middle East and Africa, Google needs to accomplish proper market penetration strategies, starting with consumer confidence in its established markets.

Ultimately, there is a great opportunity for Google to influence further the business environment and how the general public uses search engines to enrich their lives. However, the current path may be riddled with inconsistencies, flawed approaches, morally questionable practices, narrowed strategic vision, and many potentially incriminating road bumps. Usually, such harsh criticism is not appropriate for every business; however, a giant that has since its start virtually changed the way we search, find and process information can and should be held to a greater, if not the greatest, standard. It is safe to assume that Google has the practical and financial means to evolve, conquer and maintain its influence on all of us; however, such greatness will not come without practical consequences for end users and businesses. It is up to the end users to determine the consequences we are willing to tolerate.

Brought to you by World Consulting Group. Your premier management consulting firm in Columbia, Missouri.

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