November 15, 2009


Bunch of thoughts about Google

Yes, the title of this post is rather poor. There are bunch of ideas in my head for blog post, but many of them need to be polished. The fear of putting something half-baked is embarrassing. But, that also means, many ideas simply die out or lose relevance over time. So, here I am, ready to be ridiculed for these ideas.

Google Upgrades Picasa Storage:

Google unveiled new storage pricing for Picasa and Gmail. Now, you get 20GB for $5 per year. This is 87% lower than earlier pricing. A staggering 87%. At this pricing, if you are using all of 20 GB, the price is roughly 2 cents per GB per month. To see how ridiculously low this pricing is, compare it with Amazon's S3.

Amazon S3 charges 15 cents per month per GB. Amazon also charges for the data transfer. Putting 20GB in S3 costs you $2 at the rate of 10 cents per GB. And reading data out of S3 costs 17 cents per GB. (I am not putting the charges for GET requests on S3, because most of the time it is rounding off error.) In comparison, Google is charging $0 for data transfer. This makes Amazon S3 almost an order of magnitude more expensive if not more.

There is more. Picasa also stores various sized thumbnails to show when you browse the album. I suppose, that doesn't count towards your usage.

It doesn't end here. Google uses Google File System (GFS) to store all of its data. GFS follows rule of 3 - that is there are 3 copies of all the data. The reason being even if one copy is lost (quite routine with commodity hardware), the data still has redundancy. Essentially, per GB per month cost offered by Google is fraction of a cent.

The raw storage costs around 10 cents per GB. That is boxed disk sitting on table. Pretty much unusable. Think about all the costs involved to make it workable - power, machine to connect to, data center, cooling, security, sys admin and so on. The cost of usable storage is actually significantly higher than the raw cost.

Now, you know, why I called this a ridiculously low price.

So, what's the catch? To start with Picasa allows only photos and video (of size upto 1GB) to be uploaded. This storage is also available with Gmail, but Gmail also has a limit of 25MB on attachment size. Unless you are pro photographer or having tons of photos of your kids (my friends do have), it's difficult to hit the limits of available storage.

Then, the next question is if anyway very few need this kind of storage, why didn't Google give 5GB space on Picasa for free instead of current limit of 1GB? Anyway, Google isn't making any money from this $5 per year plan. You may as well earn people's goodwill.

I think, Google is testing waters of "freemium" (yeah, a much abused term, but only one fits the description) with this ultra low pricing. $5 per year won't even register a blip on many wallets. Millions of wallets.

Next idea is to build on this is a backup service. A 100% paid one. Mostly at the price point of $10-20 per year. Comfortably below the Mozys and Dropboxs of the world. Figment of my imagination? May be. But there is non-zero chance that Google will do this.

I really wish Google comes up with competition to S3 at Picasa-style prices.


Google Closure and the entire toolkit.

As much as I dislike the name, I sense it is utterly useful. Reducing javascript size will ease the stress on bandwidth and will run faster in the browser. Double win for the user. Google is creating tools for developers, spreading awareness about good practices.

Now, some of these tools are actually beneficial for Google as well. Google is strongly suggesting websites to use compression while distributing the text content (html/css/js.) With gzip, 75% or more size reduction is easily achievable on text. When a insanely popular service like Twitter doesn't bother about gzipping its content, you can imagine the (sorry) state of rest of the web.

And you know, Google is hurt every single time the Googlebot hits a site which sends uncompressed content to user. And when Google is crawling Billions of pages every day, you can imagine the bandwidth bill not to be trivial. Small compared to their $22 billion revenues, but not trivial. 75% reduction in that bill would be really sweet.

To lower it's bandwidth bill, Google will push out lots of tool to community. I wouldn't be surprised if they release Google Web Server - Lite edition to the community.


Minor Crib about Google Adwords:

Google Adwords offers 4 types of keyword match - Broad, Phrase, Exact and Negative. It is explained here.

So, if you are bidding for "tennis shoes"
- Broad Match will show your ad for queries "tennis", "buy tennis shoes", "tennis sneakers".
- Phrase Match will show your ad for queries "red tennis shoes" but not for "shoes for tennis."
- Exact Match will show when the search query is exactly "tennis shoes" and nothing else.
- Negative Match will not show your ad if the specified term appears in search query. For example, the negative word "cheap" will not show your ad for the query "cheap tennis shoes."

I think, there is a need for something more stringent that Broad Match, but less restrictive that Phrase Match. Let's call it "All Keyword Match." The behaviour for this would be to match presence of all specified keywords, in any order, in the query.

So, if my keyword is "tennis shoes", the ad should be shown for "shoes for tennis" but not for "running shoes." That is as long as the query contains both "tennis" and "shoes", the ad should be shown.

Yes, yes, Google's ad matching is quite smart, but I need this control.


Google Enhancing the ads.

Google now allows enhanced product ads where, you could specify a picture of the product, it's price, payment information, etc. I expect these ads to perform a lot better than existing plain simple ads of "Buy Wii at Low Price." And these are going to be Pay for Action ads and not the typical CPC ads.

Essentially, the retailers are going to build a fantastic shopping search engine for Google. When you search for an electronic item, the rich ads will dominate the vanilla organic search results and attract disproportionate share of the clicks.

So, who gets affected by this? The shopping search engines, obviously. Many of the shopping search players themselves spend aggressively on Google (see here ) But it seems, Google wants to take a hard look at the arbitrage game. For a long time Google has been a spectator in the shopping search space. Google Products (earlier Froogle) is almost as old as the web search on Google. But they never took massive interest in making it a real product. Putting a better shopping search product would have cannibalized their ad revenues in a big way. But, now that the glory days of 30% growth seem a thing of past, they probably want to see how they can extract more juice from existing universe of searches.

Frankly, for someone who runs a vertical search (, this should not be a good news. But, since we operate in a rather unproven market, entry of Google will help us. Yes, you have heard this cliche umpteen times from entrepreneurs who built their companies painstakingly over the years, just to see Google entering into the business and eyeing a leadership position. Trust me, for us it's not just a statement to be issued to the media, but a reality.


Sorry, right now, I'm too lazy to even proof-read this. Thanks for reading.


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