The Decline of Google’s Brand: Why Bard Struggles to Compete with ChatGPT
Google Bard sucks or at least that seems to be the general opinion. Hating Bard definitely seems to be the popular thing. Twitter is literally filled with tweets mocking Bard for its failures and it’s no wonder why. From resorting to Bing to get the answer to recommending Edge over Chrome, Bard has made quite a few hilarious blunders. But I don’t this is the real problem. I mean, there are plenty of compilations of ChatGPT making mistakes as well. From thinking that inches are a unit of mass to not knowing how to multiply negative numbers, ChatGPT is prone to making a bunch of mistakes as well. But what is different between the two is how people respond to the same mistakes.
When Bard messes up, people tend to laugh at it and the attitude seems to carry a negative connotation. “If I were Sam Altman or Satya Nadella, I would be feeling VERY concerned right now.” When ChatGPT messes up, however, it tends to just become a meme. It’s the classic case of people who tend to laugh with ChatGPT while they laugh at Bard. Of course, this is very much anecdotal but I think there’s more to it than just that. Take a look at the adoption rates for example. Bard was able to reach 30 million users within 1 month of launch which sounds great until you realize that ChatGPT was able to reach 100 million within just 2 months. And yes, I do know that Bard launched with a waiting list but I don’t think that really made a difference.
Just take a look at Google’s own trends data. This becomes exponentially worse when you consider that ChatGPT came from OpenAI, a no-name company that most people have never heard of, while Bard literally came directly from Google, likely the most ubiquitous internet company in the world. Clearly, there seems to be a general hesitance when it comes to even trying Bard. I mean think about this. People are literally willing to go out of their way to use Bing and Edge to use ChatGPT instead of just using Google and Chrome. And I don’t think it has anything to do with how good or bad Bard actually is. I mean, you can easily make a case for Bard being better. For starters, it has live access to the internet, it integrates with Google, and the UI is arguably far better. Yet no one seems to care and I think this has more to do with the Google brand as opposed to Google Bard. So, join me as we examine the deterioration of the Google brand and why Bard is at a major disadvantage regardless of how good it really is.
GOOGLE’S SECRET SAUCE:
To understand why Bard is how should I say it flopping by all accounts, we have to take a look at why other Google products did so well to begin with. Looking back, it’s actually been quite a while since Google hit a home run. Google’s glory days were really back in the 2000s when they were launching bangers left and right. They had Android in 2008, Chrome also in 2008, YouTube in 2005, Google Maps also in 2005, and Gmail in 2004. Clearly, they were killing it but by all accounts, they shouldn’t have been. Gmail came out in an era when Yahoo Mail and Hotmail had already won over the market. And contrary to popular belief, YouTube is not the OG video-sharing platform. Both Vimeo and Dailymotion actually came out before YouTube. And as for Chrome, well Chrome came out during a time when Internet Explorer was ubiquitous. So, Google should’ve had no chance yet they were able to rise above the big tech companies of the era Microsoft and Yahoo.
So, what gave Google the edge? Well, one of the biggest factors that propelled Google forward was the fact that they were the scrappy startup trying to take on these big tech companies. And much of Google’s success actually didn’t have to do with how good Google’s products were and more to do with how much people hated Microsoft. This might be hard to imagine today given that Microsoft has largely faded into the background out of the public spotlight but back in the early 2000s, Microsoft was the most highly contested company in the world. There was literally a supreme court case regarding whether Microsoft should be broken up into 2 different companies. Microsoft would barely escape this fate by the skin of their teeth but the same could not be same about public perception. The fact that Microsoft was able to monopolize the computer space and get away with it made people outraged. This was one of the main selling factors of Firefox. The idea was that people would be more willing to support an open-source project as opposed to a big tech offering and they were right. Up until Chrome came out, Firefox was rapidly eating into Internet Explorer’s market share peaking at over 30% market share. Something else to note is that virtually all of Google’s most successful products were copycat products.
A search engine is not new. An email, not new. A browser, not new. And as for the Google Office suite, I mean, do I even have to say anything? Now, Google did make these spaces better with their offerings. Google search made it easier to find things. Gmail gave more storage. Chrome was way more reliable. And collaboration with Google Office was light years ahead of Microsoft Office. But wait a minute, isn’t Google trying to do the same thing with Bard? Sure, they copy-pasted ChatGPT but they’re trying to make it better in terms of UI, live info, and better integration. Well, yeah, but people aren’t impressed given Google’s resources. The bottom line is that people used to resonate with Google’s slogan of “Don’t be Evil” during a time when people felt that big tech and especially Microsoft was evil. This perception hasn’t changed all that much over the years but Google’s position within the totem pole has. They are quote-on-quote evil big tech companies now and people are just naturally inclined to embrace the underdog which in this case is ChatGPT.
GOOGLE’S LOST MOJO:
Hearing all this, you might be inclined to believe that the deterioration of Google’s brand is more of a recent trend but that’s not the case. In fact, Google has been fighting this uphill battle for over a decade at this point and they’ve actually been losing for quite some time. The first example of this trend dates back to 2011 with Google+. If you’re not familiar with Google+, it was basically Google’s attempt at creating a social media platform and taking on Facebook but it ended up flopping massively. Why? Well, for starters, 2011 was clearly not too late to launch a social media platform as we’ve seen massively successful platforms being launched way after, so timing wasn’t the problem. Many reports like to claim it was Google+’s lack of distinguishing factors and lack of luster UI that led to its eventual failure but really the number one factor that destroyed Google+ was the fact that Google was pushing it down people’s throats.
They figured that since they already had a bunch of users, they no longer had to convince these users based on the merit of their platform. Instead, they could just force their existing YouTube users to become Google+ users as well. With that, Google made it required to have a Google+ account to make comments on YouTube. This ended up being one of Google’s most controversial decisions of all time. Not only did millions of YouTube users rise up against Google but even a cofounder of YouTube rose up, Jawed Karim. After 8 years of not posting anything on his YouTube account, he would post: why the f do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video? After taking this much heat, Google would of course roll back the Google+ integration with YouTube but by this point, the reputation of Google+ was already toast. For the first time, people felt that Google had become the villain. Bundling Google+ with YouTube was very much a Microsoft move. Moreover, Google was by no means the underdog within the social media scene. You had Instagram and Snapchat and WhatsApp and even Facebook which were all much younger than Google. But it wasn’t just younger companies that Google was losing to either. Google was also very much losing to established companies as well.
Likely the best example is Google Meet which was trying to take on Skype and Webex. Again, Google Meet didn’t exactly flop just because it was late to the game. Just think about how big of an opportunity they had during the pandemic but no one chose Google Meet. Everyone chose Zoom or Teams. The reason is that Google Meet really didn’t add anything to the video conferencing space other than the fact that it was from Google. Google Meet just felt like a product that was meant to expand Google’s reach and control as opposed to something that really improved video conferencing. If anything, it made video conferencing worse as it was browser based which came along with a bunch of shortcomings. And those are just two examples. Some other massive flops from Google over the past decade include Google Buzz, Google Tango, Google Daydream, Google Allo, Google Trips, and Google Stadia just to name a few. So, as you can see, Google has struggled to launch a new product for quite some time now both against startups and established giants but it gets even worse.
Not only has Google struggled to launch new successful products but they have also been putting off existing users by making a slew of controversial decisions. For example, YouTube, removed the dislike button despite the community being largely against it. Similarly, more and more Google search results seem to be dominated by ads. Of course, these aren’t groundbreaking developments but each and every one of these choices makes users just a little bit more frustrated with Google. Also, we can’t talk about Google’s shortfalls without talking about their privacy and data collection concerns. To be honest, I think most people have simply come to accept that less privacy is simply how the modern world works but that doesn’t mean that people are exactly happy with Google and Facebook which brings us into the launch of Google Bard. Just by its initial response, you can tell that people are predispositioned to find it unappealing. This isn’t to say that Google will necessarily shut down Bard. In fact, you can bet that that’s the last thing they’ll do as they try to make it into the AI space. But this doesn’t exactly mean that Bard will be successful.
Sure, a good number of people will always use it just because of how popular Google is as a company but Google will have a pretty tough time making Bard the dominant language model. Instead, it’s likely that Bard will end up like Bing and Edge. It didn’t matter how good these products were or what incentives they offered. Edge has been faster than Chrome for years and Bing has literally been paying users to use it. But despite this, everyone continued to use Chrome and Google and treated Edge and Bing as second-tier products. And judging by public perception, it seems that a very similar fate is up ahead not just for Bard but any consumer-oriented product that Google launches in the imminent future. Likely the only way to combat this perception is time.
Back in the late 2000s, Microsoft was faced with the same dilemma, and everything they launched flopped regardless of how good it was whether that’s the Zune or the Windows phone. The way that Microsoft overcame this dilemma was by stepping out of the spotlight, focusing on the enterprise business, and letting people find a new Microsoft to hate which was Google and Facebook. And suddenly people are willing to give Microsoft a chance again. So, the answer for Google may be to also step back and focus on their enterprise cloud business and let people find a new Google to hate on. This would give Google the best shot of success in the consumer space because the truth with Bard is that doesn’t matter how good it is because people have already made up their minds about Bard. And that why’s Google Bard doesn’t stand a chance even if it’s better than ChatGPT. Things aren’t super rosy at OpenAI either as they’re very much going through a funding crisis.
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