Yesterday was a pretty typical Friday for me. I was trying to compile the items that I wanted to read over the weekend that I hadn’t had a chance to read during the week. Knowing the Facebook IPO was almost upon us, I figured it would be good to get the latest copy of the the Facebook S-1 (yes, I know, “fun weekend”). I was out of the office so I stopped into a Staples to quickly use one of their computers to find and print the document. In fact the store manager told me to just send the PDF and he’d print it for me. It seemed simple enough.
I was trying to minimize the time I would spend on the computer, as Staples pricing per minute can be somewhat pricey. First stop, of course, was Google. It’d be simple and quick – I should be in & out of Staples in my allotted 15 minutes. Surprisingly though, I was having a tough time finding the document in an easy to print PDF format. I found many other documents of versions of the document, like the HTML version on the SEC website, John Battelle’s post from February to the older PDF version of the S-1 back then, Silicon Alley and ATD links to older versions or the the SEC HTML website. I tried many different incarnations of search strings (including a hyphen in “S-1”, not including it; limiting results to the last week, not limiting; searching for “IPO” instead of “S-1”; etc. But astoundingly, I couldn’t find the PDF of the most recent version (dated May 3). This is one of the highest profile IPOs ever – SURELY, someone had PDF’d the most recent version and posted it!
My simple 15 minute task was starting to take much longer and I was a little baffled on how I could get a PDF of the latest filing to give to the Staples manager (amazingly, staff at Staples isn’t allowed to just go to a web page for some reason – they need a PDF). After pounding my head against the wall it occurred to me: try Twitter. Now I know this could sound obvious. But for me, Twitter has become my REAL TIME search engine and of course my new feed. For general searches that aren’t real time, I always go to Google – why wouldn’t I? Don’t we all?
So I went to Twitter and searched for the latest Facebook S-1 in a pdf format. I typed in 4 key words and hit go. The top result had a bit.ly link to exactly what I wanted. I was done in 15 seconds flat. Wow – it was a revelation for me. Twitter, in this example, had REPLACED my need for Google – it was BETTER than Google for me in this example.
It got me thinking….I know I go to Google for general searches habitually. But what if my habit starts to change because of a better experience on Twitter? How could Google stop this? Can Google ever possibly replicate the experience I am able to have on Twitter due to its “crowdsourced results”? If Google doesn’t have this data, isn’t just more & more of the Web’s content falling into an area not findable by Google (ie “the Dark Web”)?
Of course Google can just pay for the Twitter fire hose, like it has done before. But if people don’t view Google as a true source of real time search, news feeds, and “crowd sourced search results”, will the web traffic flow to Google or Twitter? I know this isn’t a novel idea, but it seems to me that Twitter is a major threat to the basic general searches of Google – its core bread & butter. Facebook saw a shift in behavior occurring around Instagram, partially for its mobile prowess, and realized it needed to capture that traffic. Like Facebook, Google too must reflect on how Twitter is impacting its ecosystem (as well as the mobile presence it has). It may lead to only one logical conclusion: Google must buy Twitter.
Robert Peck, CFA
President CoRise Co., LLC