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Learn from Google+. Copy First, Innovate Second (gettingmoreawesome.com)
47 points by rishi on July 14, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments



Frankly, I think g+ is one of google's more innovative projects in recent history, namely the way circles work.

But think about the "copy first, innovate second" idea.

When your product is a search engine, there already are engines out there and its a category so you have to "copy" the basic functionality of search. Those are the table stakes.

Google innovated with pagerank, but they did this first. By finding the pagerank method, they were able to produce a better search engine... but they didn't just do an inverted index and run with that for awhile and then decide to "innovate" later.

Look at what Apple does. When they did an MP3 player, yes, they met the table stakes of being able to play MP3s. But they didn't just put out a generic player, and then innovate. They figured out an innovation that made the player worth doing in the first place, then they did it. Apple doesn't just copy products, everything Apple makes they do so because there is a unique selling proposition that differentiates it from the rest of the market (at least in Apple's eyes. We may not appreciate the USP that Apple does.)

For instance the key innovation of the iPod was not the clickwheel, but the iTunes ecosystem. Even though iTunes store didn't come out until later, it was the purpose behind the iPod.

I'm not really disagreeing with this article which reviews the similiarities between g+ and facebook.

But I do want to point out that so many companies get the "copy first" part right, but never get around to the "innovate later" part. Copy first is becomming a mantra. Facebook was a copy of The Face Book, in fact. The reason facebook is what it is is that they did get around to innovating later.

The reason there's no competition for the iPod is that the competition never got around to innovating (or in MSFT's case, got around to it way too late.)


Actually, I was more taken by the combination of the clickwheel, good firmware and nice hardware design which together make an ipod an amazingly nice device to use - unlike most of their competitors who fell down on some or all of those and ended up with something that could physically hold a thousand songs but couldn't actually deal with them all.

Although, I suppose it might be that itunes forms another part of that; I've owned an ipod but never installed itunes. For a lot of people it probably is a big deal though, especially if the only alternative they'd seen was whatever awful thing Sony was packaging at the time.

I'm still not sure that any of the competition have really copied that. At least I haven't seen a replacement yet that really felt equally well done. My guess would be that too many companies think their "innovation" is going to be "it's cheaper" and compromise quality in order to get there.


Steve Jobs quoted Alan Kay with "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." I don't want to turn this into a "I hate/love Apple" discussion but I think that's what separated Apple from MSFT.

Apple had a track record of making their own hardware and software work together really really well. MSFT didn't really follow Alan Kay's hypothesis. I would say that is what the heart of Apple's success is, it's reputation for excellent software/hardware integration.

Google's copy-innovate system is going to work because they brought about good integration between their products (for the most part). That is why Google, like Apple, should generate a very good user-fan-base. Which I believe the article pointed out very well.


> For instance the key innovation of the iPod was not the clickwheel, but the iTunes ecosystem. Even though iTunes store didn't come out until later, it was the purpose behind the iPod.

Keep in mind Apple didn't make that much money on iTunes, at least in the early days. But yes, generally they could foresee that making music part of your computer's function is a ripe idea for a computer company in the early 2000s: music is easily digitizable, and comes before TV shows and movies in a long line of digital transition.

Mostly though, I just think simple, single-purpose devices were in the capability sweet spot for Apple at the time. Other companies couldn't provide the assurance that ripping all your CDs to your computer would be worth it in the long run.


I bet they had that idea while drawing venn diagrams.


I love how we as a species can just rationalize anything. Google+ has been out for a couple of weeks. Yes, it's gaining new users rather quickly, but am I the only one who thinks it's perhaps a bit premature to write about its success and what we can all learn from it?


This approach is very common. Any start-up dismissed as "a feature, not a product" has pretty much started this way: 1. take a product you like, but that is missing a feature you really want; 2. clone with added feature; 3. launch.

More often than not this approach fails either because of the high cost of migration to potential users or more likely the pet feature doesn't actually appeal to any more than a small niche.

Don't think this necessarily applies to Google in this case. But I think Google can pull together a user base of 10/20 million pretty easily. The success of Google+ will be determined by whether they can get into the 100's of millions.


I'm getting really tired of bull-hunky articles like this. At best it's a tenuous assertion. At worst it's just the mindless ramblings of someone who desperately wants to sound like an expert but isn't.

There's no lesson to be learned here, and anyone who thinks there is needs needs to defrag their own memory. For every article with a headline like this, you'll find just as many that preach the opposite. Both equally valid, and both equally wrong.

It's debatable wether Google copied anything at all. It is possible to approach the same problem from two different angles and reach many of the same conclusions.

Talking about your observations and theories is great and should be encouraged. Dressing them up as anything more than your own insights is cheap and tacky.


I wonder if this was a conscious decision on the part of Google. It seems more likely that Google went through some sort of user-centered design process and it was just coincidence that what they needed to build didn't require that many new components.


totally agree with you @rishi, you need to lower the entry barrier for mass adoption, copying is a popular choice


That's the Microsoft way, not Google.




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