June 30, 2008

On the Web, If You're Not Growing, You're Dying

Often, perception of a site or service's momentum can be self-fulfilling.

Even over the last two years of my writing on this blog, the companies I cover have changed, as what used to be relevant has become less so, and new hotshots have come to take their place. But while some niche services are on their way to becoming household names, others that could have done so are fading, when compared to their peaks of 1, 2 or even 5 years ago.

One tool showing the decline of brands relative to one another is Google Trends, which measures how frequently a keyword is searched for as a percentage of the total searches on the Web.

Using Google Trends, you can see the near-death of older Web 1.0 brands, like Netscape, Lycos and Alta Vista, the plateauing of early Web 2.0 brands, like MySpace, and the deflating balloon of weakened brands, such as Technorati, Digg and Microsoft.

Netscape's Downfall... In Graph Form.

And Lycos Follows Suit.

A little more than a week ago, Google Trends made news by introducing the ability to track data on Web sites, but the service's core element helps shed some light on the fact that the interest level in Technorati has been slashed in half in just the last 12 months, that MySpace peaked a year ago, as did Digg.

The Technorati Monster Is Starving.

And Digg Is In a Rut.

MySpace Is Floating in Space.

Meanwhile, as both Google and Yahoo! have continued an upward trajectory of world interest, Microsoft has seen steady decline every year, starting in 2004, when the data was first tracked.

The Only Thing More Depressing is MSFT Stock.

At one time, it was fun to point out that the Technorati monster had escaped, that Technorati wasn't up to challenging Google Blog Search, or to debate whether Digg's relevance was going to decrease with its move away from solely having a tech focus. But Google Trends lays out on the table the tougher news - nobody cares, and the number of people actively looking for news on Digg or Technorati is going down, while many, many other services are rapidly growing.

While the entire market of Web measurements is questionable, from Alexa to Compete.com and all sorts of competitors in between, it'd be interesting to see Google get even more aggressive with their trends, showing the velocity of a term's decline or ascension. Maybe that'd get the point across a little better for those saying their damaged brands aren't in trouble.

And lest you think Google Trends is all bad news, it's not. Take a look at hotter stories, like Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook or Google itself to see what an up and to the right arrow looks like. But if these brands aren't careful, like some of those listed above, they too could stagnate and fall. And once you slow, you're really just preparing for the inevitable drop.