Umair Haque offers advice on How to Chrome Your Industry. He salutes Google’s open-source Chrome browser.
Chrome isn’t about building and strengthening core competencies, but edge competencies: competencies shared with others. The more Chrome – remember, it’s open source – is hacked, remixed, and tweaked, into still better browsers, engines, and plug-ins, the less Google itself has to invest to explode the utility of the entire www itself for everyone.
I agree with every word in that quote. I even agree with Umair that other firms (his examples include Ford, Unilever, and Wal-Mart) might do well to follow in Google’s Chrome footsteps with cooperative, market-creating activities.
But there is a vital point missing from the analogy between Google and these other firms. It’s not clear how any of them are as well placed as Google to benefit from such activities. Pretty much all the markets and other conversations on the web – even those that have yet to start – are complements to Google’s ad business.
This is not to deny the importance of the edge competences emphasized in Umair’s post. It is to add that they are particularly important as complements to Google’s core competence in web advertising.