Google’s Velvet Rope

No, I haven’t been granted any GoogleVoice invitations yet, so quit asking. But I will admit that all the requests gave me the idea for this week’s column on Daily Beast:

Ubiquity ain’t what it used to be.

For Google, the problem with being a free, abundant, and rather infinite set of services is that it’s hard to create much of a stir about anything. There are so many major software service options under the “more” menu on the Gmail page that they’ve had to go and add a final item called “even more.” Blogger, Calendar, Docs, Earth, Health, YouTube, Chrome—it’s all there, all the time, for everyone.

While that may be great for a 21st-century technology movement dedicated to offering the infinity of the info-sphere to the masses, it’s not necessarily great for a 21st-century technology company looking to increase value for its shareholders. To do that, a company needs some mystique, some barriers to entry: a virtual velvet rope that—just like the one used by a nightclub—has less to do with any real threat of overcrowding than the need to create the illusion of exclusivity. If you block them, they will come.