Planet Google

Betaworks CEO John Borthwick: ‘Google Has Taken the Blue Pill’

"You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe."
matrix morpheus red blue pill Betaworks CEO John Borthwick: Google Has Taken the Blue Pill

Hello, Neo. Do you know who this is?

Some of the top minds in the startup world have been sharing deep thoughts in plain sight on the Internet for anyone to see. Your host for this chance to peer across the dinner table of the tech elite? The conversation platform Branch. (For when 140 characters and an @ is not enough . . . is an imaginary tagline we’re toying with.)

The startup, originally launched as the group blogging service Roundtable in New York City picked up early traction from industry insiders and recently reemerged with a shiny new interface.

Conversations stem from a particular question, like this one from Twitter/Obvious Corp’s Evan Williams wondering about the downside of parallel entrepreneurship. That line of questioning yielded a particularly compelling series of responses from Betaworks CEO John Borthwick, PayPal CTO Max Levchin, MySpace CEO Mike Jones, and former Mozilla CEO John Lilly, with an invitation for Fred Wilson to join.

Like any good conversation,  it meanders a little. One tangent that caught Betabeat’s eye came from Mr. Borthwick. After discussing Betaworks’s clearly delineated focus around a particular vertical (the social web), rather than a single implementation, Mr. Borthwick offers his opinion on Google’s recent attempt to be all-things-to-all-people-in-one-place.

Mr. Williams notes, “Google has seemingly gone the opposite way in recent years — fewer products, more features.” To which Mr. Borthwick responded:

“Ev. I was thinking today about your note re: Google. I think Google has taken the blue pill — the integration of all of its products into a single seamless whole is been driven by business priorities not by users needs. Its the portal all over again. Hardware is a valid point of platform integration — but think the web or more specifically the browser is not.”

In short, bully for Android devices, but for the rest of us, not so much. In an email to Betabeat, Mr. Borthwick elaborated on “the portal” concept. Back to 2000, companies like Yahoo, AOL, and Lycos wanted to stick to an “integrated walled garden intend to keep people within their domain vs. the Google of the past 10 years that helped people find things outside of their domain,” he said, contrasting it to the new Search Plus Your World feature of G+.

“Google are trying to remake themselves as Facebook,” added Mr. Borthwick. “Google’s web users are now getting inferior results when they search as Google priorities their stuff over the best results.” Sorry, Larry, should have taken the red pill and seen “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com