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First Mover Advantage: When Copycat Doesn’t Work

How perceptions of Being Bigger may not always play out in reality.

First Mover Advantage. A popular adage in this era of perennial web startups. Equally as strong has been the thought that established players – the big fish – can simply move in on the small fry’s niche patch and bring it to the mass market – the Free Rider effect.

Groupon is arguably a case in point. Out of nowhere the young gun from Chicago has been described as the world’s fastest growing company and a $6bn gamble, only for such heavyweights as Google and Facebook to begin to muscle in on it’s coupon territory, sensing their already huge ecosystems will at least make the new guy irrelevant.

This is the textbook case. What happens when the innovator is somewhat higher up the foodchain? We may be about to find out.

Google has accused Microsoft’s search engine Bing of ‘monitoring’ their results for search terms and seeking to mimic them on it’s own site. While kudos go to the Googleplex for gaming their own search engine to find proof, it’s interesting that Microsoft feel that Free Riding on an innovator the size of Google can actually work.

Think about it, what hold has Redmond got on your computer these days?

Apart from the difficult to ignore growing band of Apple eaters, personally I can’t remember the last time I used Office or IE, both systems previously heavily relied upon by Microsoft to cross sell/arm twist users into other services. Sure they’ve still got the OS. But then the legal battles have all but robbed them of the leverage this previously gave them.

Google on the other hand have a rapidly developing web services suite that is keenly integrated with their search – when you sign into Google, you get all their services without downloading one byte more.

Mimicking Google’s search will do Bing – and by extension Microsoft – absolutely no good whatsoever, because their ecosystem is no longer the trump card it was.

Indeed if informed opinion is anything to go by, it should be attempting to differentiate and not play copycat.

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