Google Finance: Nice charts, but users won’t switch quickly
By Charlene Li
Google Finance launched tonight – I had a sneak peak from Google last week and got a chance to play with it a bit after it went live tonight. I also had a chance to speak with a Yahoo! spokesperson after the Google site launched and was able to get their reaction. Here’s my quick take on the new service and what it means:
There are three new features in Google Finance that stood out for me:
- Search. No need to know the ticker symbol of a company. I could type in company names like Home Depot and Target, and get the full information page in a wink. On Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, and Marketwatch.com, I have to know the ticker symbol. And even when I use the lookup, especially for Target, I get a long list of companies with the name “target” in them. Finally, I don’t feel like a dummy when trying to look up companies!
- Charts. Google took a page from its Maps product and makes the charts interactive – you can drag them back and forth over time to see how prices have changed, without having to wait for the page to refresh. Another nice feature – key new s stories are mapped out on the chart (see the screenshot above).
- Community advocates on message boards. Google will have as part of every publicly traded company, a message board that is a part of Google Groups. Taking a page from the popular Yahoo! Finance message boards, Google has created a discussion area for every publicly traded company (or so it appears). Inappropriate and spam postings have always been the bane of the Yahoo! boards, so Google’s put in place a few things, most notably the use of employees (yes, employees!) who will police the boards. What strikes me as ironic is that rather than employ technology to solve the problem, Google is using people to monitor the boards, in much the same way they review the content for search ads. Amazingly, there is no ability for users to flag posts for review – if quality is important, why doesn’t Google leverage its users to be the front lines in the fight for quality?
So overall, Google has done a very, very nice job pulling together a financial portal. Oops, did I just say “portal”? Sure looks like Google is pursuing that strategy now, doesn’t it! And rightly so – just take a look at the discussion board about Google and you’ll see person after person saying that they are defecting from their current finance site (mostly Yahoo!) to use Google.
But I frankly think that we won’t be seeing a mass migration of people from other finance sites to Google anytime soon. The most obvious defectors will be Google enthusiasts – they won’t be able to wait to add Google Finance to their personalized home page. But I believe that most mainstream financial site users will stick with their current sources for now, primarily because it’s simply a pain to have to re-enter your detailed portfolio information again! Are nice charts and company look-ups enough to shift people over to Google Finance? And don’t forget that Yahoo! and MSN have invested heavily in producing their own content, and I fully expect that they will improve their search, charts, and boards quickly as well.
But these features are all window dressing. In the end, Google Finance is a definite improvement on existing services, but it didn’t blow me away. It felt like it was incremental improvements rather than something that fundamentally changed the financial site game.
I believe that Yahoo! actually has the opportunity to change the game, but only if it taps into its nascent social computing strategy. For example, it may give users the technology to rank posts on quality or flag inappropriate posts. But also think about the power of tags on posts, or the ability to see rich profiles that enable users to connect with each other based on their similar investment goals. Think of a social network where I could find working moms who have to balance saving for college, retirement -- and are in the midst of building a house.
So kudos to Google for launching a nice new site that ups the ante, but don’t rest on your laurels for long – your competitors will quickly match you feature for feature, and raise you with their larger installed user bases.