Corporate history shows that whilst concquering one industry is very much doable, going from there to concquer a second industry is often incredibly difficult.  Microsoft provide a famous example of a company that completely dominated the personal computing industry for decades.  However when the Internet came along it kinda passed them by.  Sure they've had some successes.  Hotmail was very popular for a long time and (sadly) Internet Explorer was the most used browser for many years.  Here however Microsoft hit sticky ground legally as a case was brought against them for unfair practice after they bundled IE with sales of the Windows operating system, thereby giving them an unfair advantage over competitors such as Netscape and Opera.

Are Google in danger of following a similar path?  They have undoubtably dominated the search engine market and have equally undoubtably been a force for tremendous good on the web.  I'm a big fan of them and use many of their products on a daily basis, from Analytics to Google Reader (although I wish they hadn't done the latest redesign – yuck).  However the social media landscape has largely passed them by with first Myspace and now Facebook (with to a lesser extent Twitter) taking the dominant position in this sector.

Lets face it, it hasn't been for the want of trying by Google.  Orkut became very popular in Brazil but not really anywhere else.  Both Wave and Buzz arrived to great fanfare before departing with a wimper, before Google+ hit our browsers earlier this year.  I should probably declare at this point that I'm not really a fan of Google+.  I have nothing really against it as a platform, it seems ok, just nothing special enough to warrant the effort of shifting my attention from other platforms that deliver greater bang for my buck such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

All of which would be great, except Google are beginning to push it in ways that seem to draw comparisons for me with the way Microsoft behaved in order to dominate the browser market.  The revamped Google Reader for instance has lost its sharing feature, forcing you instead to use Google+ if you want to share something with a contact.  Likewise Google News now shows the number of circles a writer appears in and lets you add them to your own.  It only seems a matter of time before they start using the number of +'s a page has as part of its ranking algorithm, if it doesn't already.

Is that sound competitive behaviour or is that Google taking advantage of their dominance in one market to gain unfair advantage in another?  What are your thoughts?