Meet The New Borg: Google, Facebook & Apple

Back in 1996, the now defunct Boardwatch Magazine had a classic cover depicting Microsoft and CEO Bill Gates as the Borg. For 2010, we’d like to submit some more modern candidates: Google, Facebook and Apple.

The article below assumes some knowledge of the Borg from Star Trek. Never heard of them? Nasty creatures that “assimilated” everything into their “collective” society.

The Google Borg

Google started as that lovable search engine that found what you wanted. Google still finds what you want, but to some, it feels much less lovable these days. The company has assimilated many web sites with nanoprobes like AdSense and Google Analytics. It sends vehicles to snap pictures of homes and businesses on every continent of the world. It has even entered our living rooms through Google TV.

The Facebook Borg

First, Facebook was a way for college students at Harvard to hookup. Then it moved to other colleges. Then it opened to the world. Then it couldn’t be contained within its own walled garden. Facebook broke lose, assimilating the web through “Like” buttons or personalization code that helps sites like Bing better absorb you. 500 million drones strong, Facebook keeps adding more to its collective.

The Apple Borg

Once, smartphones were for stylus-wielding nerds. Apple made them cool and usable by mere mortals. The iPhone assimilated millions in wave-after-wave of releases. Even antenna-jamming attempts didn’t really stall it. A larger iPhone emerged, the iPad. And the iPad killed netbooks? Apple’s so powerful it brings the dead back to life, in the form of the MacBook Air.

And Microsoft…?

Each of our Borg nominees might seem unstoppable. Google is far ahead in market share over its rivals in most countries worldwide. Facebook is the same, when it comes to social networking. Apple faces more competition on the phone front, but it’s still a giant player that can reshape the landscape.

We’ve been here before, of course. Microsoft was seen as unstoppable, inspiring Boardwatch’s “Billgatus Of Borg” cover above. These days, the idea of Microsoft as an unstoppable force might seem laughable to some. Surely Microsoft’s better days are behind it!

Certainly Microsoft may seem less Borg-like than in the past, but today, it still assimilates far more personal computers than Apple. Through its Microsoft Office suite, it even infiltrates Apple computers themselves. In fact, every Mac sold contains the seeds allowing anyone to easily convert the Mac into a Windows PC.

There’s Room For Many Borgs!

Perhaps it’s not that Microsoft has become weaker but rather that the universe has expanded, so that Microsoft doesn’t dominate all of it.

If Microsoft was the Borg of the Alpha Quadrant, Google came out of nowhere from the Delta Quadrant, the unknown search universe that hadn’t yet been discovered. Facebook emerged from the Gamma Quadrant, riding a social wormhole that suddenly opened up. Apple, pushed out of the Alpha Quadrant, rode a consumer electronics wave to open up Beta Quadrant.

OK, there’s only so far you can stretch a metaphor. But the point is, while no one can predict the future, I’m pretty sure that 15 years from now, Google, Facebook and Apple will still be big powerful companies, just as Microsoft remains today. I’m also pretty sure there will be a new crop of Borg-like “threats” on the horizon.

Anyway, all this Borg stuff is just something to entertain Star Trek nerds, right? It’s not real. But wait! What’s this sitting in front the the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York City?

Maybe Resistance Is Futile!

All pictures except the last two are by our technical director, and Star Trek fan, Michelle Robbins. You’re free to use them. Just link back to this article.

The Boardwatch magazine cover I found on the web site of Dr. Lawrence J Mazlack. An original image from Boardwatch itself, even through the Internet Archives, was no longer available. However, you can see this poster-edition the magazine once offered that was adapted from the cover. The Apple Cube in New York is from Apple’s public relations site.

No Borgs were harmed in the production of this article.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Features: General | Google: General | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Rafael

    Sorry I understood nothing about this article. Am I stupid?

  • adaircameron

    What would happen if one Borg bought another? Does that create Super Borg? Say if Apple bought Facebook? Then again, what would happen to Microsoft’s 10%?

  • chiropractic

    15 years? Where are we 5 years from now? Feels like the borgs are assimilating at an increased rate.

  • nexcerpt

    Danny, the popular shorthand, “Resistance is futile” (aptly abbreviated as RIF ;-) covers only part of the ground. Keep in mind the far more chilling directives that accompany it! From First Contact: “Your culture will adapt to service us. RIF.” From Voyager: “Existence, as you know it, is over. RIF” Or, as Locutus himself summarized in TNG: “RIF. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service us.”

    The future is not filled with futility or resistance: it’s filled with servicing these behemoths — in lieu of having real lives.

  • John Morrison

    I always find it amusing when the success of giants Apple, Google, and Facebook is compared with Microsoft. There is a fundamental flaw in making this correlation: Microsoft rose, and is falling, because the foundation of their business is manipulation, bullying and spending money to stifle competitive innovation. These three used a focus on user experience to provide compelling innovations.

    Microsoft grew because you HAD to use it.

    Apple, Google and Facebook grew because you WANT to use it.

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