Archive for September 21st, 2007

September 21, 2007

The search engine that changed our lives

Has there ever been or will there ever be anything like Google™? I don’t think so. Like millions and probably billions of people , Google™ has infiltrated every aspect of my life. When I go online it is my home page a clean and welcoming beacon to the worldwide web. I use a Mac so I can actually search from a window on my browser ( Safari) but I still keep Google™ as my main page.  Hard to believe there was a time before our favourite search engine. I remember those times well and they were not pleasant by any means.

Darkness moved across the face of the earth (despite Bill Clinton being in power in the USA)  and finding any form of information involved digging through reams of paper or dealing with the meaningless results from Yahoo™ ,the Evil Empire’s god-awful attempt and Altavista™ ( my favourite of the sorry bunch). And then one day a business contact asked me if I had tried the new search engine called Google™? I sighed and wrote down the url while rolling my eyes. It was late 1998 or early 1999 and when I finally typed in the address ( including the then required “www.”) the scales fell from my eyes as I saw the quick loading page come up…just oozing class and clean design. No scrolling marquees, no page full of frames, moving pictures and truckloads of text in a multitude of fonts. I typed in a search on something radio related ( I was Programme Manager for the TBC radio network then) and the results came back in a neat and sensible order. I fell in love. Madly, totally and with a heart full of commitment in love. I have not looked back since.

At work we don’t even bother digging through papers to find background to a story we just click on the “news” button and type in our subject. Google™ never fails us ;we always get what we want and can gauge the veracity of the source before even wasting a click by looking at the search results and judging the source. It has reached the point where, sitting in a newsroom in Trinidad, if we need to find a local phone number..we google ( now an english verb) and we get it faster than diving on the phone book and donning our reading glasses. I dare you. Call a friend and ask then to grab a phone book and then ask them to find the nearest Tesco/KFC/Safeway/HiLo while you google. You will always win. We have, at our fingertips, the most powerful way of accessing information ever on the planet. Google™ ( proper name) used to post the number of pages they have indexed on their main page ( like McDonald’s burger sales) now they have stopped because the number is so huge.

The web is a vast Wild West sort of place and scary to even contemplate but Google™ simplifies it to the point that it is accessible and pleasant. I have been doing a bit of research ( using Google™..what else?) and see that according to Wikipedia over 50% of people use Google™ as their main search engine. I can only imagine that the others are not tech savvy and don’t know what a search engine is and just stick with their computer’s initial startpage. My dear Mother ,who makes long distance calls  to me for tech help with the internet, actually says “OK I have the Goog-Ley now”. To her Google™ is the internet. It is the only way she can access and, to some extent, understand it. All Mum knows is that she turns on her indigo blue 400Mhz iMac ( she views it like a  fridge…use it till it dies) – Google™ equals Internet. It is as simple as that.

I normally hate large corporations but Google™ is a generally benign and jolly giant. Small wonder a company that ( like Apple™ ) was started by two students in a garage has now become a company whose market capitalization exceeds $175 billion US dollars and whose motto is still “Don’t be Evil”. And what other large..ok..HUGE…company tells its workers to spend 20% of their work week on a project that interests them – resulting in such things as Gmail™.

Tim Berners Lee may have invented the internet but the Google™ team made it useful to the majority of us and for this they deserve credit. I fell in love with my first Apple™ computer  in the mid-eighties and since that time the only other company that has changed my life through technology is Google™.

In the interest of avoiding a lawsuit for using their logo as the pic on this entry and trying to be nice ( and heck….if any company could find a misuse of their logo…Google™ could) I asked for permission to use their logo this morning. Amazingly, for a major corporation, I got a quick response and permission to use the logo this evening for this blog. Thanks Emily and thanks Google™. Thank god I can stop clicking “Option-2” to add the trademark symbol.

More tomorrow.