There used to be a slogan used by NYNEX (a Baby Bell in the US, now part of Verizon) in the early 1990s: If its out there, its in here. The same can now be said of Google. In just the past 3-4 years, it has become the info utility for many of us. Any information that I am looking for on a topic, Google is the first place I will look. Even if I am searching for a person, an address, a phone number, Google finds it for me. Google has become an extension of my brain it remembers things for me. It has, in effect, become my other memory.
So, you may ask, whats the big deal about it? Whats the 10X-ness about Google?
Google makes information on the Net easier to find. Search engines have been doing so since the Web took off. Yahoo, Excite, Altavista, Inktomi, AskJeeves they have all their moments of glory. But what Google has done is superceded them all and made them redundant. A Google Search has the uncanny ability to get you to the relevant information from all thats out there. It does not let you fend for yourself with a list of thousands of matching documents. It shows you what you are most likely to be looking for on its first page. This simplification is the 10X force. It means that one longer has to worry about URLs, keeping copies of web pages or documents locally, or remembering where one read it.
David Reed, writing on SATN.org, summarises it best:
It happened again. I told a friend about a new program. He wants a URL. I say “Did you try Google?” and he says “oh … yeah.” He doesn’t need a URL.
Maybe it’s just that we’re used to having difficulty finding information about things. So few people have absorbed that Google creates a shared context that is bigger than all of our brains, so we humans don’t need specific pointers most of the time anymore. We’re slow learners.
But now when I sit in a meeting where I have an Internet connection, or conferencing on the phone in my office, I’m Googling all the time. The context it creates is immense and useful. Somebody might make an allusion to some literary idea – and I’m no longer in the dark. Somebody might mention a product or service – and I can order it immediately, or bookmark it.
When someone can’t remember a fact or a name, I can usually get it quickly enough to be useful.
Google is my other memory. If it isn’t yours, it probably will be eventually.
Mary Meeker called Google the eBay of information in Fortune (May 27, 2002). She said, You go to eBay to find things that are hard to find. You go to Google to find information that is hard to find. At the heart of Googles success is its simple, light interface and its unique, PageRank technology, which, according to Fortune, ranks Web pages not by how many times keywords appear, which is what most search engines do, but by how popular and relevant each page is.
The amazing thing that Google has brought into perspective is that it is much easier to find information on the Web than it is to find information on our own desk or desktop PC! Google has a near-infinite capacity for remembering and returning documents (now extended to images). It has made the Web much more usable. Going ahead, Googles API, which offers a programmatic interface to its database, promises to open up new vistas to the wide world of information.
Google has been a 10X force in making information on the Internet accessible and usable. More than just a search engine, used intelligently, it can become a powerful productivity tool. And, as we will see later, our own memory, Google and a personal weblog can create an unparalleled personal knowledge management system.
Tomorrow: Wireless: Magic in the Air