Gina’s Blog

The Search is Over…

Posted in Digital Technology by Gina on October 23, 2007
Tags: , , , ,

The Search does an excellent job of explaining the history of Google and a very good job of explaining the history of search engines as a whole.  Considering John Battelle’s purpose was to discuss Google, I’d say he completed is mission with flying colors.  I never thought I would say a book about search engines was a page-turner, but I guess I have joined the ranks of the geeks Battelle mentions throughout the book.

Contrary to popular belief, search engines go beyond allowing us to locate information.  Thanks to this application, our lives are very different.  We have become wiser consumers, better researchers, more informed parents, and so much more.  In addition to those great things, Battelle explains that as long as information posted on the Web is stored and retrieved, it gives immortality to the author and the content.  Although there is no permanent storage for modified or erased Web pages, knowing that as long as a page exists, that author and that information will live on should give at least some comfort to Web users concerned with the inevitable.

The PATRIOT Act was established to help the U.S. respond to terrorism after 9/11.  Since that time, it has allowed the Government access to very private information, including our Web habits.  Without our knowledge, the Government can request our search history, clickstreams, and visited IP addresses.  The illusion of privacy that users had in the early days of the Internet is slowly fading.  Reverse directories is another area that everyone should be wary of regardless of whether they have ever used the Web.  Search engines, phone companies, and other sites now have the ability to give out your address, name of the account holder, and even generate a map to your house with just your ten digit telephone number. I was also sent a link to a site allowing me to bring up Maryland court cases simply by entering a person’s name.  Battelle makes a good point.  This information was not necessarily impossible to attain prior to the Internet, but it sure was a lot more work!  Sitting in the privacy of your home scouring the Web for stories on your neighbor’s dog fighting rink is much easier than sitting in the local library for hours trying to find articles related to his arrest.  Plainly stated, search engines make it so much easier for us all to become private investigators.

Although some users are becoming more mindful of sites they visit, searches they conduct, and information they divulge to others, countries such as China, have chosen to take on the role of guardian.  I suppose this dramatically decreases the need for the government to attain your Web history.  If all the Web sites China discourages are banned, there is nothing for them to request.  It’s obvious that many people in the U.S. are still unaware of the Government’s ability to attain our search history and visited sites, or else far less people would conduct searches for questionable and illegal material like child pornography. (Am I the only one watching Law & Order: SVU?)  Although I believe the power should lie within the people to chose which Web sites they visit, I understand China’s policy.  I also understand Google’s decision to provide its service adhering to the country’s rules.  Schmidt was right, who is Google to waltz into a country telling them how to operate?  Providing China with some Google service is better than no Google service.  One of the company’s missions is to provide the best results possible.  In China, that means providing “safe” sites, but it is better nothing.  If Google put their foot down, more than likely the Chinese government would have gone about business as usual.  No tears would have been shed, and no policy of theirs would change.  The country simply would have relied on other search engines that already functioned within the country.  By Battelle’s account no one really seemed to make a fuss over the search engines already operating in China.  I guess this supports the theory that Google really is held to a higher standard.

 Considering Google started as a company that did not want to include advertisements, they sure have helped people generate a lot of business.  So much so that when Google has changed their algorithms or business practices in way that did not favor a business’ needs, companies have gotten quite angry.  American Blinds is one such company mentioned in The Search.  With the help of Google, the company brought in over $100 million each year.  The company advertised using Adwords, but noticed other related companies were also purchasing their keywords.  Google revoked other companies’ ability to use the keywords temporarily, but reinstated the function not long after.  I cannot blame Google one bit.  Yes, they’re making more money by allowing more advertisers, but it all goes back to Google’s mission—better results.  Battelle doesn’t seem to believe this at all, but I think Google is on the right track.  If I submit a query for American Blinds, I would appreciate being given links to Next Day Blinds and any other company that may be able to give me a deal.  I think Google would be doing the consumer a disservice by eliminating the competition.  They may be lining their pockets, but they also are keeping the promise (providing the best service) they made to their users. 

As a result of their excellent service, Google has grown remarkably fast.  Battelle mentions that Deloitte Touche, an accounting firm, named Google the fasted growing company ever.  To list Google’s achievements since its onset could take a day to explain, but one measurement of their success is the company’s earnings, which have continued to shock people.  From a stock that started at $85 and rose to $100 within the first day and is now worth over $400 only three years later, it obvious the company’s potential is limitless.  (Yes, I am very sorry I didn’t invest back in 2004.)  They may be growing, but I cannot say the company doesn’t have room for improvement.  I guess the company feels that if isn’t broke, no need to fix it, but I found Yahoo’s inclusion of a human in the search process as quite logical and useful.  There are certain topics that a person can grasp far better than a machine.  If it weren’t for Google’s variety of applications, it is quite possible that Yahoo could be leading the industry.  In order to grow, Google may want to take a closer look at what humans could add to the search process.

 The future of search is beyond our imagination.  The goal is to make searching perfect.  As the author mentions, search has only fulfilled about 5% of its potential.  I look forward to the day when tools like WebFountain are available to the general public.  Imagine being able to query, “I need articles from California local papers discussing 9/11 that do not mention the twin towers.”  Eventually, this will be reality, and we will even be able to pose questions and receive answers back in essay format.  (Universities will be much different then, I am sure.)  My favorite invention mentioned is the phone with product scanning capability.  Being able to scan a product and compare prices at local vendors will definitely change consumer behavior and vendor pricing.  So many products are discussed that could better our lives, but they brought to mind how search is already playing a role in our lives through Global Positioning Systems.  Already, cars and cell phones are coming equipped with locator devices, and you can even get them implanted in your pets.  The future as we imagined it is quickly approaching.  Who would have thought that the ability to search would mean so much to our society’s advancement?


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