Still More About Google

After looking over the past bits and pieces I’ve posted about Google, I can imagine if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, "Oy, not another one!" And you’d be right to a certain point. Then again, this may bear repeating often.

What brought me to this conclusion was an email from the head of IT here suggesting that we download Google Desktop and install it on our PCs at work. Not a bad suggestion on the face of it: Google Desktop, from everything I’ve heard about it (and having never tried it myself) is an amazing resource that helps track literally as many files on your computer’s hard drive as you can create. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But something in me just doesn’t feel . . . right . . . about letting Google into my workplace in quite as intimate a manner as that.

This came on the heels of this article from Sara Lacy at BusinessWeek, titled "Analyzing Google’s Analytic Strategy", which suggested that Google may now be in the pole position of online searching compared to relative newcomers (newercomers?) like Microsoft. Remember about ten years ago when Microsoft was the big dog of the online HTML browser wars? They were doing whatever it took to gain predominance over the competition, and now, while some of us would defend our use of Firefox and Opera with our lives (or at least our online habits), nobody really disputed the fact that most professional programmers code their HTML for Internet Explorer first and other browsers second, if at all.

Google, with it’s $400 per share stock price and its stated intention to digitize the living heck out of some of the biggest library collections in the U.S., has managed to out-Microsoft Microsoft it seems–or it intends to. As the article says:

"By offering a free service — and one that’s tightly integrated with
AdWords [AdWords being those coded paid ads that run alongside the search results–JF] — Google is almost the de facto standard. This approach also
helps it build up a disparate base of small companies for its local
search efforts — which many consider the next frontier of search, one where Google will have to compete hard with Yahoo and MSN."

So I freely admit to being conflicted about this: the librarian (and the nerd inside the librarian) in me is really excited about the prospect that all the information on the planet (or inside hard drives which is increasingly all the info available to anyone with an internet connection) might eventually be searchable to one extend or another by having Google Desktop index the files on your PC’s hard drive and linking up all those indexes with Google’s search index. (No, I’m not suggesting this is Google’s ultimate goal, I’m just pointing out the possibility.) On the other hand, that same prospect gives me the Herbie-jibes because that same meta-index can be used to create sales techniques for literally every product and/or service imaginable which could create an  online environment intrusive enough to make the fifty-seven spam ads  for breast and penis enlargement products I receive every single day seem like nothing.

We shall see. In the meantime, the grant writing for this year is finished, we’re crossing our fingers hoping the money will come, and I’m not installing Google Desktop.

About Jon Frater

A gaming industry stalwart dating back to the 1980s, Jonathan Frater is the co-author of roleplaying game books Robotech: Return of the Masters, and Robotech Adventures: Lancer's Rockers, both for Palladium Books. Jonathan also wrote a column on writing and game design called The Tome in Gateways magazine. He's currently a librarian at Metropolitan College of New York. Article 9, the first in his ambitious Blockade Trilogy, is Jonathan's first full-length novel.

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