Friday, August 3, 2007

Google Continues March towards World Domination

In the beginning, there was Archie. Not the comic book character, but an early tool for searching archived files on the Internet. Archie spawned Veronica and Jughead--which WERE named after the comic book characters and came to be as a result of Gopher--which has nothing to do with the character on Love Boat played by Fred Grandy who later became a U.S. Congressman.

Later came Alta Vista, Lycos, and the big daddy of them all--Infoseek. Infoseek was the ultimate search engine in its day. It was bought by Disney in 1998 to be the centerpiece of their brand new web portal, the GO Network. And then things started to fall apart. First, there was the misadventures of Patrick J. Naughton, head of Disney's Internet Group (DIG). Or perhaps more accurately, Patrick J. Naughty as in September of 1999 he was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation on charges related to the alleged solicitation of inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor.

Then Disney got into a legal dispute with over the name and trademark of the GO Network, which felt was an infringement on their own name and trademark. Disney was sure its vast resources and legal firepower would win the day, but David beat Goliath yet again. After spending millions on legal fees, Disney was forced to spend $21.5 million in a settlement to and more millions to redesign their logo and web portal. Ironically, after noodling with Infoseek ("enhancements"--sort of like Pam Anderson's breast implants) rendering it unrecognizable and useless to its legions of fans, Disney abandoned its search engine and replaced it with--you guessed it, has now gone the way of Infoseek and now Yahoo is the search engine on the portal.

Stepping in to fill the void of Infoseek came Google. Developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in the late 90s while both were still students at Stanford, Google had a whole new approach. It worked based on the hypothesis that a search engine that analyzed the relationships between websites would produce better results than existing techniques, which ranked results according to the number of times the search term appeared on a page.

Google's search engine quickly dominated the industry. It even became an entry in Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English:

Main Entry: google

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: 1. to search for information about a specific person through the Google search engine. 2. to search for information on the Internet, esp. using the Google search engine.

Example: She googled her high school boyfriends. We googled to find the definition of the new word.

But a mere search engine wasn't enough for the company whose mission is "organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful." Now we have Google Maps making life just a bit easier for stalkers everywhere; Google mail which boast huge allocations of storage space and is virtually spam-free; and Blogger which I use to post all my wise and wonderful insights--and along with Blogger, Google Analytics for tracking site traffic and Feedburner for publishing distribution.

And, as if all that and Google Documents, Google Photos, Google Groups, Google Chat, Google Products (aka "Froogle"), Google Images and Google Video (Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion last year) isn't enough, now apparently Google is branching out yet again. An article in today's Washington Post says that Google's next step in their quest to dominate ALL information is...cell phones. According to the story:
"Google has developed a prototype cell phone that could reach markets within a year, and plans to offer consumers free subscriptions by bundling advertisements with its search engine, e-mail and Web browser software applications, according to a story published today in The Wall Street Journal."
What's next? Will they have Google Ads on the back of milk cartons? Sesame Street brought to you by the letters Z and W and the number Google? We will slip into our Air Google sneakers and head off to the Google-mart to pick up a gallon of milk and Google-O's cereal? I used to fear Microsoft's evil empire and their Borg-like "Assimilate--resistance is futile" philosophy. But with the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and those cute Mac vs. PC commercials, Apple still gives Microsoft a run for its money. And besides, Bill is too busy giving all his money away these days.

But now we have Google and it seems to me that their plan to rule the information age is much more feasible than Microsoft's. After all, most of their stuff seems to work and work well--unlike Microsoft who uses paying customers as uncompensated beta testers for all its releases. And it's a multi-BILLION dollar corporation. At least I think it is. Wait a sec, let me go google that and I'll get right back to you...

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