Monday, October 16, 2006
Where’s Google Going?
“Mystic logic, letters whirling in infinite change, is the world of bliss, it is the music of thought, but see that you proceed slowly, and with caution, because your machine may bring you delirium instead of ecstasy ...”
– Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
I’ve smoked some heavy (proverbial) stuff today, and here’s what I saw... a path into the future, extrapolated from the past... let me try to describe in colorful terms, because that’s how the picture presented itself to me...
- Google is the level 50 magician that’s been sitting in a cave for too long practicing magic spells... now it’s time to go outside and put them to some serious action. No more humble usage of spells like ACQUIRE or BUYALL just so the mean orcs won’t suspect a thing... it’s confrontation course now, ’cause the time is right for the village to get a new leader. This opportunity won’t come again quickly, Google fears.
- Google is the revenge of the nerds, tackling the world as an engineering problem, whose original PageRank algorithm no one wanted to buy. Even their organizational structure is another engineering problem, ready for analysis, logic, and the flow of rules. Research and development will always be their focus, and that means to think far into the future... where Artificial Intelligence, not stupid programs, answer users. The Googlebot, with a little training in Google’s AI labs, will slowly but inevitably start preparing for the Turing test.
- We think Google thinks big, but they think bigger. Have you heard the sci-fi story of the city traffic lights that suddenly started to blink in weird rhythm ’cause the big city network had been growing so complex, it developed its own consciousness? Well, as opposed to the people in the sci-fi story, who I’m sure were taken by surprise, Google is desperately waiting for the day their millions of machines will talk back to them. What they can’t invent in algorithms themselves, they’ll allow to evolve on its own by scaling up the network.
- Googlers saw Big Netscape rise and fall, and they saw the web rise and fall during the dotcom bust. Traumatized, they know what it means to survive... it means to be extra-smart, and smarter than the rest, while never suffering from hubris, and always preparing for the worst. They want to have a working business & hardware model to make it through the second bubble bust, too, if needed. The only thing that really took them by surprise is how little Microsoft did so far to take back the web... which, depending on the day of the week, makes Google more paranoid, or braver.
- Google loves the user and will do everything they can to please them (that’s usability to ya, and Google does a lot of quality testing, and they don’t want to let users wait, not even longer than you can blink your eye). But boy, they also love making money, and lots of it. The two go hand in hand right now so why worry much... not being evil is easy when being good is the selfish thing to be anyway. Only when the two clash, and it’s aiming to reach most users vs being good, then Google’s brains go into an infinite loop, like a robot you’ve asked a human question, and soon you’ll see lots of smoke everywhere... and there’s a nasty smell, too, like the big dark smoke cloud that appeared over China earlier this year. My prrrrecious market share...
- Google wants to put their ads everywhere without annoying anyone. Previously, they also wanted to put their ads everywhere while making extra sure no one would confuse ads with content, but this is not so much their primary goal anymore... getting rid of branding and borders on some ads, while mirroring the content layout on other ads, might have just been the beginning.
- Google has opened up to listen to users and developers a lot more, while still trying to be ultra-secretive about internal stuff. But every other Google team has their own blog and discussion group and more now. Google is still in experimental mode here and all the socializing might scare them some day... but with so many users, there won’t be any place left to not sit in one boat, anyway.
- Google knows they have to reinvent the OS online, but their baby steps, like Google D&S or corner bookmarks, are clumsy at best. Do they already have, or will they hire, the right designers to figure it out in time?
- Google’s main focus remains to be search & ads, ads & search. But there’s still the 30-40% rest, and they’re having lots of fun innovating in that space. In the end, the best results will come from always expanding the horizon, never suffering tunnel vision. Netscape built the best browser in the world but they didn’t see the OS that hit them! Google sees the OS, and like the Borg, they aim to assimilate it with all their tools, be they as useless as a screensaver or as helpful as a toolbar, or come dressed in the cluttered robe of Gadgets.
- The whole world is online, and Google got that, and they got it a long time ago, and they’re still benefiting from this. They aren’t the only ones who get it, but boy, do they have money and users to make it all come real. However, Google also knows that sometimes, people are offline, and slowly, one after another, they prepare their tools for it. If Microsoft Office can do it with calendars and spreadsheets and emails and databases, they want to be able to do it, too...
- Information covers many dimensions, location and time, and the day will come, one day, some day, when Google will better understand time, and all of its uses and applications, and render your web page in this context, spreading out a page’s multitude of incarnations like an eagle spreads its wings, archiving, comparing...
- Google only really respects a single company, and that’s Yahoo, and that’s because Yahoo knows how to play millions of users like others play violin. Deep in the dark night down in the ’plex you’ll hear the triumvirate of Larry, Sergey and Eric screaming “Why why why?” and “Why does Yahoo have all that search market share? And why aren’t we the only ones with cool developers?”
- Information is out there, quietly waiting, wavering, transforming, it’s like air, and Google wants to suck it all in, maybe not today, not tomorrow, but eventually it’ll be all theirs, they hope. As long as they place their chips on the right numbers before the croupier gives the online wheel the final spin, time’s on their side. Eventually, they hope, it’ll all be theirs... what you type and say, write and think, perform or play, and not just you, but all the past generations, and future ones, too... delirium or ecstasy?
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