Thursday, September 14, 2006

I, Google

I have a confession: I'm a long-time Google junkie. You name it, I've tried it: for blogging (of course - now improved), for mail, for photos, for organizing my life, for organizing my PC (Macs have spotlight which is, arguably, even better than Google), for word processing, for my homepage ("IG" actually stands for "I, Google"), for virtual travel, and other things.

With a few exceptions, I have been impressed by the results, the speed and the simplicity of Google's tools. In addition, I have come to appreciate their outside-the-box approach to business and their sense of humour. Google's success story has been told over and over.

Addiction 01: Search

In my undergraduate days, I taught a course for new students on how to effectively use the "World Wide Web" and, of course, I covered search engines. At that time, Google was the new kid on the block and it was competing with so-called "metacrawlers" and the like. (BTW, here's a classic video from the CBC reporting about "Internet".) Now, Google has overtaken all their competitors and it is by far the #1 search engine on the planet - you can even search from your cell phone.

Addiction 02: Mail

When Google launched Gmail in 2004, I happened to know someone working at Google and managed to get one of the first invitations. At the time, I felt like a lucky golden ticket winner heading to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. When it launched, each user was allotted 1GB of space - 250 times more space than was offered by Yahoo or Hotmail - but 1GB is not so large compared with the +2.7 GB offered today. (Lycos recently released a new email service with even more space, but the GUI is not nearly as functional as Gmail.)

Addiction 03: Business Model

OK, this is not so much of an addition, per se, and more of a I-can-justify-my-addictions-becuase-they-have-such-an-innovative-business-model.

The "don't be evil" model has received much media attention, both negative and positive. One version of the story states that the mantra was written on the whiteboard prior to a meeting with marketing team. I also really appreciate the initial Dutch Auction IPO when Google went public a couple years ago. I'm actually surprised more companies haven't followed suit.

Addiction 04: Calendar

When Google's new calendar site was released publicly in April, I was literally jumping up and down (my wife thought we had won the lottery or something). The ability to quickly add events from mail is brilliant. The users of Digg regularly report new features and ways to use Google Calendar more efficiently.

My only quibble with Google Calendar is that they provide free SMS reminders to cell phones in the US but not in Canada. I'm waiting for these amazing SMS reminders to expand to Canadian cell phone providers. Hopefully that will be soon.

Addiction 05: Homepage

IG or "I, Google" is my homepage - a have completely customized page with modules galor. I would recommend the weather module, a webcam, Gmail, Gcal, news modules (depending on interests) and a couple fun modules.

Addiction 05: News

I'm a news junkie and Google News is the first place I go. Using AJAX and Web 2.0 technology, the page is completely customizable by region, search terms (for example: "law student" -tv), and # of stories. It is not infallible but a good place to start the day. True to their business model, I believe they try to be fair (although they still have some ways to go).

(Former) Addiction 06: Maps

Google Maps was the first place I went to ... until Yahoo Maps Beta. Yahoo saw what Google did well, added some great features, and put together a great product. Maybe Google Maps 2.0 will bring me back.

One of the great things that has come out of Google Maps are the mashups like Beer Hunter. Looking for a 2-4 of beer for Homecoming? Beer Hunter can help you out. Of course, party safe.

So what's behind Google's success anyhow? In a NY Times article, he postulated that:
The Miracle of Google = youth + freedom + equality + bottom-up innovation + user focus + don't be evil



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