If someone asked me what I thought the biggest company in the world is right now, I would probably say Google. I mean, how can it not be? Google search, Google e-mail, Google blogs, Google books, calendars, readers, TV, news — the list goes on and is continuing to grow. “Google” is even a verb! I should make a trip to the library or the Barnes and Noble down the street from me to see if Google is listed as a verb in the latest edition of Webster’s Dictionary.
With Google being so ubiquitous, many people — myself included — tend to just think about how much we love Google. I hear people talking about it all the time, everywhere. And how can you not love it and all it has to offer? Google’s tools are mostly very effective (according to Clay Shirky’s defnition of the “effective tool” in his book Here Comes Everybody), and they’re fun and innovative.
But then for class this past week I was reading John Battelle’s book, The Search, and even though it is five years old, it still brought up some interesting points that I hadn’t really thought about before. For example, I was reading the chapter about the details of how a search engine actually works and I realized I didn’t know that much about it. And that got me thinking about this: I use Google and several Google tools daily; I think they’re convenient and great; Google is this huge company that is everywhere — yet I don’t even necessarily know how it works!
Thinking about that made me nervous, and then I started thinking about whether we should actually fear Google a little bit. So I made these stream-of-consciousness lists of the reasons people should both love and fear “the Google.” (I feel like “the Google” is a fitting term since it is such a conglomerate of a company).
Reasons for fear: Privacy issues because Google stores (owns?) a lot of your private info, possibly owns your e-mail, can trace your Google search history back to you, scary component of Google ads/marketing being tailored to what you’re g-chatting about/e-mailing about if you’re using gmail… and just thinking about the fact of what a tech empire Google has become and still has the potential to do is kind of frightening.
Reasons for love: Gmail, SEO for businesses, convenience factor of how easy it is to find exactly what you’re looking for online, Chrome, personalization factor of Google, innovation of company and its owners, Google maps/Earth (also a reason for fear? Google owns a picture of where I live — possibly creepy!), amazingness of how Google has changed societal behaviors (case in point, to Google is now a verb, as mentioned above).
And that brings to me one more thought before bed: I think this is what Clay Shirky is talking about in Here Comes Everybody, but Google, with all its awesome, effective tools, is not even totally about the tools — it is about how Google is a part of our everyday lives, our normal, routine behavior.
For example, on my office computer, Bing is the default search engine, and I HATE it. It annoys me everyday that I can’t default to Google (even though, of course I just go directly to google.com). But that sort of begs the question — is it something to be feared within itself that a lot of people are like me and automatically think like that bout Google? Yep, a bit scary.
Until next week —