I’m sure that these changes aren’t all purely because of Google, but you have to admit that the market penetration it has, has pretty much changed the face of the Internet. There’s a bunch of stuff I love that Google provides (blogger – has it’s faults but for free what can you say, google mail – matches my needs perfectly, google reader, google talk, etc., etc., etc.) but the core feature that I love is how they’ve turned search into something else.
Search isn’t about finding pages any more, it’s about finding answers. In ye olde days, Alta Vista was about finding the web page you knew had the information you wanted to know. Someone had written something about China and you needed to find out, or someone had a page on the web listing time zone information and you needed to track it down. Now, Google tells you what you want to know if it’s something which is simply a fact or can be sourced and tracked.
Want to know what time it is in China now? Type “what time is it in China” into Google. It doesn’t just bring you back some pages, it’s flat out tells you the time.Wondering how many pounds there are in a kilogram? Don’t go searching for a website that lists all the conversions, now just ask Google. Wondering how to spell a word? Just misspell it with Google, and it’ll suggest the right spelling.
Wondering what the weather is like in New York, but don’t want to spend weeks trawling the web to find a web site which tracks it? Ask Google about the weather. Google does maths, it converts units, if you tell it where you live it’ll look up movie times for you. The list is huge and it’s not just about finding content any more, it’s about providing content using common search terms.
I don’t reach for a dictionary, I don’t reach for an atlas, I don’t reach for books, I just ask Google. It’s no wonder the verb ‘to google‘ has made it into popular use. People talk about the move to a semantic web, I really have little clue how the whole thing is going to turn out, but you can’t deny that Google’s so called search engine has changed how a generation of people look for information.