libberding: It’s funny when something goes down on the intarwebz (like the current google fail) and I turn to Twitter to see if it’s true.-Twitter (9:48PM Oct 20, 2009)
Reading John Battelle’s ‘The Search,’ has done much to demystify me on the world’s largest media organization, Google. Its one thing to see an article or post here or there, about copyright, privacy issues, or censuring, but it is quite another to create a narrative that depicts the steady devolution of the company of, ‘Don’t Be Evil,’ to corporate giant that will marshall its lawyers to defend its brand against its own fans. I have an easier time believing Battelle because I personally have nothing to gain from not believing unlike other culturally ‘positive’ brands like Apple (whose stock price impacts me). Despite the reality that a corporation, like any institution, must first ensure its own existence (ala Shirky), and that means doing things that might appear unseemly, I still can’t relegate Google to the likes of News Corps or hayday of the Hearst media empire. This might also be because I use Google products almost hourly. Telling me Google is evil is like saying pens are evil-sure I would refrain from writing using pens but I’m going to eventually have to sign my name. If Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Hubert Chang”s master plan was to make Google so ubiquitous that people don’t even give it a second thought, it worked. That is a step above brand loyalty. But has Google really made the world a better place?
A funny thing happened tonight. Google failed. Just for 30 minutes, maybe an hour. And while there were few moments of me going through the five stages of grief because I couldn’t check my Reader or Gmail for the hundredth time today, in the end, I hit up Yahoo and Twitter, and was just fine. Not the first time, a server or something went down at Google but this question popped into my head for the first time: Does the World Need Google? I know it’s so pervasive and diversified a company, many question the need for certain parts but that’s not the same thing as need. I haven’t done an exhaustive search but I did find an article from Geekpreneur that gives an ok assessment of why we need Google (1. ease of use, 2. level playing field for small online business, etc), but it seems more a laundry list of why Google is easy, popular and technologically savvy. It’s not like it take a tenured professor in Semantics to figure out Yahoo Search.
We are talking about likely the most powerful data aggregator in the world, but doesn’t that make it just an aggregator? Would the world be less if we had to settle for Yahoo? Or Bing or any of the other hundreds of search engines? Probably not. Google’s greatest achievement might not be any of the innovative tools, its unique path to corporate dominance, or its unimaginable storage of data. In the end, Google’s greatest achievement may be in convincing the world that we need it. Not being evil is not the same as being good.