by July 2, 2007 0 comments

Last week I spent two days in France: one at the spectacular Paris Air Show,
and the other at Google’s annual press day (plus an evening at Moulin Rouge).
Google focused on YouTube, a green campaign to save energy, and, of course,

Google dominates the tech world, on the simple premise that everyone’s
looking for information, and the gateway is Search. “That’s the killer app,” CEO
Eric Schmidt says.

Prasanto K
Chief Editor

This is a great example of focus. For websites, businesses, products. Focus
on what the user needs. On the one thing that differentiates your product,
business, site.

For Google, that is: fast, relevant search. With a clean interface, a home
page that has little other than a search box. No content or advertising clutter
(imagine the revenues if they were to sell ads on the home page).

The four core principles of the Google search experience are worth
considering for any site: Comprehensiveness, Relevance (what comes first, so
that you don’t have to look beyond two or three results?); Speed (“search at
nearly the speed of light”); and user experience.

The simple interface hides the enormous complexity of figuring out what the
user meant to look for, even if he didn’t type exactly that, and delivering that
in an instant. You see some of that in search suggestions (“Did you mean…”),
when you mis-spell a word. Or: “Do you want the Paris in France, or the one in a
US jail?” as Schmidt put it. ‘Alternate queries’ give other options altogether,
based on semantics. You also get different results based on your location. Then
there’s Google Desktop, which searches your computer “as easily as you search
the Web.”

Most impressive is the new cross-language information retrieval: Search in
Arabic, and find documents from English, translated back to Arabic on the fly.
This opens up most of the Web to many more users. The Web user has gotten used
to getting the right answer instantly, the first time round. Just google for it:
it’s become a common verb.

For the user, though, there’s always a flip side to one company with world
dominance: reduced choice. And it’s not easy to switch a habit, even though
Schmidt says “switching is one click away for our users.” Users get comfortable
with a service, and most won’t ever try out anything else. SearchEngineLand, a
site that tracks search engines, has suggested “Google-Free Fridays”-one day
without Google-and has listed a few alternative search engines.

And overwhelming market monopoly (with enough cash to buy out almost any
competitor) has its dangers, for the company too. Microsoft and others have
learnt this the hard way. There’s antitrust, legal issues (usually aimed at
market leaders), and maybe even anti-incumbency, especially among the ‘gen-next’
for whom Google is not an upstart or challenger but the one that’s always been
there. And there’s a fine line between pride in being the best, and arrogance
about it, and Google and its executives have to watch that they don’t cross it
too often.

For now, though, Google is among the most influential companies on the
planet, with a service that every one of its inhabitants needs: Search.

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