Posted by: lunacouture | March 3, 2008

Week 6 Response- Here comes Google!

Week 6 Blog 

Summary  

The focus of this week’s readings has moved from blogging to search engines, with particular emphasis on Google.  The book by John Battelle The Search, discusses the emergence of search engines and their importance.  According to the book, Google represents the most innovative search engine known to date.  Batelle starts out discussing the history of search engines and how they can generate an unlimited amount of information.  Batelle mentions that Altavista was one of the first engines on the web, followed by the release of Excite in 1995, and Yahoo.  

According to The Search, the birth of Google happened quite spontaneously. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the two creators of Google) met in San Francisco, before Page enrolled into Stanford University.  Page sought an innovative topic regarding the web, to use for his doctoral thesis.  Initially Page was concerned with the fact that web pages were not linked back to other sites.  Page and Brin also felt that when searching it was important to have some sort of “ranking” (p. 74) system for all the obtained search results.  They created programs called BackRub and PageRank, both which formed the foundation of today’s Google.  They worked off of Stanford’s network and soon exceeded the system’s limit due to the excess in web crawling.    

According to Battelle, in 1998 Google Inc. became so popular the creators started hiring people to help manage their company.  Google Inc. soon sought more office space to accommodate their increasing staff.  They received offers from several tech companies which hoped to exploit the search engine’s new technology for lucrative purposes. Battelle explains that Google’s owners were very careful about any business moves they made, and did not sell their services cheap.  The company’s increasing success kept Brin and Page so busy they had to leave Stanford, dedicating their time to running Google’s business.  

Battelle suggests that Google soon changed the internet as we know it and is responsible for much of the growth of the web.  Page and Brin chose to hire Eric Schmidt as CEO to Google in 2001.  His many years of work experience at Novell, gave him the proper experience needed to run and expand the company.  2001 became a boom year from Google as they raised much money during this time. Google also started making innovative programs that generated popularity and interest amongst the public.  

Several of the assigned blogs for this week had posts relating to Google.  John Battelle’s search blog posted a link to the GigaOM blog, announcing that Google recently purchased another cable to increase its communications out reach.  The connection should link the US to Asia and expand communications between the two continents.  Battelle also points out on his blog that typing “Italy map” into Google’s search engine does not immediately yield a Google map result.  The point he makes is why can Google execute so many complicated functions and yet not produce a Google map of Italy with one click?  Battelle’s blog also posted a link announcing the partnership between Google and the Cleveland health clinic, as I discussed in last week’s post.   

Jeremy Zawodny’s blog recently featured a post stating that the Republican Party has chosen to use Google as the official search engine for their campaign.  Zawodny’s is rather cynical about the deal, suggesting that it gives little credibility to a party who has always been more traditional in its approach to politics.  Relating to elections, the Official Google blog had a posting about its ability to monitor candidate support in specific states throughout the country.  

The Search Engine watch blog is full of links related to Google. One of the posts describes the increased success of advertisements feedback, since Google strategically modified the placement and size of advertising on their site.  The results obtained from advertising companies over the last few months are encouraging.  One of the posts discusses the presentation given by Eric Schmidt about Google’s most recent online health database initiative.  The post suggests that even though this new system should be very helpful to people, it has the potential to cause several privacy issues. The debate now is whether the government should regulate these potential privacy violations or whether it’s best left up to Google itself.  

The official Google blog discusses the collaboration between Google and the National Science Foundation to provide resources to universities around the country.  Another post discussed Google’s initiative to adapt their search engines to the needs of people who speak languages that are written and read from right to left.  This enables searching for people who speak languages such as Arabic to become easier.  The Google blog also announced that it just finished creating an application, which allows people to share website and documents with each other.  This should be particularly useful to people that are working together on projects around the world.     

Anaylsis 

John Battelle’s book The Search is well written and easy to follow.  The realm of searching on the web is so vast that it seems like a difficult task confining all the information to one book.  One could argue that there is only so much that can be written about search engines, without becoming redundant.  Yet, Battelle manages to write in an interesting manner, conveying the right amount of information related to this topic.  One criticism about his book is that Battelle exaggerates a little bit on his optimism regarding the usage of search engines.  While I see search engines as a means of providing people with a plethora of information, I do not think they can give much practical feedback.  I was also a little disappointed with John Battelle’s blog.  His posts are brief and link to other blogs, but I would have liked to see more of his own input on some of his posts.  

Battelle does an excellent job in narrating the story of Google’s creation.  The rise of Google is one of those stories that give people hope that anything is really possible.  I think that Page and Brin could not have imagined that their search engine would ever generate so much success and admiration in the tech world.  It has become a multi-billion dollar industry and has brought a vast amount of resources and information to everyone’s finger tips.  I cannot agree more with Battelle’s point that Google has really changed the way people use the internet, and by consequences our culture as a whole.  

A combination of factors contributed to making Google as popular as it is.  I also think that several of the events that occurred in 2001 helped Google grow in popularity.  Google emerged at a time when search engines such as Yahoo and AltaVista were not satisfying public demand in terms of providing gratifying search results. Also, the September 11th attacks alone must have generated more searching than usual. When events like this occur, people all over the world seem to stick together and form a sense of community.  That has been and continues to be the great aspect about Google: it has managed to make the world a smaller place by linking people together.    

There are several aspects that distinguish Google from the rest of their competitors.  One is Google’s constant ability to reinvent. They never stop at one project, but seem to be always be thinking about future application possibilities.  This allows the company to be innovative and always be a step ahead of the rest.  The other factor is Google’s consciousness and awareness of other cultures.  Even something simple like construction of a search engine catered to the needs of international web users acknowledges all the communities that utilize the web.  They also contribute to the advancement of computer science by providing opportunities and resources for young scholars at US universities.  

Synthesis 

After reading We the Media, Naked Conversations, and the first portion of The Search, there is definitely much overlap amongst the three.  All would agree with the idea that blogs are quintessential components of today’s virtual community.  Blogs represent a way of exercising free speech and participating in an online community.  All authors would agree that this is important and Google has helped advance this with its many programs.    

Israel and Scoble point out in their book that Google is a strong company, with not a particularly good blog.  After reading several of their blog posts for this week, I have to say I do not agree with Israel’s and Scoble’s assertion.  I actually enjoyed reading the Google blog, in that it was very thorough.  I remember Israel and Scoble pointing out in their readings that good blogs are controversial and not neutral in tone.  I don’t think Google’s blog is controversial by any means, as it seems to merely report information to the public about what is happening in their company.  Given the nature of their business, Google doesn’t need controversial posts to attract readers.  People will be curious enough to keep up on what’s going on with the company.    

All the blogs we’ve been reading these past few weeks seem to point to the same recurring issues.  Amongst them is the concern of privacy violations with the creation of Google’s online health records.  I think there seems to be an excessive concern about this simply because it’s still a very new, untapped market.  As an example, we’ve had online banking for a while that has worked just fine.  My guess is that hackers would be more interested in finding out about a person’s financial information, rather than their health history.  If online banking has worked, there should be no reason for online health records not to work.

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