Video: Google Maps takes a closer look

Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 6/1/2007 8:22:59 PM ET 2007-06-02T00:22:59
Commentary

Is Google totally freaking you out right now? Because it sure is the blogosphere! If you’ve been distracted by Olympic speed skating Gold Medalist Apolo Anton Ohno’s stunning victory on “Dancing with the Stars” or Lindsay Lohan puking in your bushes , here’s just a sample headlines that recently popped up on just the first page of results on Google News search for “Google.”

  • “Google CEO Hails Korea as Digital Age Test Bed”
  • “Google Chairman Dismisses Privacy Issue”
  • “Street View Maps On Google”
  • “Google online programs move offline”
  • “Google Grabs GreenBorder to Tighten Web Security”
  • “Direct Traffic News Apple iPhone could get Google tools”
  • “CDC Expands Google, China Mobile Deals”
  • “Google improves AJAX apps toolkit”
  • “EU Questions Google Over Data Storage”
  • “Facial recognition slipped into Google image search”
  • “Google exec to form rival to NFL”

Forget the damn dirty apes. Google is totally poised to rule over man. It’s only a matter of time.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how we were sucked in. Google was different from all those other search engines. It was cool, decorating its landing page logo with string lights and Easter eggs for the holidays, or even a Guggenheim sketch on Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday. What’s more, Google totally understood us, what we meant or what we wanted even when we couldn’t spell it ourselves: “Do you mean “Prisoner of Azkaban?” Why yes, Google! Yes I do!

But like some kind of messed-up online relationship with Rep. Mark Foley or “Dateline NBC’s” Chris Hansen, Google got all creepy on us. Did you know (and if you don’t, you should) that every time you use Google, it’s storing all your information for an undefined amount of time? And, it's for no reason at all, says no-nonsense ZDNet Digital Market blogger Donna Bogatin — at least as far as you, the user, is concerned?

Skeptical? Surely you’ve noticed that Google is reading your Gmail. Is it any coincidence the ads that pop up in the right side of your Gmail landing page have a whole lot to do with your correspondence with Aunt Rae-Rae?

Oh no! Grandma took a fall? Can I interest you in a Lark Mobility Scooter? Boss won’t get off your back? Perhaps you’d enjoy Season Two of “The Office,” now on DVD! “Lost” season finale blow you away? 24PetWatch can help you local your missing dog or cat within hours!

Top off the Gmail telepathy with the fact that Google’s been voraciously acquiring every worthwhile thing on the Internet, and can now track you straight up to your front door step via satellite… well no wonder the recent launch of Google’s Universal Search had every tech geek in the blogosphere Kaczynsking all over their keyboards. As the search results reveal, Google is taking over!

Okay, so maybe I’m engaging in a little hyperbole here — not about the Kaczynsking blogosphere geeks, but Google angling to become our Evil Overlords. And if you’re just a regular Joe who mostly hits Google during your work hours to find pictures of Lindsay Lohan puking, you may wonder what the big fuss over Universal Search is all about.

Here’s the deal: Google now includes maps and video in its search results. But, it’s not so much returning Yahoo Videos as much as it’s returning videos from YouTube, which Google owns.  While it's totally understandable (and quite possibly disingenuously defensible) that Google does a better job returning content they own and can index than they do returning content from others, it's still a bit off. 

Of course, Web nerds love to cry foul when they see a monopoly. See, many of them are terribly bright, and if they weren't attracted to the essentially individualistic, libertarian, anonymous Internet, they'd be rich investment bankers by now.

The question is, should the rest of us non-Web nerds care that Google is doing a really good job beefing up its search by including in its purview useful content that just happens to have been created on its proprietary sites? Well, the best form of government, bar none, is a benevolent dictatorship. However, since a dictatorship also happens to be among the worst forms of government, people get in a tizzy when all at once, Google tips its hand.

What hand is that? Google is far and away the best search engine (although when I put "best search" into Google, the first result was dogpile.com, and I haven't thought about them in about a decade. To be fair though, the same term entered in dogpile.com returned some whack page on eBay. After that I get dizzy and have to sit for a moment.) Google may have let its slip show a little when it started including all these videos and maps. Google returns the Internet? Sure, no problem, that's why we love it. Google returns content mostly from Google properties? Aw crap, Google owns the Internet.

That seems to be what's got the Web folks in a mess, anyway. Either that or those freaking out are really all search-engine optimization types complaining because their jobs just hit a complication. Oh poor dears. Maybe they should get a real job instead of passing off their snake-oil as medicine.

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