September 02, 2003
Are you looking for "1+1" or '1+1'?

Google has added yet another 'smart feature' to Google search, namely a calculator. If you search for 1+1 Google will now show you a page with the result 2. Very nifty, but personally I must say that I consider this feature to be a nail in Google's coffin, nota milestone on Google's path to supremacy. I realize there aren't maybe that many of us - but what if I was actually looking for a website that contained the phrase '1+1'? You read something and you remember that the expression was on the page, and you search for that, based on the notion that 1+1 is a pretty rare thing to write on a webpage, hence a good filter to apply. There's an escape hatch - a link that asks if I would rather have searched for the expression than the result, and that is good information economy (On average, very few additional clicks are added to searches), but when I'm looking for the expression I don't really care about the average, all I know is that I now have further to go.
Similarly with searches for phrases like ''. For a while that simply took me to - now there's a complicated escape hatch with 5 options - dangerously close to the maximum number of options that one can comprehend easily.
All of these things just underline two basic problems:

  1. The more blanket assumptions Google make about the context of search as it existed before I turn to Google the closer Google gets to the annoying ways of the Microsoft Office applications: "Since people aren't that smart on average - we're going to assume that you're an idiot". It's true that it works a lot of the time, but I would hate to have to do the same half hour configuration tango to turn off "smart" features for Google that I have to do for MS Word

  2. Trying to be everything to everybody is IMO a direct violation the 2. and 3. Google Commandments (see the left bar of this page).

A couple of features more and there'll be an opening again for "just the search, please" companies. It's classic "Innovators Dilemma" stuff.

Posted by Claus at September 02, 2003 12:24 PM | TrackBack (0)
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