Google, the King & the King Maker

This past weekend a series of posts from some of the more influential bloggers prompted me to ask the question: do we trust Google? Results of our spot poll indicated that at least our readers were almost evenly split into three camps – those who trust the company, a third who are smart enough not to trust any corporation, and a third who view them as the new Microsoft, and hence don’t trust them.

Rich Skrenta, in his must read post arrives at the conclusion that in the third age of computing, Google is the king. And the king maker. Much like Microsoft in the PC era, and IBM in the mainframe era.

Skrenta, doesn’t implicitly state the fact that Google is not a mere search engine. As a company, its search service has caused a behavior change. This is the most important barrier to entry for all competitors and pretenders to the search throne.

There was a time, only a few years ago, when we would hoard bookmarks, saving them for a proverbial rainy day. Now, some of us keep them in our containers, but mostly we just Google what we are looking for.

The search engine, despite its recent shortcomings has caused a “behavior” change among a large swathe of the world’s Internet population. We keep coming back to it, more and more often, looking for something…. anything really.

Take today for instance: a few friends wanted to grab a steak, but were not sure what steak house would be open on New Year’s Day. Three keywords and a zip-code later, we were eating at Bob’s Steakhouse, just a stone’s throw from my apartment. This query would have previously involved either a 411 call, or a quick look through the Zagat guide. Not anymore!

Who needs them when you have an always on high speed connection and Google? This is some sort of brain programming – the more you use it, the more you come are dependent on it. Despite the zero-friction switching options that might come up, it will be a while, before Google loses its dominance.

Sadly, it also reminds me of John Milton, so wonderfully portrayed by Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. Why do I get a feeling that this is something we will debate, passionately and often in the coming year?