Friday, September 02, 2005

Is Google taking over my life ?

It was around 4 years back, during my masters (MCA) first semester, when I first heard about Google.At that time I wasn't a cyber junkie like I am today. Still I used to surf the web occasionally, to check my mail and searching the web to complete my assignments. We would normally use MSN or Yahoo search for researching.

I then came across AskJeeves search engine, and instantly found it very helpful that the others I was using at the moment. The search results were more relevant and our work was taking less time.

Then one day I saw someone use Google in our Internet Lab. I Just saw the logo and then name failed to interest me and I don't remember using it until a professor of ours questioned us how these search engines work, especially google. We asked him the same question and all he replied was " Good Question !" This is how he mostly replied to our queries and so we were not surprised.

This incident aroused my curiosity, yes, the same one that killed the cat. I started using Google to see what the big deal was and used it to search for "How search engines work?" Initially google did not impress me to an extent to which I would use it loyally, so I kept on using different search engines .My choice used to range from AltaVista to AskJeeves and I also discovered some meta search engines such as Teoma and Vivisimo. Their cumulative effort used to fetch me results, but search process was not as fast as it is now.

Slowly and Steadily Google started influencing me with its charm(magical then, now?) I started using google for all my research needs.Its also became my browser homepage, for quick access to the search page. Google was growing with leaps and bounds and was already overtaking many search giants.

But I had never imagined it was going to take over my computer and my internet experience after 3 years. No one would have imagined that anyway.

Its the year 2004 and the early part of that year I heard about Gmail, the new email service started by google, which gave 1 GB of storage space for its users, but the users were to be strictly invited by the ones already invited. Inshort it was in the beta stage, a closed beta for that matter, it still is, just that almost everyone has a Gmail account now, even though there is no "Register" button on the Gmail website.

So I was very eager, like everyone, to use this new email service from gmail, and so I started scourging the web, using google ofcourse, to search for a Gmail invite. There were sites which used to barter gmail invites for real stuff and even for money, I found that to be over the top and so I kept my on searching for an invite which was free, obviously, cause for me everything on the web was for free and till now I have been getting virtually everything for free(sic) on the web, everything I wanted, that is.

One fine day I ended up on this forum where some people were giving out invites and I got one from a girl, I think I still remember her name, just because I found it sort of weird, it was some thing like "Louie Oviedo". I think I still have her in my address book in gmail, just because it was her invite that initiated my Gmail account.

I was hooked on to Gmail the moment I used it for the first time, cause it had a simple interface, had a very short loading time and looked very user friendly, not to forget the reason for which I wanted another email account,(I had quite a few already, four to be precise) which was due to the amount of space that was on offer, 1 GB compared to the measly 2 MB given by Hotmail which I later upgraded it to 25 MB for free, had a friend who had access.. Okay I think I have revealed enough already.

Though it was short of many features at that time, it was still very usable. Gmail was the "in thing" at that time, and u had to have a gmail account, I was like a status symbol, a privilege that not many had, a coolness quotient and what not.

That is the time when people started realizing the potential the Google had and it had a very bright future, but nobody had perceived that it would become another Microsoft, as some folk from the silicon valley have started thinking nowadays.

Google was gaining new users by the second and was the fastest growing company and still is. But still I had not envisaged that I would be so addicted to using all the things Google as I am right now.

A year after the launch from Gmail, Google has already started a number of services and unveiled an number of products, and that cumulative number is growing very rapidly.When I want to gauge the impact of google on the general net-savvy people, mainly youngsters, I look at myself to see what an influence Google has had on me. I started counting the number of things of google origin that I was using and the figure did not impress me but actually shocked me. It was like i was in some kind of a hypnosis and half the things I would use on my Work PC to surf the internet or to live a Cyber Junkie Lifestyle were of google origin.

Then I thought of compiling the list(in no particular order) below, of my dependence on Google :

1> Google Web Search - The Search Engine.
2> Google News - The News/News-Search Engine.
3> Google Translate - The websites language translation tool.
4> Google Toolbar- The Browser Toolbar which simplifies the web surfing experience.
5> Google Desktop - The Desktop Search Engine Software accessible from the desktop.
6> Google Earth - A software to provide a 3D interface to the planet.
7> Blogger- The Blogs Hosting Service.
8> Hello- Software to instant message pictures to friends and to upload images to blogs on blogger.
9> Blogger Plugin for Microsoft Word - To Post Word Documents to Blogger.
10> Google - The Search Engine.
11> Google Talk - To talk and IM with friends for free.
12> Gmail - free Web-based Email with an ever increasing mailbox size(2553.77 MB while going to press).

The list contains all the softwares and services which I have been using or just begun to use. And if I am not mistaken, this list will keep on growing over the couple of months/years. This means that Google will increasingly control what people do on the internet, collect valuable information which could well be very personal and confidential. And we will increasingly be dependent on Google.

The question will come to the minds of people when they realize how dependent they are becoming or will become on Google, is that "Is Google taking over my life ?" This will give rise to yet another one, "But can we help it ? "

Pre-Posting Edit :-
Before i posted this post through my blog at Blogger, I ran the spellchecker which was provided with the Blog Post Window(WYSIWYG Editor).
Here i experienced a very ironic situation. The spell checker did not recognize certain words, and said that they were possible errors on my part, the words are as follows :-

1> Google ( recommendation - gogole)
2> Gmail ( recommendation - small)
3> Bloggger
4> Blog

To further increase the irony, the spell checker of Google's Blogger succesfully recongnized "microsoft"as a valid word, and even recommended to correct the case to "Microsoft".

The irony is so ironic in the case of the word "Gmail", where the recommendation given by the spell checker was "small". Little does the spell checker know the size of Gmail, to replace it by "small" !

This is what happens when a company buys many small companies and employs their technology( Read spell checker in this context) for their benefit. Ha Ha Ha !