For those who feel Google, Inc., is spreading tentacles everywhere in a sinister way, it might be difficult to see, but there are many reasons we need Google.
Reasons We Need Google
1. They made the Web easier to use with Google Search. There were search engines before Google (I worked for one such), but Google seemed to achieve market share where others could not, and has since indexed a greater share of online content. (Now they’re trying to index offline content, too. E.g., through the controversial Google Books project, which of course irks many authors and publishers – all of whom have lost income since the spread of Internet use. Librarians, too, have expressed concern about the value of their own existence.)
2. Leveled the playing field by really enabling the concept of web income opportunities. They did this with the spending and earning of ad dollars, creating a micro-economy online that might eventually rival real-world GDP. Since this is not a closed system (that is, online funds can be moved to the real world), this could be a fundamental reason we’ll never truly have another Great Depression. Small players can build a thriving online business, and that reality was catalyzed by Google.
One way is through AdWords and AdSense. AdWords gave small web-based businesses a chance to advertise to a wide audience at a lower cost. AdSense gave fledgling entrepreneurs a chance at web-based income.
Though rumors (and polls) suggest that the majority of people do not earn any worthwhile income from AdSense, its mere existence helped fuel the growth of other ad networks, which in turn enabled the whole web worker phenomenon – especially Digital Nomads. Sure, there were other ad networks before Google AdSense, but can you name any one of them? Unless you’re in advertising or Internet marketing, probably not. The lure of working online is the result of the early AdSense-fueled successes of a few popular bloggers, and other ad networks have capitalized on the web working desire.
3. Opportunity for web presence. Without various types of Google juice – such as Google Search and Google News – your web traffic might disappear altogether. (Of course, Google created this dependence in the first place.)
4. Offer powerful, quality web applications to millions of users, for free. What’s more, these apps show proof concept and a ready online market. That in turn encourages other webpreneurs to produce similar web applications – sometimes even better. Those web apps often get purchased, giving those webpreneurs the incentive – and capital – to produce more applications. In other words, they’ve catalyzed the ubiquity of web applications.
If you hadn’t noticed, Google has spread from their core practice of being a Search engine – the most popular one by far – to several other operations: advertising network, web analytics (Google Analytics), web feed management (Feedburner), daily business (Calendar), important and private files (Google Docs and Spreadsheets), email (GMail), and numerous other web applications. Now they’re getting into the mobile space – not just by having mobile web apps but an actual Google Phone.
So many people now use so many Google web apps in the course of a regular web working day that they would be affected if Google went down for a few hours or days. Work productivity would go down. When GMail or another Google app seems to have a service “brownout”, you’ll see tweets about it on Twitter, and you can feel the frustration mounting. (Of course, the lure was free, powerful web apps that people feel they can’t do without. There are alternatives, but an educated guess suggests that most people seem to pick a web app and stick with it – unless functionality or service is very poor.)
5. New technologies. Google is instrumental in pushing cloud computing, showing proof of concept by running all their web apps on cloud technology. Apps like Google File System (still in research mode) will be of great benefit to web-based businesses that need to store massive, growing quantities of data. (Of course, Amazon’s Web Services is an alternative, but that costs money. Google already offers some free storage space via GMail accounts, and it’s possible that if they offer cloud storage online, there might be free and premium options.)
6. Citywide Wi-Fi. Okay, for now it’s only in Mountain View, California, to the best of my knowledge. But that’s a start of more free metro WiFi across the U.S. – something that many people will welcome.
7. Google Maps. Coming from a past that includes seven years of digital mapping, I can say that Google Maps has to be my favorite of their suite of web apps. They helped bringing inexpensive mapping to anyone with fast Internet access, as well as enabled a least a low-level of demographic analysis features with their customization features.
8. Google App Engine + Google Gears. With App Engine, you can build scalable web applications. In other words, if you’re so inclined, you can compete with their web apps.
With the introduction of Gears, you can now run a variety of web applications while you’re offline, with data synchronization taking place when you’re connected. Even the latest version, 2.7, of the WordPress blogging platform provides integration for Gears so that you can speed up web page load time for any users who also use Gears.
9. They fund external tech projects that advance the web, including Mozilla/ Firefox web browser. (However, web sentiment suggests that the latter might change, now that Google has their own browser, Chrome.)
10. They fund world projects. Through their Google.org branch, they’re looking at “climate change, poverty, and emerging disease,” amongst other world-affecting issues.