By JAMES DERK
Scripps Howard News Service
October 03, 2005
To those who aren't fully plugged in to the computing world, Google may seem like an almost blank white search page. And on some level, it is. What has been compelling about Google when compared to MSN, AltaVista and other search competitors, is the lack of ads on its home page.
What's been lacking, until now, is personalization.
Now, however, if you load the Google home page you'll see a tiny link in the upper right corner that says, "Personalized Home." Click on that, create an account and you will have a very cool, new experience on Google.
On the left side you can see all manner of content groups to choose from, ranging from news to weather to sports to stock. (These are not second-tier news outlets either; you can pick from such outlets as The New York Times and The Washington Post, for example.)
The best part of the page is you can literally drag and drop the content around the page until you have designed the page you like. The really nice part is no ads.
So how does Google make its money? Contextual ads in your search results mostly. You see those at the top of the search results sometimes and on the right side of your search results page. Advertisers pay to have their results there. Google also makes money from other sources, but that's a hunk of it.
So big whoop, there's a new search portal. But that's just a tiny part of Google. Last week it announced it wanted to blanket San Francisco with free wireless access. Then there is everything else.
Enter http://labs.google.com into a browser and you'll find Google's lab, where you find the cool stuff Google is working on. The most impressive part of this is Desktop Search, which is the missing link in Windows. (It's included in the latest version of Apple's operating system). This utility lets you simply search every document, email and anything else on your entire desktop or laptop. With today's cavernous hard drives, this will be a huge utility in the future. (I miss Lotus Magellan every day - my favorite software from my MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 days.)
Another "coming" technology is Google Video, the ability to search the growing number of video files on the Internet via keywords or via their closed-captioning. The trick of course is getting the rights to the video. (As always, the battle is in the field of digital rights ownership.)
What Google is angling to be, of course, is your one-stop portal for information on the Internet. And that will continue to be a huge business.
There have been huge wins for the company (its search technology remains the best) and some misses (its web accelerator created some problems for privacy), but overall this is a company that is firing on all cylinders when it comes to the niches that it chooses to exploit.
What it's going to do is marginalize Microsoft and to turn Windows into the thing you need to have to run Google. And that has to make Bill Gates just a tad sad.
WEEKLY WEB WONDER: The site "Rate My Professors" is now so hot that lawyers are circling seeing who gets to sue for libel first. See it before it goes at www.ratemyprofessors.com.
His e-mail address is jim(at)cyberdads.com