(TL;DR: jump to the end for the list)
In light of recent Google-bashing, I feel compelled to speak up. I’m an engineer and I build stuff every day.
Building simple stuff is hard. Building complicated stuff is harder. Building complicated stuff that looks simple is the hardest of all.
Google** is insanely complicated but it looks simple. This is why people are getting carried away with their disappointment in seeing some spam in their search results—Google makes it look easy. This is one big feature that is apparently hurting them a smidge now. It used to be that while other sites would make the act of running a search look really complicated so you’d be impressed Google just worked. And it was (is) crazy fast at the same time.
Features like simplicity and speed are not accidental and are definitely not cheap. The fact that when I enter a word or two into Google and get a highly relevant result most of the time still shocks me. Google builds a model about what I’m asking for and brings in far more context than I think most people realize. I touched on this a bit before when I demonstrated how Google uses your search history to improve your results. They also use your country and if known, your approximate location.
Knowing your location may seem unnecessary at first but consider queries for something like “soccer”. Soccer means something completely different in the US than in the rest of the world. No wait, I meant “football”. “Soccer” is the same everywhere. Damn my slow human brain! The point is Google knows what you meant depending on where you are.
And your history really does help, e.g. “java”. That’s a programming language to me, but a tasty beverage to others. OK, actually Google is pretty fixated on the programming side on that one. Here’s a better example, “script”:
Google isn’t all showy or anything, it just gives me results.
But sometimes the results suck. Here are a few reasons to give Google a break:
- The results only suck occasionally. I use Google a lot. If you do, too, check your history to see just how much:
>50 searches most days…that is more than I would have guessed! 34k total searches? Yikes!
- Google scales more than you can imagine. Watson impressed the world when it beat the best humans in the world at their game, Jeopardy!. But Watson was only playing one game. Google does something similar many billions of times each month (and that reference is from 2008). For more crazy stats, check out this fact sheet on Youtube
- Google does way more than search:
- They do search way better than you*. Bing does a decent job and Amazon holds its own within their site, but pretty much no one else does
- For almost all uses, they are completely free
- They are the fastest game in town. Speed matters a lot when you do >50 searches/day
- For the most part, they aren’t evil, sometimes doing things that surprise me by how not-evil they are. For example, when you first install Google Chrome, it asks you what search engine you want to use:
- They can read your mind with instant search, which is useful since I often don’t even understand what it is exactly I want myself
- They index new content ridiculously fast. I often find my questions on Stack Exchange in Google results within minutes of the question being asked. It’s freaky. Plus they search real-time results from Twitter which is pretty impressive.
- What are you going to do? Do all your googling with another search engine?
- Google will take over the world and you better be on its good side when it does
I’m not saying that I don’t want something better, just that I appreciate what we have.
**Many references to Google would probably work with Bing, too