Thursday, November 15, 2007

What is Google’s purpose?

Without looking up their official bio, my memory tells me that Google began as one of the early attempts to index the web. The purpose of indexing the web is the same as the purpose for indexing anything else: to point the user toward content they want to look at. That’s why libraries have card catalogs and that’s why big textbooks have those tiny word pages in the back.

The indexing function, or cataloging function, of the internet is considerably more sophisticated today, and is performed by something called a search engine rather than an indexer.The desired result is still to try to take the user to the place he wants to go, or give him the information he wants to see, just do a better job of it.

With so many new websites springing up, traditional indexing really wasn’t feasible for very long. Hence the development of search engines. (Both Google and Yahoo still offer traditional “directories” to the web, though. and If you have the time and patience to drill down through their hierarchy, have at it.)

The trouble is, along with more sophisticated methods came the opportunity to additionally try to tell people what Google thought was “good” content and what they thought was poorer or “less apropos” content. This was under the guise of “providing users with the most relevant content” rather than just providing a list of possibilities and letting the user decide what he wanted to investigate further. Kind of like a librarian recommending a particular book instead of simply pointing you to the section of the library where books on that subject might be found.

More to follow.

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