What’s Next For Google – ISP, Browser, Desktop Search?
Google has had a meteoric rise to stardom. I remember an article I saw in PC World Indian Edition in the year 1999 which mentioned this small startup with a funny name. I passed it on like yet another search engine which were booming in those days. Who could have thought that day that in the coming years it will reach such massive heights that companies like Microsoft and Yahoo! would find it tough competing.
They have come a long way since then. Now they have an arsenal full of utilities for the common netizen. They have added loads of additional services to their search engine, they have introduced web search tools like the Google Toolbar and Google Deskbar, and they have launched non search related services like Orkut and GMail! So, what’s next for Google? What is there to conquer now? What fields can Google set its eyes on? I am in no position to guess what Google has on its mind but I have given some thoughts on what I would like to see Google get into!
Obviously, the list is not a mind boggling one. It contains most of the existing competition’s services, nothing revolutionary. But Google would do well if it starts competing with competition where it hurt them most and they have started doing that with GMail!
So here are my 5 ideas that are not necessary innovative but might make it big, if implemented the Google way!
5 Things Google Should Do :
Yeah, I know rumors are already out on this one that Google is indeed working on a Desktop search bar! And in fact I am eagerly waiting for it to come out. Desktop search if implemented well can make life so much easier for any one as Microsoft search tools in my opinion suck badly. Google has succeeded in mastering searches on the web. Whether it is for web pages or for images, Google rock. It even searches for content in PDFs and many other file formats. It simply keeps me amazed on what else is left! If Google can indeed make searching for local files as simple, fast and amazing, it could give Microsoft some nightmares. Of course, Google would have to find a way to record all the stuff on the hard disks and do that continuously. Microsoft’s indexing service take lot of resources when I turn it on. So, if Google manage to get a local indexing service that run as well as its online spiders does without really slowing down the computer that could revolutionize desktop searching. Who would have thought that searching online would be faster than searching on your own PC? Well, thatâ€™s what is true today. And Google with its experience can change that!
GMail is currently under testing phase. But it is looking pretty hot. Fortunately I got into GMail test phase through a friend and boy, I was impressed. But at the moment it is not very clear whether Google is planning to offer the service with POP or IMAP support. Now, both of these services may render the Google’s Adsense technology useless which is actually paying back to Google. So Google just might have to find a way to provide some kind of a tool to the user to access GMail when he is on the move or he is offline. And if Google can come up with something neat (which can include the ads in the software interface) and it works, that just might get GMail loads of more hotmail and yahoo converts!
Yeah! I know there already are loads of messengers and protocols around and we donâ€™t need a new one. But a Google powered messenger that might login to other protocols just might get people to get this probable new unified messenger.
With the acquisition of Picasa, Google got a nice little utility on its hand. The software is Hello and it’s touted as an image sharing application. I tried it once before when it was promoted by Google sometime back from its Blogger service where it allowed users to add images to their Blogger based Blog using Hello. But well, I never actually understood the concept then. You never know the true potential of software within 5 minutes. I have learnt this lesson the hard way. I saw someone else using Hello for what it basically was and well, I am not hooked to it now.
Hello has a very unconventional interface with rather big buttons. Might look weird to users of messaging services like MSN or Yahoo! but itâ€™s a welcome change and would suit non technical users. The interface is littered with snippets of help which helped me a lot picking up the tools of the trade. It requires registration to login but well, all Instant Messaging clients do. Yeah, thatâ€™s what Hello primarily is. It lets you keep a track of specific users and tell you when they or online or offline. And when they are online, you can chat with them. The difference is that with Hello, you can share images. And by that I mean, real life sharing. You chose images from your computer (or from Picasa Image Manager) and it gets transferred to the other user. And both the users see the shared images on the discussion window itself where they can talk and discuss them. The beauty is the smooth transfer of multiple images even on dial up connections. You can see what the other user has selected from the cluster of shared images and you can even choose to follow his footsteps. Hence, both the users can discuss many images without any confusion. Excellent!
Apart from images, Hello also lets you discuss websites. What it does is by adding a button to Internet Explorer, it allows you to take snapshots of websites (or some particular section of a webpage) and it directly imports that to Hello and share it with your friends. An additional benefit is that the image is linked to the webpage it is associated with. Thoughtful and can be useful to discuss specific sections of a webpage with each other. It all basically depends upon how you use it of course!
What do I most like about this software? Well, the truth is that it’s amazing the way things work. Images starts appearing as a blur and gets clearer as more data is downloaded. It does not have problems with multiple transferred images. All the things that you have grown used to in other software. Smoothness is the keyword and Hello has it. And now that it is with Google, we can only expect better things from it. Maybe Google will make it its flagship Instant Messaging client which it desperately needs to get more users to stick with it for more services besides just searching. And with Hello, it has a damn good base to work on. Same way it had the raw Blogger which now has grown up to become a polished and more complete service.
Another funky concept! Why not release a browser of your own? Use Mozilla engine, add all the Google tools inbuilt to make it totally googl33t and offer as a free download. Since people already love Firefox for its engine and Google for its capabilities, this looks like a worthwhile product in itself.
Jason Kottke wrote about this a bit in a recent blog entry, the Google Browser.
Mozilla is currently getting some good press due to Microsoft’s continuing troubles with their browser and the uptick in usage compared to IE is encouraging. But it’s nothing compared to what could happen if Google decides to release a Mozilla-based browser. A Google Browser would give the Mozilla platform instant credibility and would be a big hit. The peerless Google brand & reputation and their huge reach are the keys here. Mom and Dad know about Google…if Google offered a browser that was as powerful and easy to use as their search engine and didn’t scum up their system, they’d download it. IT departments wanting to switch away from IE would have some formidable firepower when pitching to upper management…”Mozilla? What? Oh, it’s Google? Go for it!” Get good reasons in front of enough Google users and millions would switch from IE.
This almost might sound crazy. But this is something that directly collides with Yahoo!, MSN and AOL heads on. And people do have a soft spot for Google nowadays (no matter what they say about the Google policies about Orkut and GMail). It has a good reputation, incredible brand value and it can get into ISP business, it can do well. And if somehow they can come out with some business plan to offer free internet services with some kind of advertisement modules incorporated in form of the service toolbar or taskbar module, it can be a killer. A farfetched idea? Maybe, but Google has done stuff people would have never thought of! And they might do it again…
Sushubh Mittal is the Tech Columnist at Search Engine Journal and also the publisher of TechWhack, an upcoming Blog Portal on technology.