Is Google good for you?

Technology analyst Bill Thompson wonders why he cannot stay away from Google, even though he has his doubts about it, in This BBC Piece.
He says google is now the equivalent of programmes on ITV, there solely to attract eyeballs for advertisers.

"Perhaps it is simply that Google has become the Coke of the web. Sweet, available everywhere, and the first choice of the consumer.

The fine wines and elegant cordials are still available, of course, but Coke outsells them all, just as Google outranks other, more refined, search tools."

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Coke? Not quite....

Perhaps it is simply that Google has become the Coke of the web. Sweet, available everywhere, and the first choice of the consumer.

No, there's a substantial difference here.

The Coca-Cola Company is based upon maintaining a brand image in order to artificially inflate the price of their core product: sugar water. They add no extra value to their product over any of their competitors; indeed, there is no reason to purchase Coke over Pepsi, or (more importantly) either over "no-name" soft drink products.

Google presents a service with a substantial amount of value over its competitors (with rare possible exceptions, e.g. Teoma).

The fine wines and elegant cordials are still available, of course, but Coke outsells them all, just as Google outranks other, more refined, search tools.

Would Thompson care to share any of these "more refined" search tools with the reader? He does not, and therefore leaves one largely suspect of his logic. One might infer that he is engaging in the practice of "beating up on Google" which seems to be popular nowadays.

Google isn't perfect, I'll readily grant; even so, it would serve readers more if Thompson actually offered reasonable alternatives rather than ridiculous suggestions such as "a new 'office of search engines.'"

Refined databases

One place to start is your local library's Web site (as Gary Price points out). Many subscribe to proprietary databases, which have quality information. It's off-limits to Google (and other search engines), but it's free to you if you have a library card. See for example: http://www.nypl.org/eresources.html.

Other good stuff is in databases anyone can access, but Google (and other search engines) cannot spider them easily. This is the so-called invisible Web.

Also, there are specialized search engines, which may not have different content from Google, et al., but they may be updated more often or may provide more focused results, since the universe of sites they search is smaller. See, for example, Search Engine Watch's list of specialty search engines.

Then, there are some fine directories. They may not provide keyword searching of 3 billion Web pages, but they will point you to quality sites that are likely to give you what you need. Many directories are compiled by librarians: Infomine, Librarians' Index to the Internet, BUBL.

Re:Refined databases

Gary Price said it again about all the great access to databases many libraries provide to their users.

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