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by Stephen Logan on 15th September 2009
This week Google have released two new initiatives. The first is ‘Google Internet Stats’ a service for trawling through the statistical data made available by some of the most preeminent sources. The second is Fast Flip, a news service that offers the latest recommended stories in a speedy online magazine style.
Whilst both have obvious advantages in theory, does the reality live up to the hypothetical possibility?
In the case of Fast Flip it’s hard to see much in the way of a practical usage for most online users. Whilst an occasional browse through the ‘Most Read’ sections can be interesting, is this not available elsewhere? Two sites that spring to mind immediately are News Now and Yahoo, both of which feature a far more stripped down overview of the latest headlines on their home page. Whilst it could be argued that it enlivens the news searching experience and may show you things outside your usual sphere of interest, does that necessarily make it better?
I think the jury is out on Fast Flip. The value it adds to the Google brand and its already popular news service appears to be limited. No doubt it will develop and grow, but the sum pieces as it stands appear to be mostly recycled and available elsewhere. It almost appears gimmicky, particularly with stories from Cosmopolitan adjacent to offerings from the Washington Post and BBC. But there is room for improvement and certainly the fundamental programming technology could have its uses elsewhere for Google in the future. In short, interesting but nothing particularly special.
Next up are the Google Internet Stats. Now this one particularly caught my eye, not least because of all the statistical data I encounter and require on a daily basis. With data available from the likes of Ofcom, Comscore and Deloitte as well as most quality media outlets and some major brands (including Coke and GM), it looks likely to become a hub of statistical knowledge.
Unfortunately you have to be pretty precise with your searches and hope the statistics tally up with your query. If you use just an open phrase, such as ‘SEO’, you can expect to be waiting for some time for any results – if any come at all. This makes it a little difficult to just browse search results. It does produce a random fact on request; however, as interesting as these may be, it is hard to use statistics that may be up to a year old with any confidence. You can also browse through a number of different categories to be more specific to what you are looking for; but once again, there are a number of stats that are simply too old to use.
It’s early days for both these Google products. In time, as the technology and the data improves, both could well serve an important function in their own fields and within the search engine itself. Unfortunately though, in their current sluggish state, neither is likely to set the world on fire.
Google Labs has been responsible for some fantastic applications in the past, but should Google be improving their current services rather than integrating new ones? With a Yahoo and Microsoft merger on the horizon, now is surely the time for Google to announce their next ‘Google Earth’. Perhaps this is the distraction before Wave is introduced, maybe it’s just a pet project that has escaped the lab.
Whilst it may be an overused business cliché, the need to add value to a business is always brought into question when implementing new products. Have these two innovations added any value? I seriously can’t see how without major modifications. Maybe it’s time for Google to get back to doing what they do best, providing a great search service and online tools for everyday usage.
As industry leaders is it important that Google keep trying to innovate, even if the end product doesn’t have anything to do with their main point of business – search? Do they continue to develop new products to simply flex their online muscle, or is it to really target an identified need within the market? And what do you make of these two new products, can they take off or are they just another gimmick that will soon fade away?