Google recently announced that it would soon be launching a new product – the +1 button. Apparently this feature will allow the best sites and organizations on the web to be propelled to the top of Google’s search list. It allows consumers to share their most beloved websites and influence the results that the giant search engine sends them. It’s Facebook’s Like button, but Googlized.
My first impression of the +1 button was both disgust and sadness. For me, it was the nail on the coffin of innovation. It seems like, for years now, instead of trying to think of new ideas, our favorite online conglomerates are in a race to dominate one another rather than think of what will uniquely improve the online experience for their users. What happened to new ideas? What happened to innovation?The +1 button is the latest tool in the war between Google and and every other popular web service. This time it kind-of-but-not-really imitates Facebook. Both organizations earned their places at the top of their online realm. I honestly can’t imagine how people even used the Internet without a search engine. And even though Facebook was not the first social networking site, both the site and word of mouth convinced me that I should share my real information online for the first time. Both groups changed the playing field. But today, both groups seem to be running in circles around each other, trying to cover the same ground. At this point, its getting old.
Google is infamous for its list of failed products. From Buzz to Wave, Google has as many failures as success stories. You say, “But that show’s Google is trying!” I say, false. If you look closely at the success stories, and the failures, its obvious that Google has used its power as the top dog to simply consume or copy other innovative companies. Google docs has improved my life in ways I didn’t even know it could be improved – thank goodness sites like Writely were bought out by Google so I could enjoy their product! Google Voice followed after Skype and when Google Video followed after Youtube and flopped, Google just bought Youtube. And Google’s latest battle with its competitors is over both location services and coupon sites like Groupon. The corporation is even trying to get on the flight search business. Google has turned into a company that is focused on competing rather than creating.
The idea behind Google was amazing. It was different. It was what web users didn’t know they needed. But like we’re running out of IP addresses, it seems like (if Google is an example to follow) there aren’t really many ways to make the web better. If Google can’t come up with anything new, with its resources and slew of programmers, what hope is there for the little guy? Even more, what chance is there for the little guy when the second he gains success, Google will offer him $6 billion to join the Google umbrella? That money can be a great incentive or great disincentive from wanting to create something of your own.
Just to bring it back to the Stanford bubble – we have amazing designers and programmers that come out with new sites almost overnight. From StanfordHub.com to Class Owl to Course Bubble, our school’s students are definitely trying to impact the online landscape. But even then, we’re rehashing things that already exist. Course review sites should and can be improved. I hope that Q&A sites do gain more popularity given both the insight and communities to be found on such websites. But improvement, no matter the magnitude, is not something brand spanking new.
I don’t want to undermine the amazing creations developed by our students or by Google or Facebook or any other currently popular web developer. What I want to do is offer a challenge. What can’t be done online? What more could we be doing with our networks? What new kind of relationships between people and between people and their machines can be formed? Google consistently fighting for their well-established and, in my opinion, insurmountable place as an Internet king is depressing. Our students have limited means and time – Google as an entity has almost no limitations on the inventive side. I expect far more from them than I expect from one or two individuals. But those individuals should still push themselves just as hard because a couple of individuals have always been the ones to start it all.
I want my refresh button to refresh my ideas of what can be done online rather than sending me to the same old pages. Every time something interesting appears, I don’t want it get sucked into the Google or Facebook web. I want it to stand alone. Or I want Google, who set the precedent for online ingenuity, to provide it for the people that depend on their services. Four Square popped up and sparked a location services war (not that I understand why people would want to constantly share their location with a mass of people anyways). Groupon makes a profit and they get offers for far more than their company itself is currently worth. Google, leave them alone. You too, Facebook. It’s time that everyone goes back to doing what they once did best – thinking of their own ideas.