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Home » Hacking News » The Wonderful Wizards of Google

The Wonderful Wizards of Google

by Nikola Strahija on July 25th, 2002 Amidst a crowd of competitors, Google stands alone in many respects. From its Zen-like, uncluttered homepage that has only a smattering of words to its Google Answers feature, the search site has won the respect and admiration of legions of users and analysts. As it continues to introduce new features, Google seems destined to remain the search engine with the largest reach on the Internet. Already, the company boasts more than 3 billion indexed documents, including 2 billion Web pages.

Relying only on minimal ad placements and sparse public relations, how does Google continue to pull in more users? By keeping it simple, according to analysts.

Google has distinguished itself mainly by adhering to an uncomplicated philosophy: Users come to the site with specific purposes in mind, so the site must work to meet their goals.

"It's the one thing that we always say companies should do, which is focus on serving user goals," Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) analyst Harley Manning told NewsFactor. "It seems like such a simple insight, but it's not one that has been executed by very many sites."

All of the innovation that has sprung from Google, including its addition of image search capability and its decision to market its technology to corporate clients like AT&T, revolves around a core imperative to give users what they want.

"If some company came in and bought Google, how long do you think it would be before the home page was littered with junk?" Manning asked. "Not long, I bet. The fact that they keep it simple and clean goes a long way toward making them successful."

Answer Me

One fairly recent addition to the uncluttered Web site is Google Answers, a service not even touted on the company's home page, although it is available in a public beta version.

Typical of the stealthy Google approach of building loyalty by word-of-mouth, the Answers page seems almost hidden.

The feature gives users access to more than 500 researchers who help locate hard-to-find information. The site does not disclose how each researcher is credentialed, but a form is available for those who feel they possess enough mental acuity to tackle random, difficult questions.

The price structure is quirky: The fee starts at US$2.50 per question, but if the answer is worth more to the user, he or she can offer a higher amount, presumably in exchange for a more complete reply.

And if the answer fails to satisfy the user, Google Answers provides a refund.

Riddle Me This

With Google Answers, the site again keeps it simple.

"This is another example of their experimentation," Manning said. "They are always trying to find better search solutions, new avenues for doing searches."

This new feature, an effort to provide live searchers that can ferret information out of the Internet better than the average user could, may make the search engine even more popular.

Manning noted, "They have a way of looking at the Internet as an amazing treasure trove of information, and they're finding new methods of treasure hunting."

As Google spokesperson David Krane told NewsFactor: "Google's mission is to organize the world's information. Therefore, we continue to explore new sources of data to search and make available to our users."

Staying on Top

Google rose to dominance by combining powerful technology with common sense -- an approach that put the search engine far ahead fast.

"They took social relevance linking technology," Manning said, "something that had been used to study newsgroups to figure out the sociology of the Internet. They thought if they tacked that technology onto a search function, they'd really have something."

Google operates by culling the links that people and companies create between various Web sites. Manning said the method is also sometimes the company's weakness.

"If you have a corporate site with a bunch of documents on it that aren't linked to anything, you don't have the fuel to make Google go," he said. In other words, without widespread links, Google cannot operate.

"When they do have the links, though, that's when magic happens," Manning said. "That's when they're the wonderful wizards."

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