Google and the morality of being first

Indian merchant-3

The first time I flew to Southern California or from Southern California to the Bay Area – I don’t remember which way – the tickets were very expensive, about $40 (in late 1950’s, mid 1960’s dollars). Shortly thereafter, Pacific Southwest, we all called it PSA – not to be confused with Southwest Airlines out of Texas – ramped up and became a major factor in California travel by charging less than $15.00 for a flight between LAX and SFO. As I remember it, their planes were painted pink and had a big smile painted on the front, the stewardesses – and they were all stewardesses then – wore hotpants, and the tickets looked like bus tickets. Other airlines reluctantly lowered their prices. About this time, I flew United Airlines to Southern California to see my dad. He met me up at the airport and was very critical of my choice of airlines saying You should have taken PSA. I said Why? United is the same price. to which Daddy answered Yes, but they wouldn’t be that cheap without PSA and that should be rewarded.

Several days ago, I read the results of an international survey asking what were the most trusted brands. The first was Samsung, the second was Google, and the third was You Tube which is really Google. As an aside, when I ask that question to friends and neighbors, they almost always answer Apple and that was also my answer, so the fact that internationally the most trusted name is not Apple, not even American, is interesting in a not particularly good way. BTW, internationally, Apple ties for fifth. End aside.

Google may not be the most trusted, but, in truth, we all really trust our search engine. At some level, we all know that we are not the customer, we are the product being delivered to the real customer who are the companies advertising to us, and we still trust them. We trust that Google will not abuse that power as we blithely ask Google things we might not even ask our friends, like where to buy pot or a good wig, or, even, a merkin (google it). Even before Google revolutionized search engines by using them to make money, Google revolutionized search engines by making them actually work. They also revolutionized spell check to make them work even better. Google reasoned that the easier it was to search for something, the more searches we would make.

I used to type a word in my blog that the blog software said was wrong, or type a word in an email that Microsoft1 said is wrong. I would ask for the right word and, because my spelling is so atrocious, it would give me some entirely different word with no relationship to the context of the sentence. I would type in kemshi in the sentence We can bring some nice pickled veggies and kemshi. and Microsoft would tell me it was spelled kamahi or kamahis, for example.   Then I would Google the word, and Google would say, Do you mean kimchi? and I would enter the correctly spelled word in my post or email.

I notice that this is happening with increasingly less frequency. I have no idea if WordPress, my blogging platform, uses Google and I would guess that Microsoft doesn’t but Google paved the way to a better spelling engine – for lack of a better word – and everybody else followed along. Sure, it was because Google wanted to make searching easier so they could make more money, but that is why they went into business, just like PSA.

Their search engine became so good, as I read several years ago, that Google didn’t even need to run ads. That has changed now, but Google still doesn’t run very many ads. Most of their selling is the selling its services, like its search engine code or its spell check algorithm which may be why my WordPress search and spelling are better now. After the Golden Globes, I was very taken with the Bing ad and thought maybe I should think about changing but my inner dad said Yes, but Google forced Microsoft to be better and it wouldn’t be without Google.

India is somewhat of the Wild West in terms of search engines and Google is advertising there. I am glad to say that, in its own way, the Indian Google ad is every bit as good as the Golden Globe Bing ad. Check it out.

1. which says that I am still, embarrassingly, using Microsoft Outlook and – it also probably says that I am – using a PC rather than an Apple. Luckily, the areas where I spend most of my time are the same no matter what the operating system.


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