Another instant messaging system, just what the world doesnt need. And now Google is giving us one. Forgive me if I contain my enthusiasm, at least with Google Talks initial release.
Most of the time I already have three IM clients—MSN, Yahoo and AIM—open on my desktop. Are there people who dont already have an IM account that Google can attract to its new service? Cant be too many. Is there anything Google can do to attract customers that its competitors cant also do? Havent seen it so far. Sure, Google can always draw on its existing base, but it may be hard the convince people who already feel overwhelmed by IM clients to join them.
Meanwhile, I have read a number of stories about Google Talk and maybe Ive missed it, but I havent found an answer for my biggest question: When does Google start parsing peoples IM conversations in order to present context-sensitive advertisements?
Theyre already parsing peoples Gmail and generating "appropriate" ads based upon the messages content. How can Google possibly resist doing the same for instant messaging?
Im sorry, but all this Google-looking-over-your-shoulder stuff gives me the creeps. It asks me to trust Google in ways I dont trust, well, anybody. Not that other IM or free-mail services couldnt also be watching content, its just that Google is provably doing so. And its reading peoples mail merely to present more targeted (and thus more annoying) advertisements. Yech!
Sure, those ads give me free service and Ive even been known to click on an "Ads by Google" link occasionally. But, I already pay to make TV and radio ads go away, I buy AccuWeather forecasts minus the ads and also give money to a few other services that offer an ad-free option. I might be willing to pay Google, as well.
Should Google offer a paid, ad-free service?
In deciding that question, you first have to decide whether Google is worth paying for. There was a time when Google was so much better than the other searches that Id have said "yes." But, before there was Google, I might have said the same thing about Alta Vista.
Today, Google is still the best search engine, but the others, MSN especially, are catching up. Googles biggest challenge, however, is the continued decay of its results.
Google isnt as open as it once was in talking about how it determines placement of its results. I just know that as Google has made moves into several other businesses, its core search business seems sick and hasnt gotten better. People I know are leaving Google for other search engines.
Particularly troublesome are all the sites that show up at the top of Googles rankings that really arent sites at all, except that they lead you to other search results, auction sites, or whatever. Google ought to be able to get rid of this Internet flotsam but so far has failed to do so.
But, lets imagine Google could find a way to dump this pseudo-content, I still wonder if Googles results havent become too expansive. I cant prove this at all scientifically but my gut is that Google presents way too much content in its results, having the effect of diluting the "right" content that most people are looking for.
Looking at MSN results, I get the impression that Microsoft agrees with me. MSN seems to cover less ground with its results, which is nice except for the times when MSN seems to have no idea what I am looking for.
Of course, a paid Google wouldnt just remove ads from the search engine but also all the companys other products, including Gmail and Google Talk. If you actually use the services and could stop using the ad-supported alternatives as well, then a paid Google could remove a whole lot of ads from your life.
Maybe Google search results arent worth paying for. But, a desktop without IM ads, news service ads, free e-mail ads, and ads in whatever else Google does could be compelling. It would be a real win for people whod like fewer distractions and are willing to pay to have them removed.
Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.