Tuesday, December 04, 2012

How to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful?

The new company I work for has a week long induction program. It was some time well spent by the company to make the new employees understand the company well and overall make us comfortable. During the period we also got to meet some interesting people who came to talk to us about different things. One of the talks was about the company's vision and it's strategy to stick to the vision.

Also discussed was how important was for the vision to be inside-out so that it never goes irrelevant. Some examples were shared like how Xerox's outside-in vision was to be "The Document Company" and how "Documents" became irrelevant. Also how Apple's inside-out vision "Challenge the Status Quo" has always stayed relevant and made them successful. As a fan of all things Google, I was thinking about Google's vision and how whatever they do becomes a part of a bigger picture they are painting.

A mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a Vision statement focuses on a company’s future. I'm guessing Google's vision for all obvious reasons is to be the "Biggest Internet company". Google's mission statement is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". In simple terms I think the mission is the way to reach the vision. As part of the mission, here are the things they did year on year to become the biggest internet company. Its not a secret but I'm just trying to put the puzzle together.

Search and you will find

Perhaps the internet wouldn't have been organized ever if Google Search Engine didn't happen. I remember the time when the entire web world worked towards making their sites search engine friendly, by creating semantic content to be meaningful when read by a robot. This lead to innovations in the markup language (xhtml) which would help web authors create meaningful content. This movement also led to the improvements in the internet technology, HTML5 as we know it today.

Recognize Faces

If text can be organized, can pictures be left out? Semantic web pages enabled Google to associate information to the images in the web. I remember Google Images had a small game then which me and my friend enter keywords against an image shown to us. If both of us entered the same word which described an image it would give us points. I would say that was one of the earliest Gamification strategies employed which made users do some work for google. Once Google grew confident of the image content, they would have created a program to learn the association and then auto recognize images. A better version of this is what we are using today to tag people on Google+ pictures which has made Google recognize people's faces.

Make Money

The next thing they did was to lay the foundation to their monetization policy. Google makes money out of advertising and they made an ad engine. Ad Words allows advertisers to create and publish advertisement to the inventory and Ad Sense allows content publishers to place ads on their pages. As the information became more and more organized, the relevance of the ads on the pages improved. This made people see/click on those ads and in return made Google and its publishing partners make money. This encouraged regular people to create content on web.

Create Content

More content means more information that can be made use of. Google gave us Blogger and Drive to create, store and publish more content. More content means more people getting onto internet for information. More usage means more content.

They made Gmail with unlimited space so that people create more content and also use more of internet. Google started showing ads based on the content in the email which meant they knew how to make sense of my email and also make it useful. Google Search can now give me search results and alerts based on the emails I receive on Gmail.

Where are you is a thing of the past

World’s information is incomplete without the real world things. Google Maps organized the real world’s data by geo tagging them and made it useful for us. So useful that it gave us the amazing Street view and Turn by Turn navigation. It makes you so aware of the place you are in and you intend to go. Google maps is also getting building/store interiors mapped and photographed.

As usual Google also gave us the Map Maker for us to contribute geo tagged locations to enhance the amazing experience.

More than Broadcast Yourself

I'm sure YouTube is far more than just a user generated video sharing service. Its definitely the place where Google learns the "happenings" in the videos. Also a great place to develop speech recognition and organize spoken content. Speech recognition has now gone "useful" in Google Now and I think the lessons Google learnt from going through all those videos will come alive in Project Glass. Most probably its an integral part of the Google Car.

Chrome

If Google is set to own the internet how can they let users be restricted by browsers. Chrome upped the ante in the browser game with amazing speed, safety, multi device sync, extensions and cloud print. Chrome has become the only program I use to do things on my home computer now which is precisely the premise of Chrome OS.

Mobile - More context to the content.

If Google expects crowd sourcing of all the data for them to organize and made useful to the mankind, would they leave the crowd to rely on a desktop computer to make that happen? Whats with all that data and usage when they are away from the desktop?

By making me own Android devices, Google would

  • Locate me and everything I do on the devices. Google now knows a lot about me right from at what time i get up to the time i go to work and come back, where all i go, my frequent places, the kind of shops and restaurants i visit, what flights i take and when. It also know who and where my friends are.
  • It crowd sources Real time Traffic Information
  • It can now crowd source Street View using the Photo Sphere feature in Android in countries like India where the Google street vehicles are not allowed to ply on the roads.
  • be my voice communicator and source some amazing voice data
  • and Of course increase internet usage

The Car

It was easy for me to understand why Google made a self driving car. People don't use internet when driving. So why not make a self driving car so that they can use internet? Google has enough data sourced and organized for this to work.

The vision is coming true!

So what if there is a time when people actually don't use a desktop, tablet or phone to use internet? Project Glass will take care of those moments. Project Glass would be the culmination of all things said above. Its exactly the Vision (pun intended) coming true.
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