Google Controvery (again)
Here we go again. The lines between your desktop and the internet have become even more blurred with Google’s announcement that it has developed a new application allowing users to simultaneously scan the Web and their computer hard drives for documents, e-mail, instant messages and sites they’ve visited in the past.
SFGate reports the release makes Google the first of what is expected to be a long list of major Internet companies to enter this nascent field. Microsoft, America Online and Ask Jeeves are all hoping to leap ahead in search technology by making its easier to find computer files, a traditionally difficult task.
“If I want to find a particular e-mail or a Word file from two months ago, it’s a nightmare,” said Andy Beal, vice president for the search engine marketing company WebSourced. “Frustrations have got to the point where people are looking for any provider who can find things on the desktop.”
Analysts believe that desktop search will be a critical battleground among the Internet industry’s leaders. Companies are jostling to keep users loyal in a business in which switching to a different search engine is easy and free.
Google’s new technology can be downloaded from www.desktop.google.com. The software, a 400-KB file, is compatible with only newer versions of Windows.
Google Desktop, as the technology is called, automatically creates an index of a computer’s content and frequent updates. If they chose, users can block certain kinds of files or specific domains from being indexed.
The technology makes it possible to search both the Web and the desktop at the same time from the Google Web site. After entering a query, users see a summary of computer file results near the top of the page and a link to a full listing.
Alternatively, users can choose to search from a separate window dedicated specifically to desktop files. In that case, a list of files appears immediately next to an icon, such an a envelope to indicate an e-mail.
Google’s new software scans some of the most popular kinds of files, including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger chats. It also keeps a history of every Web site a user visits.
Many other kinds of files are incompatible, including PDFs, multimedia and Yahoo Messenger. In addition, the technology can’t index Web-based e-mail such as Google’s own G-mail.
Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer Web products, said new categories of files will be added in the future.
Small companies such as Copernic, Blinxx and Lycos’ Hotbot already offer their own versions of desktop search. But they have gained only modest followings.
For now, Google doesn’t display advertising tied to the content of desktop files. However, Mayer said her company may add such ads in the future.
She dismissed any concerns about privacy because she said Google won’t have access to information about what resides on users’ hard drivers. Analysts backed her view up but noted that the technology does open the door to other problems.
“It makes it so incredibly easy for people to go to your computer and see what’s on it,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch, a Web site about Internet search.
Is it just me or is there a contradiction here? On the one hand Google says it “won’t have access to information about what resides on users’ hard drivers.” And in the very next breath says in the future it may add content sensitive ads to your desktop files. Hmmmm. The Bloke won’t be in any hurry to install this one.