Popping one’s Google cherry

Google is 9 years old and, yesterday at least, it celebrated with one of its famous Google Doodles.

It has seemed to me for a while that the defining technology of our age is not the computer, not the PC, not even the internet. It seems to me that the defining technology of our age is search.

The history of humankind has been about progress in three basic areas: transport, labour and information. There was little difference between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance in terms of how goods were moved, how things were made and how information was stored and transmitted. Then, in succession, we got the printing press, the steam engine, the railway, the telegraph, the internal combustion engine, the assembly line, the telephone and air transport. Computers, PCs and the internet are just steps on the path to making it possible for anything that is in the public domain to be findable in a fraction of a second at any time. Information is becoming friction-free.

If we are in the Search Age then Google are the acknowledged and demonstrable Kings of Search, and I have been trying to remember for a while when I first used Google; when I popped my Google cherry.

Yahoo was there from 1995 of course, which was roughly when I started using the Internet, but it never really did it for me. However, it is hindsight that makes me scornful of the idea of manually reviewing and categorising websites. MSN was pants from the beginning, with Bill Gates trying to create a parallel internet ignoring the one that was there already. My how we laughed. By 1999, I was recommending Wired Magazine’s Hot Bot to colleagues, and throughout 2000 I was using Alta Vista’s useful little Babelfish translation utility though their search engine was rather too biased towards academic science for me. Sometime in 2000 or so my ex recommended Ask Jeeves as a search aggregator but its failure to fulfil on its promise to answer free text questions irritated me. I was google-whaking by 2002, though. My maiden name was a google-whack for ages.

So as near as I can make out, sometime in the 15 months between the summer of 2000 and the early spring of 2001 I googled for the first time.

It’s a cherry I wish I could remember popping.

How about you?

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8 responses to “Popping one’s Google cherry

  1. I flirted for a while with Ask Jeeves, but it was a colleague who recommended Google to me. I would think it was around 2000. I was sold on it the very first occasion I used it. I was in a tech research company at the time, so this was my kind of thing.

    I don’t usually remember when exactly I was introduced to most new things for the first time. I know I rarely get excited the first time – Google was something of an exception. I tend to hear of something from the periphery of my consciousness for a while. It’s only after more and more people start talking about it that it becomes an “aha” moment.

  2. That’s exactly the experience that I feel I cheated myself out of with Google, Woodpigeon. Glad it happened for you! 😉

  3. I read about dogpile in a newspaper (remember those? actual physical sheets of paper with information on that you had to go somewhere to pay money for! The idea!). Dogpile is (was?) a meta-search engine. Type in your query, and it searched yahoo, lycos, altavista, all the major engines, then presented you with the results. It also searched google. And you didn’t have to use dogpile for very long before you noticed that the best results always came from… google. And it didn’t take long after that before you gave up using dogpile altogether. Since I started using google at the offices of my first “proper” employer, and they made me redundant in January 1999, I guess I must have lost that particular cherry some time in ’98. Which isn’t long after they got going, it seems…

  4. Google is a thing of beauty, particularly if you venture into its advanced search and use a proper search strategy… Ask Jeeves, though, is a search engine designed by some petty little devil from a minor circle of hell looking for promotion. This librarian does *not* approve. There are better search engines than google for specific needs, but for all around general searchiness, you just can’t beat it.

    I have no idea when I first started using it, though, which is quite sad. I remember relying on the yahoo directory for a while at university (1997-2000) but I don’t know when I saw the light and migrated.

  5. Weird. I know I’m a minority, but I’m not big on Google.

    I’ve found that searching the Internet has become harder since the advent of Google — all those crappy websites created to be full of nothing but links for the express purpose of bumping up one’s “real” site in the ratings.

    I actually liked Yahoo’s categorization. Sometimes I can only remember the specific name of something, and I want the category and I’d use Yahoo to tell me that (e.g. I’d know the name of a particular supermarket and want to find another supermarket, but would forget they were called supermarkets and so couldn’t search for them). Yes, that actually does happen to me.

    I remember using dogpile often, and still sometimes do for a particularly difficult search. It’s funny, but Google was never the search engine that returned the best results for me. I guess I must use quirky search strings.

  6. I have used Google as long as I can remember and that doesn’t say much about my memory, but I wouldn’t use anything else. All the others seem like pale shadows of the real thing. I don’t believe any results until I have Googled. I am a creature of habit and loyal too. I like people who get rich thinking up a good thing and supporting them, I guess.

  7. Does anyone remember using YouTube for the first time?

  8. I’m impressed, SoRB – even if the name “dogpile” makes me snigger.

    That’s rather how I feel, Mr Librarian, though you expressed it much better.

    Mary, perhaps you could rent yourself out to the guys in the Googleplex to help them improve themselves!

    Irene, same here, in many respects.

    Not sure, woodpigeon – fairly recently in my case though I used to use http://video.google.com of course.

    Aphra.

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