Uggghh. Such debate reminds me of when Clusty was gaining steam and Yahoo! still had market share, just a few short years ago (3, to be exact). I don't really care to remember that time since it involved (for me) an anti-Google blogger who's site was deleted so suddenly that people speculated he'd been murdered, another anti-Google site that was just an imitation of it that infected my computer with a trojan because the guy who owned it had my IP and had my word on it that I hated his rip-off, and watching Google's stock price shoot through the roof for the first time ever as the hope burning bright at Clusty, Yahoo!, and every other search engine began to dim.
That summer I deleted every blog I owned, watched Digg topple itself over allegations of gaming, winced as Robert Scoble became "hot", watched the dead blogger resurface a short time later quite undead but quite off-putting about the whole thing, and came to the same two conclusions I came to when I began blogging six months earlier: 1) that any blog criticizing AOL was worth having even if I didn't want it and couldn't make it "click" with anyone, and 2) that even though Google had nothing to do with the temporarily missing blogger, I thought they did and so did quite a few others. And you don't just "get over" things like the thought of someone being physically harmed over criticizing a web company. Any company powerful enough to make you think they could make someone else dead is a company that leaves you with just two choices: fear it or fight it like hell. The choice was clear, since I never liked Google, anyway.
Which brings me to a topic that has caused people who think they know me no end of confusion: if I hate Google so much, why do I use it? It's a perfectly legitimate question. My own mother thinks I'm full of it so I need to explain myself (maybe someday mom will read my stupid blog....who knows). No one uses Google for the first time and hates it, and almost everyone uses Google as their first search engine. I was no different. When I couldn't cancel AOL that got me so mad it started me looking for "blogs", "anti-company sites", and all this other bizarre (to me) online shit that I had only heard about on the evening news and read something about in newspapers. Google was great. Google pointed me to blogs that perfectly crawled with disdain for AOL, full of comments from AOL users who wished worse on them then than I do now. Google pushed my own comments on those blogs to the top of results for searches on canceling AOL. Google was my friend. Or so I thought.
Then I started my own blog about AOL at LiveJournal. Two months later I put a stat counter on it (one of those really obvious ones that just counts hits) and noticed it wasn't getting any. Then I'd see one visit. Two. A week would go by. Oh, there's someone else...oh wait, that's just me. Finally I used Google to see if it was in Google and of course it wasn't. At the time (late 2005) you had to submit content that they didn't automatically index. You used an URL submission form and there was no promise your page would be crawled and of course mine wasn't. Not that week. Nor the next. Not the next month. Nor the month after. I had resubmitted it several times by then although the scuttlebutt was that you shouldn't resubmit. I had written to Google about it, without response. I wrote about it on the very blog they wouldn't index (it was at this web address at the time). At the time the journal was just one long rant about AOL and a link list for calling/canceling/removing it - what was in it not to index?
Three months went by. It was early February. After being starved for air and attention for three months my blog finally saw the light of day in Google results - but buried way down in the index (that was back in the day when I had the patience to look through 20 pages of results to find the one damn thing I wanted or happened to own). Then a miracle - actually, several - occurred: I not only got mad and ranted again about AOL but I submitted the rant and it resounded with nearly everyone, to the tune of one massively Dugg post, and finally my tiny little stupid blog was in Google's index but good. No matter: by then I hated Google for suppressing me - my words, my truth - for all those months. I know the extent Google indexes the blog to these days is somewhere between surreal and ridiculous, but it doesn't change my overall opinion of them, unfortunately.
So fine, you're still grudgin' against Google...why do you use it, then?
Because in no other aspect did Google ever stop being my friend. I started using the web already harboring a dislike for Yahoo! because it was the default search engine at my job and I never could find what I wanted or needed - or as much of what I wanted or needed - in it. I always thought something was missing, that it could be better in a thousand ways. That was why when I was mad about AOL not canceling me I looked in Google - why waste time in it's competitor's engine when I already thought it sucked?
The shot that getting Dugg gave my little blog did not last long; at the time I had no PR outside of that one blip in my otherwise depressing stats, and Google knew it and sunk my blog again before too long. It was the end of April and I was struggling with what to do about it, so what did I do? I looked in Google, of course, and up came the soon-to-be-rumored-dead blogger for the most profane anti-Google search terms I could type in. It was funny. It was ironic. It was kind of unreal. I'd never heard of the blog before but I began reading it and soon I was hooked. The stuff the writer was angry about had nothing to do with why I was reading it, but soon I was mad right along with him; I was learning why people could be immensely angry with Google; it never occurred to me there could be so many other reasons besides my own.
Then he went missing a month or two later and guess who wound up looking in Google to find him? It was bizarre, but I would put in search terms and just trawl through tons of results, page after page of the most unbelievable stuff. After doing this for a few hours one night I actually had enough rumors and scuttlebutt to start my own blog so I did, and that rose to to the top of many of those search terms in Google pretty much instantly, which got me readers - a segment of the population I was used to living without by then. But Google offed this guy, right? Didn't they? See how complicated this got - and how fast it got that way?
Pretty much just to stop everyone's whining and moaning and false rumors and bullshit (I think - I'll never really know) the dead blogger rose again a few weeks later and I deleted my blog about him. But Google didn't. There it was, alive and well in the cache. This began another mini-war between me and Google - I was so sorry I had done a blog on the guy (since we had a sort-of-falling-out over something to do with it) that like God with us people, I just wanted to flood it out never to be seen or "heard" again. Finally I contacted Wordpress (the blog host for that one) and an admin who's actually been helpful to me to this very day worked out a plan where the blog would be deleted permanently and Google's crawl would naturally be blocked. That took the entire summer to come to pass.
Since then the dead/undead blogger has come and gone many times over - it's like watching Jesus rise not once but continually, just when you thought he was gone for good - but my use of Google search hasn't risen or fallen much at all. The only difference is my disdain for it has grown out of proportion to my willingness to use it as I have spent years since then learning the intricacies of it and seeing for myself how god-awful harmful, pointless, and inadequate the results often are. The way I feel about it now is the way I felt about Yahoo! in 2004: I think it sucks. I think it could be so much better. Then along came Bing.
Bing is the most likely Google killer I've ever seen. If Google wasn't so entrenched and didn't have market share so completely locked up surely it would be the most popular search engine even less than two months out of the gate. I've been running a lot of completely random search terms using bing-vs-google.com just to see what's what; out of every ten searches, Google is still better on maybe four of them, Bing is trouncing them on three, while the other three are a toss-up: either company could come out the winner because while the results are not exactly the same, they're "just as good" in slightly (sometimes surprisingly) different ways. Plus Bing has related searches right there on the top left, and it seems to eschew what I call "garbage results" (my blanket term for anything that seems irrelevant, harmful, or spammy).
I have WOT (Web of Trust) installed so I can see what's safe and what's not in both engines and I have ads blocked so this isn't an ad competition...all I'm trying to do is gauge which is the better search engine by judging the organic results, and right now Google is barely winning by their teeth. And Bing is still new. I can't see this not becoming a war that I hope Bing will win. To do what it took Google ten years to do in less than two months is not just an accomplishment; it's almost a miracle. It shows they are working their asses off at Microsoft to succeed, and I'm a person who both recognizes and believes in rewarding hard work when I see it. Google can become continually more fragmented by dipping their toes into too many pools and hell, I say let them. They won't know what hit them soon enough.
In the meantime I had a spirited one-sided argument with Henry Blodget about Bing vs. Google tonight (quite a few of us did, actually...it seems I'm hardly alone in my opinion of Bing) and in the course of reading and replying to the comments it hit me why don't I just change my search default in Firefox already? So I did. It's Bing now...with Google nestled right beneath it on the search engine list just-in-case while I make the adjustment. So you can now safely stop telling me I must like Google if I keep on using it..because now I can safely say I don't.