Google has a problem

Google has wads of cash, and has to spend it on something. So the company has been experimenting with Orkut, a "social software" platform similar to other services like LinkedIn. It has also started offering Google Maps, which now works with more browsers. Unlike Mapquest and some other similar services, Google Maps is fast and produces legible maps. I've always found Mapquest an exercise in frustration; not only are the maps fuzzy and hard to read, the zooming feature is extremely slow.

Google has also rolled out a Local feature that tries to compensate for the otherwise completely useless search for local information. It's nicely done, and seems to be borrowing from Snap and other search engines that actually return inbound link information, and of course, it's tied to Google's map feature. But it seems to aggregate from a rather large area, and many of the inbound links seem to come from link farms, meaning the value of the ranking is suspect. But my guess is that Google has larger fish to fry. By providing customized local searches, Google can continue to vacuum up ad dollars from smaller and smaller companies who know they will get better placement because of the local feature. Will it be worth it? Time will tell.

Another little know Google feature which is potentially a privacy problem is Google's phone number lookup. Type in your phone number on the Google search page, and Google will return your street address. Handy, or great for stalkers and psychopaths who want to find out where you live? Note that you can opt out that.

It will be interesting to see where Google will be in five years. Google is starting to look an awful lot like Microsoft--the market leader with a huge audience, and so much money it can offer virtually any online service quicker and better than competitors. But Microsoft's day has passed, and Google may wane much more quickly.

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