Monday, October 15, 2007

Life before Google

While driving to work the other day I caught myself thinking: what did I use for online search before google came out?

There was yahoo search, there was definitely altavista, I loved the way it sounded... But did I use them on a regular basis? How often? I can't recall.

I could remember my “google day” very clearly: I was looking to buy a car and one of my friends stopped by my office right before lunch and suggested to run some google searches to see what comes up. I do not remember being particularly impressed by the search results, but the simplicity of the front page was what caught my initial attention.

Then, almost the next day, someone suggested searching for “dumb m@$%ker” online and the bio of one of presidential candidates showed up. Jokes like that were much easier to do back then.

And I was happily googling ever since. However, I honestly cannot answer this question: what did I search with before?

The more I think about it, the more I am starting to realize that I didn't. I did not search back then. Well, not that much. Wasn't part of my daily ritual, you know. “Internet without Search” sounds almost idiotic in 2007 but in 1999 it was OK.

It just occurred to me that I didn't do a lot of things back then. And only now I realize how different the Internet has become. It appears that google all by itself dramatically changed the way I use the Internet. I am talking about my personal experience here and not trying to generalize, but I strongly suspect it is not just me.

What has changed since Google?

I stopped bookmarking things. Why? I can always search for the damn thing and find it again. In fact, it will take fewer keystrokes to get there and in case something better comes along I'll get on it right away.
I stopped using specialized sites like If I want to read up on some vehicle, or anything, for that matter - google will show me the specs and reviews much, much faster than stupid edmunds with their multi-level menu drill down, killed by a na├»ve question “what is your ZIP code?” at the end. Are you out of your minds, edmunds?
Actually, edmunds was not a particularly good example. I stopped using sites way better than edmunds, like, yahoo movies, financial sites, etrade, fool, even calculator, dictionary and Microsoft Excel for many cases! Everything could be done by a simple text box and “Search” button. Faster.
In fact I stopped using the address bar all together, just like many others – Firefox has an alternative “address bar” that is powered by Google and is proper: no need to add “.com” or retarded “www” to everything and accidental misspellings will get fixed. Isn't that sweet? Just go Ctrl+K instead of Alt+D.
I do not have POP3 email client software anywhere. Gmail, even though it does not have folders and uses “collapsed” conversations without an option for normal people, was by leaps and bounds the best web-based email program. My primary address is 10 years old and does not end with '@gmail' but I tunnel all my messages through gMail anyway simply because they eliminate spam. 99.999% of it, like nobody else.
I stopped using my personal site. I still have an account and paying for hosting for nostalgic reasons, but I don't need it. I used to store family photos and useful files up there on FTP, just in case I'll need them when away from home. With ad-free Picasa and the giant gmail mailbox I don't need those either.
Finally, all sorts of Yellow Pages became history: online, offline – does not matter. Google finds that stuff too. Phone companies finally (!) realized that as well and stopped bombarding me with those useless yellow bricks.

Who can compete with Google? Compete for my “Internet time”? Only Wikipedia comes to mind, in fact I often throw in a short and effective 'wiki' at the end of my searches just to make sure I am getting wikipedia's perspective as my first search result.

And I never paid a dime for all this informational nirvana... Incredible.

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