Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Google, yet again

New Googley goodness x2:

Google Toolbar 3 beta, which adds a spell checker for web forms. Very very useful.

It's also sparked some controversy with its AutoLink button, which when you press it adds links to any unlinked addresses, ISBNs, etc. Some authors feel this oversteps the intent of the original web page (see for example Robert Scoble, Rogers Cadenhead; BBC news story).

A lot of the discussion on this has lost perspective in favour of blasting "evil Google" for "invisibly rewriting web pages". Yes, Google Toolbar does rewrite pages; but only if and when the user presses the "AutoLink" button. And the links it adds are identified as Google links by a cursor change and a tooltip.

The other side of the argument — and the side I favour — is put by Roger Benningfield: "my house, my rules". In my house, I can modify your content for my own use however I want; Google Toolbar's rewriting is simply a tool I can wield to do so, much as I can wield a highlighter pen to the SF Chronicle.

[Update: Dave Winer fumes at Google Toolbar; Yoz Grahame skewers him.]

Google Movies.

The search feels like a subset of the existing Google News functionality, limited to movie reviews; as such, it's only as good as the reviews feeding it. I suspect the search examples they give are carefully chosen. "Tom Hanks talking to a basketball" does indeed bring up Cast Away (and Mick LaSalle's glorious Chronicle review: "Hanks spends 45 minutes talking to a volleyball. It's a spirited relationship."). But "Woody Allen wakes up in the future" gets nowhere near Sleeper. And who would consider Bram Stoker's Dracula "best horror"?

The most useful thing is the movie listings search: movie: 94596 gets listings for all the theaters near us. Much easier than trawling around each theater's website; and less annoying than Fandango's listings.

Google is aggressively going after local information eyeballs, and it's doing it well; notice how the theater listings tie into Google Maps? I think Google is going to eat Yellow Pages' lunch within 5 years; a point will come at which it's worth more to a small business to have a website for Google to index than to pay for a Yellow Pages listing.

But how soon I forget: almost all of the new stuff is US-only. Give it time, it'll come: it's impressive how many languages, and local domains, Google is localised for.