Opinion: Google is Dropping the Ball
As readers of this blog may already know, I have been a fan of Google since its search engine burst onto the scene. It was fast, clean, and accurate and was quite a find for a reference librarian. In its early years, it was almost indistinguishable from magic. Later on, I fell for Google Reader, gmail, Google Docs, and I was already a Blogger user when Google took over that operation. I envisioned a day when I would be able to access my information from anywhere I had access to an internet connection, and Google Gears gave me hope that I would be able to access my most important items from my laptop even when I didn't have a connection. I also hoped that all of Google's products would tie together for easy information processing, creation, and publication.
In Google's battles with Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook, though, this vision has disappeared. Google has become a "me too!" company that looks at innovation and tries to recreate it (or buy it) in piecemeal fashion. The drive for a web friendly OS (Chrome) and for an open social network (Open Social and Google Me) does not solve my immediate problems--besides, facebook is king and there's no need to duplicate it. Google Wave was innovative, but Google killed it by not linking it to other products, and not allowing everyone in. Without tools and a built in audience, there was no incentive to use the product, so Google dropped support.
No, what I need is a service that will use search to tap into the web's data and my personal data. I need a service that will allow me to sift through the data provided by Google's services and create an organized reading/research list. I need something that will allow me to take snippets of relevant information, create citations, and allow me to easily create a document for publication, or aa study guide, or a project summary. I also need it to be open to working with other services.
Why can't I send a question through Twitter, generate a series of keywords that will search through my feed reader for relevant blog entries, search the web for relevant pages, search my Delicious bookmarks for appropriate sources, and pull in any Twitter responses. All of this information could be dumped into something like paper.li that would also allow me to clip notes with references and add my own thoughts. I could then publish it to my blog or on the web.
All of this data is available to Google in one way or another, but Google has not opened up all of the APIs that would be necessary for an amateur to piece them together. I have been able to generate something in Yahoo Pipes that will search my Twitter account for questions and generate a list of key words, but that is as far as I have been able to get--I have no access to the data in my Google Reader account. Instead of allowing me to work with my data in new and useful ways, Google is fighting facebook. I have always admired Google's 20% philosophy allowing workers to pursue new ideas, but I think that they have neglected to pursue the more important task of unifying their products.
I would love it if somebody at Google read this and did something about it, but I think that Google has become too big to hear one voice and too shortsighted to focus on the bigger picture. Facebook is not the threat to Google that Google is.