Google Seduces With Utility

24 Nov Google Seduces With Utility

New York Times, By DAVID CARR, November 23, 2008
Not long ago, someone invited me out to the Googleplex, the nickname for Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The fact is, I already live there. And it’s starting to worry me. Having grown up in the vapor trail of the ’60s, I learned to be wary of large, centralized organizations, and yet Google, a huge enterprise with a market value of $80 billion, is my ever-present wingman. My increasingly exclusive relationship with Google started with search, of course, when I switched from Yahoo years ago. Eventually I accepted an invitation to Gmail, with its oodles of storage and very granular search function, and it has oddly become my default database — deep, rich and personal. I added the company’s calendar because I needed one I could share both inside and outside of work. And then the calendar and e-mail started talking to each other — and to me, I guess — by asking whether I wanted to schedule an event that was mentioned in an incoming message. Although it sort of creeped me out, the answer was yes, which it almost always is when it comes to Google. Google has begun to crowd out other brands. I was a loyal MapQuest guy, but as Google Maps added features, it seemed cumbersome to go elsewhere. And even something as specific as HopStop, an elegant tool I used to navigate the New York subways, is left behind as Google gets smarter about the difference between the N-R line and the A-C-E. I’m getting ready for the Oscar season, so I needed to set up some relevant R.S.S. feeds, and Google Reader was handy, so there’s that. It’s easy to update my status under my chat icon while I’m on Gmail, so I tend to update that mood ring with more frequency than my Facebook status. When Google acquired YouTube, it gained another chunk of my mindshare. And then a few weeks ago, I noticed there was a steady march of new little camera icons on the Gmail chat function. I looked around and saw a colored button at the top of my e-mail page that was a link to Google voice and video chat. I clicked it, hit the download button, and within 20 seconds, I was ready to go.  It’s not the first video chatting that I have done, only the first that actually worked well. Within minutes of downloading, I was talking live on my PC to my 11-year-old daughter on a Mac, a process that in the past would have involved everything short of splitting the atom. Then I told my twins away at college and yes, my mother-in-law about it, and before long we were all chatting away in an easy, friction-free future.