I’m about a week late in delivering this report, and for that I apologize. The truth is that, after spending a week without Google I had about 5,000 news items in Google Reader to comb through, a backlog of YouTube videos to watch, and some Gmail messages to respond to. Oh Google, how I’ve missed you.
In all seriousness, I did manage to keep to my self-imposed Google fast fairly diligently. I removed Gtalk from my instant messaging application, changed my web browser’s default search engine to Bing, and even blacklisted Google’s IP address from my iPhone so that even Google maps embedded in applications wouldn’t show up. Finally, I exported all of my RSS feeds from Google Reader and instead used the stand-alone NewsFire application to keep up with my news.
What happened next was quite surprising.
I fully expected to miss the vast array of services that Google offers; There probably isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t pop open the Google-powered Maps application on my phone to check out an address or get quick directions, or that I don’t look up a picture on Google’s image search engine. I figured these would be the niche-areas that I would miss and not know how to replace. And that was definitely the case, but it was still surprisingly easy to replace those. When meeting up with friends for breakfast one morning, I actually printed out directions from Mapquest for the first time in years. It felt like I was living in the 20th century again.
But what really surprised me was finding that the biggest area where I struggled to not return to Google was in the area of search. I’ve kind of always been under the assumption that “search is search,” and that Google’s search algorithm, in practice, wasn’t really much better than what anyone else had. I was downright wrong in that assessment. For the duration of my experiment, I found myself constantly frustrated at Bing’s search results and how it constistantly returned sites that had nothing to do with what I was looking for. After a week without Google, I have come to really appreciate how they’re able to point me toward what I’m looking for, and almost always in the first page of results.
The one area in which I didn’t miss Google at all was my Google Wave account. For all the hype around this service, nobody’s really using it. In the two weeks since I wrote my first entry about Google, I hadn’t received a single “Wave” and I’ve been unable to give out even one of the 17 invitations I have at my disposal. So, if you’ve been looking for an invitation, please, let me know. I’ve got plenty of them.
Google, let’s never fight again… How did I ever live without you?