Related link: http://toolbar.google.com/
I used to think of Google as a search engine. You know: you type in some keywords and get some search results back. An astonishingly good search engine, of course. But pretty much in the same category as the other engines like altavista or hotbot. But, I’m gradually discovering, Google is more useful, and more interesting, than any other search engine.
The secret to this new way of thinking about Google is the Google Toolbar (you can download and install the google toolbar from the url above). The toolbar is a quick download, and it’s very very convenient to use, even if you’re just doing ordinary searches (in particular, the yellow marker is a simple, and wonderful, thing).
The Google toolbar makes different types of searches easier.
Here’s an example. Go to a web-site for an interesting technology. For example, go to Kenemea’s web site. Kenamea is an interesting, cutting edge, technology company founded by Bob Pasker (of Weblogic fame).
Now click on the page info menu from the toolbar and then choose backward links. Presto– a nicely categorized list of places on the internet that link to Kenamea. You can find all sorts of interesting stuff this way. For example, I know now about OS Opinion, which I had never heard of before (but which looks suspiciously like CRM Daily). And Ipedo, a small company which apparently makes some sort of XML database.
Even more fun: follow a backward link, then follow another backward link. From Kenemea to Redherring to Ipedo to DeepX, which has some fairly nice XML cheatsheets available for download. And somehow I wound up looking at Robert Cringely’s weekly ‘I like It’ list, which is also pretty interesting (especially if you click then use the toolbar’s up folder button and see the directory with all the old lists).
I’m aware that search engines have had this capability for a while. The big difference is that now I know how to use it. Before the Google toolbar, I would have had to go and look up some obscure syntax on some reference web page every time I wanted to look for “links to the current page.”
Now, I just click on a pulldown menu.
And that, a simple UI change, is all the difference. By lowering the barrier to slightly different types of searches, google is changing the way I think about looking for information on the web.