Google: ripping the heart and soul out of the internet?

Google is great. Probably not the opening sentence you’d expect given the post’s title. Let me explain.

If I had a multitude of email accounts, I could get all of my mails consolidated into a single place, all with a lovely Google-esque front-end. My calendar is similarly lovely in its Google look-and-feel. And with Google Reader, all textual content I could ever wish to read is also presented in a comforting, consistent interface, all of the titles appearing underlined in blue (to indicate their clickability), content in Arial black, mimicking the interface of its other offerings, Search included. Hell, even Google’s adverts are comfortingly consistent.

But has this consistency and predictability ripped the very heart and soul out of the internet? I no longer visit my friends’ blogs; nor more business-related ones. Instead I access them via Google Reader. When I shared the concept of this post with a colleague today, he relayed a recent story of someone asking him whether he liked his blog’s re-design. “What re-design?” came my friend’s reply, as like me he’d been accessing all of the guy’s content via Google Reader. Before and after the re-design, all content had been available in 12-point Arial black, with bold, blue, underlined headings and blue, underlined links.

Information has been commoditised, in a similar way to how Apple has commoditised music with iTunes. We as users have gained hugely through consistency, immediacy and ease of access. But we have lost out too. No longer are we delighted by the beauty of someone’s site design, nor do we appreciate the painstaking effort that has gone into the stylesheets that underpin it. Instead, we scroll through our content through a consistent front-end, hungry for the content itself over and above the beauty of its presentation. With iTunes, content of the musical variety is accessible literally at the click of a button, without the opportunity to experience the joys of the physical products that accompany the music, the record sleeve, the vinyl itself, or the CD artwork and the booklet’s contents.

Maybe it’s time to take a step back, to appreciate the frame within which the content sits, or to appreciate the artwork accompanying a music purchase.


One Response to “Google: ripping the heart and soul out of the internet?”

  1. ukok on June 30th, 2008 15:38

    And the other worry is that the channel is now so easy and consolidated that it gets critical mass. The threat then occurs around editorial control. Allowing a middleman to control the flow of information is bad place to be (just look at the media today). At least with the internet there is the protection in some sense that you can easily revert back to direct access. For now.

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