Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yellow Pages Beat Google

I've been in Las Vegas for the past few days for the Kodak Graphic Users Association conference, where we unveiled a new product called ColorFlow (no, not the one Google shows, a new one).

Having a conference during Passover poses a big challenge.  Not only did I have to forgo the myriad offers of beer, but the difficulty of getting Kosher for Passover meals was greater than I expected. While the Wynn hotel did make an effort to accommodate my request, they took about 3 days to figure out that Kosher for Passover is not the same as pulling a Kosher frozen meal out of the freezer.

Getting a bit tired of eating fruit, I figured I would use my trusted friend Google and Google maps to find a nearby Kosher restaurant and see if they are open for Passover.  But Google maps is quite a letdown, partially for its confusing user model, but more importantly because of a flaw in the web itself - the web gets stale.

First, about google maps. My use-case is pretty routine. I search for the place I am currently at, and look for stuff around there (here) and directions to it. Google maps though has no concept of "I AM HERE", which they need to know is NOT the same as "Home". Hey Google, I know you have orchards of keen, smart, A.D.D. programmers who are looking for cool things to do. How 'bout you take them out of their cubicles, and take them to the mall, and skip the Apple store and Video game shop and show them the map of the mall. See the "YOU ARE HERE" red dot? Google maps needs that.  'Nuff said.

The bigger issue for me was that while google shows 3 restaurants within the radius of the Wynn, and happily will provide the directions to them, all three of them are out of business and no longer exist.

Yet, their web sites continue to expound on the excellent Kosher cuisine, convenient hours, and mouth-watering customer testimonials.

So I turned to the Yellow Pages (tm). Yes, the big book in the drawer of the desk that low-and-behold, was exactly not there.  The good thing about the Yellow Pages compared to the web is that it times out. You have to renew your ad every year, and it is expensive enough to be worth your while to keep it correct.

Domain names are very inexpensive, if you can find one at all that isn't 75 characters long. When you buy a domain name, like I did, you often get a few Mbytes of web space, and if you are not web savvy, you get your sister's nerdy son to put up a web page for you. Like most things, domain names are cheaper the longer you commit, so it's typical to buy a domain for 3-10 years.

There are likely hundreds of thousands of web pages that are obsolete, or stale, or forgotten. But Google will serve them up according to its patented backlink techique with complete disregard for whether the page is real, updated, or dead.

Google folks, let's get back to your core competency - the world's best search engine. Stop for a minute figuring how to add more ads to every page, and think about search. I'll give you a couple ideas;

1. Time
2. Space

These things have been around for a while, like about 13 billion years, plus or minus.

Time: Let me rank the Google hits by how recently the page has been modified.
Space; Show me sort Google results by proximity in earth-space. Google maps could help.

At least, now am home in the warmth of my family, and can get matzah when I need and hugs aplenty.