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总有一种声音,让人想起从前,总有一份记忆,徘徊在心的边缘,总有一种守侯,即使脚步渐行渐远。 流水涓涓,仿佛从不曾离去,在我们生命的故事中,细数着流年……

THE WORLD IS FLAT (Two-9)  

2011-05-10 13:49:26|  分类: 【在线阅读】 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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       Flattener #9 In-forming

Google, Yahoo!, MSN Web Search

My friend and I met a guy at a restaurant. My friend was very taken with him, but I was suspiciously curious about this guy. After a few minutes of Googling, I found out that he was arrested for felony assault. Although I was once again disappointed with the quality of the dating pool, I was at least able to warn my friend about this guy's violent past. -Testimonial from Google user I am completely delighted with the translation service. My partner arranged for two laborers to come and help with some demolition. There was a miscommunication: she asked for the workers to come at 11 am, and the labor service sent them at 8:30. They speak only Spanish, and I speak English and some French. Our Hispanic neighbors were out. With the help of the translation service, I was able to communicate with the workers, to apologize for the miscommunication, establish the expectation, and ask them to come back at 11. Thank you for providing this connection . . . Thank you Google. Testimonial from Google user I just want to thank Google for teaching me how to find love. While looking for my estranged brother, I stumbled across a Mexican Web site for male strippers-and I was shocked. My brother was working as a male prostitute! The first chance I got, I flew to the city he was working in to liberate him from this degrading profession. I went to the club he was working at and found my brother. But more than that, I met one of his co-workers . . . We got married last weekend [in Mexico], and I am positive without Google's services, I never would have found my brother, my husband, or the surprisingly lucrative nature of the male stripping industry in Mexico!! Thank you, Google!

-Testimonial from Google user Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, has a certain Epcot Center feel to it-so many fun space age toys to play with, so little time. In one corner is a spinning globe that emits light beams based on the volume of people searching on Google. As you would expect, most of the shafts of light are shooting up from North America, Europe, Korea, Japan, and coastal China. The Middle East and Africa remain pretty dark. In another corner is a screen that shows a sample of what things people are searching for at that moment, all over the world. When I was there in 2001, I asked my hosts what had been the most frequent searches lately. One, of course, was "sex," a perennial favorite of Googlers.

Another was "God." Lots of people searching for Him or Her. A third was "jobs"-you can't find enough of those. And the fourth most searched item around the time of my visit? I didn't know whether to laugh or cry: "professional wrestling." The weirdest one, though, is the Google recipe book, where people just open their refrigerators, see what ingredients are inside, type three of them into Google, and see what recipes come up!

Fortunately, no single word or subject accounts for more than 1 or 2 percent of all Google searches at any given time, so no one should get too worried about the fate of humanity on the basis of Google's top search items on any particular day. Indeed, it is the remarkable diversity of searches going on via Google, in so many different tongues, that makes the Google search engine (and search engines in general) such huge flatteners. Never before in the history of the planet have so many people-on their own-had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people.

Said Google cofounder Russian-born Sergey Brin, "If someone has broadband, dial-up, or access to an Internet cafe, whether a kid in Cambodia, the university professor, or me who runs this search engine, all have the same basic access to overall research information that anyone has. It is a total equalizer. This is very different than how I grew up. My best access was some library, and it did not have all that much stuff, and you either had to hope for a miracle or search for something very simple or something very recent." When Google came along, he added, suddenly that kid had "universal access" to the information in libraries all over the world.

That is certainly Google's goal-to make easily available all the world's knowledge in every language. And Google hopes that in time, with a PalmPilot or a cell phone, everyone everywhere will be able to carry around access to all the world's knowledge in their pockets. "Everything" and "everyone" are key words that you hear around Google all the time. Indeed, the official Google history carried on its home page notes that the name "Google" is a play on the word "'googol,' which is the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. Google's use of the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense, seemingly infinite amount of information available on the Web," just for you. What Google's success reflects is how much people are interested in having just that-all the world's knowledge at their fingertips. There is no bigger flattener than the idea of making all the world's knowledge, or even just a big chunk of it, available to anyone and everyone, anytime, anywhere.

"We do discriminate only to the degree that if you can't use a computer or don't have access to one, you can't use Google, but other than that, if you can type, you can use Google," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. And surely if the flattening of the world means anything, he added, it means that "there is no discrimination in accessing knowledge. Google is now searchable in one hundred languages, and every time we find another we increase it. Let's imagine a group with a Google iPod one day and you can tell it to search by voice-that would take care of people who can't use a computer-and then [Google access] just becomes about the rate at which we can get cheap devices into people's hands."

How does searching fit into the concept of collaboration? I call it "in-forming."

In-forming is the individual's personal analog to open-sourcing, outsourcing, insourcing, supply-chaining, and offshoring. Informing is the ability to build and deploy your own personal supply chain-a supply chain of information, knowledge, and entertainment. In-forming is about self-collaboration-becoming your own self-directed and self-empowered researcher, editor, and selector of entertainment, without having to go to the library or the movie theater or through network television. In-forming is searching for knowledge. It is about seeking like-minded people and communities. Google's phenomenal global popularity, which has spurred Yahoo! and Microsoft (through its new MSN Search) also to make power searching and in-forming prominent features of their Web sites, shows how hungry people are for this form of collaboration. Google is now processing roughly one billion searches per day, up from million just three years ago.

The easier and more accurate searching becomes, added Larry Page, Google's other cofounder, the more global Google's user base becomes, and the more powerful a flattener it becomes. Every day more and more people are able to in-form themselves in their own language. Today, said Page, "only a third of our searches are U.S.-based, and less than half are in English."

Moreover, he added, "as people are searching for more obscure things, people are publishing more obscure things," which drives the flattening effect of in-forming even more. All the major search engines have also recently added the capability for users to search not only the Web for information but also their own computer's hard drive for words or data or e-mail they know is in there somewhere but have forgotten where. When you can search your own memory more efficiently, that is really in-forming.

In late2004, Google announced plans toscan the entire contents of both the University of Michigan and Stanford University Libraries, making tens of thousands of books available and searchable online.

In the earliest days of search engines, people were amazed and delighted to stumble across the information they sought; eureka moments were unexpected surprises, said Yahool's cofounder Jerry Yang. "Today their attitudes are much more presumptive. They presume that the information they're looking for is certainly available and that it's just a matter of technologists making it easier to get to, and in fewer keystrokes," he said. "The democratization of information is having a profound impact on society.

Today's consumers are much more efficient-they can find information, products, services, faster [through search engines] than through traditional means. They are better informed about issues related to work, health, leisure, etc. Small towns are no longer disadvantaged relative to those with better access to information. And people have the ability to bebetter connected to things that interest them, toquickly and easily become experts in given subjects and to connect with others who share their interests."

Google's founders understood that by the late 1990s hundreds of thousands of Web pages were being added to the Internet each day, and that existing search engines, which tended to search for keywords, could not keep pace. Brin and Page, who met as Stanford University graduate students in computer science in 1995, developed a mathematical formula that ranked a Web page by how many other Web pages were linked to it, on the assumption that the more people linked to a certain page, the more important the page.

The key breakthrough that enabled Google to become first among search engines was its ability to combine its PageRank technology with an analysis of page content, which determines which pages are most relevant to the specific search being conducted. Even though Google entered the market after other major search players, its answers were seen by people as more accurate and relevant to what they were looking for. The fact that one search engine was just a little better than the others led a tidal wave of people to switch to it. (Google now employs scores of mathematicians working on its search algorithms, in an effort to always keep them one step more relevant than the competition.)

For some reason, said Brin, "people underestimated the importance of finding information, as opposed to other things you would do online. If you are searching for something like a health issue, you really want to know; in some cases it is a life-and-death matter. We have people who search Google for heart-attack symptoms and then call nine-one-one." But sometimes you really want to in-form yourself about something much simpler.

When I was in Beijing in June 2004, I was riding the elevator down one morning with my wife, Ann, and sixteen-year-old daughter, Natalie, who was carrying a fistful of postcards written to her friends. Ann said to her, "Did you bring their addresses along?" Natalie looked at her as if she were positively nineteenth-century. "No," she said, with that you-are-so-out-of-it-Mom tone of voice. "I just Googled their phone numbers, and their home addresses came up."

Address book? You dummy, Mom. All that Natalie was doing was in-forming, using Google in a way that I had no idea was even possible. Meanwhile, though, she also had her iPod with her, which empowered her to in-form herself in another way- with entertainment instead of knowledge. She had become her own music editor and downloaded all her favorite songs into her iPod and was carrying them all over China. Think about it: For decades the broadcast industry was built around the idea that you shoot out ads on network television or radio and hope that someone is watching or listening. But thanks to the flattening technologies in entertainment, that world is quickly fading away. Now with TiVo you can become your own TV editor. TiVo allows viewers to digitally record their favorite programs and skip the ads, except those they want to see. You watch what you want when you want. You don't have to make an appointment with a TV channel at the time and place someone else sets and watch the commercials foisted on you. With TiVo you can watch only your own shows and the commercials you want for only those products in which you might be interested.

But just as Google can track what you are searching for, so too can TiVo, which knows which shows and which ads you are freezing, storing, and rewinding on your own TV.

So here's a news quiz: Guess what was the most rewound moment in TV history? Answer: Janet's Jackson breast exposure, or, as it was euphemistically called, her "wardrobe malfunction," at the 2004 Super Bowl. Just ask TiVo. In a press release it issued on February 2,2004, TiVo said, "Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson stole the show during Sunday's Super Bowl, attracting almost twice as many viewers as the most thrilling moments on the field, according to an annual measurement of second-by-second viewership in TiVo households. The Jackson-Timberlake moment drew the biggest spike in audience reaction TiVo has ever measured. TiVo said viewership spiked up to 180 percent as hundreds of thousands of households used TiVo's unique capabilities to pause and replay live television to view the incident again and again."

So if everyone can increasingly watch what he wants however many times he wants when he wants, the whole notion of broadcast TV-which is that we throw shows out there one time, along with their commercials, and then try to survey who is watching-will increasingly make less and less sense. The companies you want to bet on are those that, like Google or Yahoo! or TiVo, learn to collaborate with their users and offer them shows and advertisements tailored just for them. I can imagine a day soon when advertisers won't pay for anything other than that.

Companies like Google, Yahoo!, Amazon.com, and TiVo have learned to thrive not by pushing products and services on their customers as much as by building collaborative systems that enable customers to pull on their own, and then responding with lightning quickness to what they pull. It is so much more efficient.

"Search is so highly personal that searching is empowering for humans like nothing else," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "It is the antithesis of being told or taught. It is about self-empowerment; it is empowering individuals to do what they think best with the information they want. It is very different from anything else that preceded it. Radio was one-to-many. TV was one-to-many. The telephone was one-to-one. Search is the ultimate expression of the power of the individual, using a computer, looking at the world, and finding exactly what they want- and everyone is different when it comes to that."

Of course what made Google not just a search engine but a hugely profitable business was its founders' realization that they could build a targeted advertising model that would show you ads that are relevant to you when you searched for a specific topic and then could charge advertisers for the number of times Google users clicked on their ads. Whereas CBS broadcasts a movie and has a less exact idea who is watching it or the advertisements, Google knows exactly what you are interested in- after all, you are searching for it-and can link you up with advertisers directly or indirectly connected to your searches. In late 2004, Google began a service whereby if you are walking around Bethesda, Maryland, and are in the mood for sushi, you just send Google an SMS message on your cell phone that says "Sushi 20817"-the Bethesda zip code-and it will send you back a text message of choices. Lord only knows where this will go.

In-forming, though, also involves searching for friends, allies, and collaborators.

It is empowering the formation of global communities, across all international and cultural boundaries, which is another critically important flattening function. People can now search out fellow collaborators on any subject, project, or theme-particularly through portals like Yahoo! Groups. Yahoo! has about 300 million users and 4 million active groups. Those groups have 13 million unique individuals accessing them each month from all over the world.

"The Internet is growing in the self-services area, and Yahoo! Groups exemplifies this trend," said Jerry Yang. "It provides a forum, a platform, a set of tools for people to have private, semiprivate, or public gatherings on the Internet regardless of geography or time. It enables consumers to gather around topics that are meaningful to them in ways that are either impractical or impossible offline. Groups can serve as support groups for complete strangers who are galvanized by a common issue (coping with rare diseases, first-time parents, spouses of active-duty personnel) or who seek others who share similar interests (hobbies as esoteric as dogsled-ding, blackjack, and indoor tanning have large memberships). Existing communities can migrate online and flourish in an interactive environment (local kids' soccer league, church youth group, alumni organizations), providing a virtual home for groups interested in sharing, organizing, and communicating information valuable to cultivating vibrant communities. Some groups exist only online and could never be as successful offline, while others mirror strong real-world communities. Groups can be created instantaneously and dissolved; topics can change or stay constant. This trend will only grow as consumers increasingly become publishers, and they can seek the affinity and community they choose-when, where, and how they choose it."

There is another side to in-forming that people are going to have to get used to, and that is other people's ability to in-form themselves about you from a very early age. Search engines flatten the world by eliminating all the valleys and peaks, all the walls and rocks, that people used to hide inside of, atop, behind, or under in order to mask their reputations or parts of their past. In a flat world, you can't run, you can't hide, and smaller and smaller rocks are turned over. Live your life honestly, because whatever you do, whatever mistakes you make, will be searchable one day. The flatter the world becomes, the more ordinary people become transparent-and available. Before my daughter Orly went off to college in the fall of 2003, she was telling me about some of her roommates. When I asked her how she knew some of the things she knew- had she spoken to them or received an e-mail from them?-she told me she had done neither. She just Googled them. She came up with stuff from high school newspapers, local papers, etc., and fortunately no police records.

These are high school kids! "In this world you better do it right-you don't get to pick up and move to the next

town so easily," said Dov Seidman, who runs a legal compliance and business ethics consulting firm, LRN. "In the world of Google, your reputation will follow you and precede you on your next stop. It gets there before you do ... Reputation starts early now. You don't get to spend four years getting drunk. Your reputation is getting set much earlier in life.

'Always tell the truth,' said Mark Twain, 'that way you won't have to remember what you said.'" So many more people can be private investigators into your life, and they can also share their findings with so many more people.

In the age of the superpower search, everyone is a celebrity. Google levels information-it has no class boundaries or education boundaries. "If I can operate Google, I can find anything," said Alan Cohen, vice president of Airespace, which sells wireless technology. "Google is like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere, and God sees everything. Any questions in the world, you ask Google."

Some months after Cohen made that observation to me, I came across the following brief business story on CNET News.com: "Search giant Google said on Wednesday that it has acquired Keyhole, a company specializing in Web-based software that allows people to view satellite images from around the globe . . . The software gives users the ability to zoom in from space level; in some cases, it can zoom in all the way to a street-level view. The company does not have high-resolution imagery for the entire globe, but its Website offers a list of cities that are available for more detailed viewing. The company has focused most on covering large metropolitan areas in the United States and is working to expand its coverage."

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