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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Kleenex of the Internet

Chris Campbell

Google logoJust about the only place that you hear people say "tissue" is in a film. The word "Kleenex®" which is Kimberly-Clark's facial tissue product has become the generic term...it's used so often that you don't really think about it. The same thing has happened with Web searching and Google, which is 5 today.

Back in the early days of the Web you didn't really need a search engine as it was possible to look through a lot of pages. The other thing was that most Web pages or "home pages" as many called them then was that a lot of them consisted of links to the other sites out there. It was a nice time that is easy to mythologize...you could know most of the people on the WWW.

Yahoo! started the popularity contest with their guide and search. Then I remember using AltaVista to find stuff. But then Google came along and it worked very well. What was striking about Google is the simplicity of the front page. One text-entry box and two buttons. When you got the results (if you weren't "Feeling Lucky") the multicolored logo added a repeated letter "o" to spread out the page results.

It still works well and now it's a verb... you "Google" something. The coolness of the verb was driven home to me driven home by William Gibson in his novel Pattern Recognition where it was used to refer to what you would find when you Google two of the characters.

Life before Google will be a story we tell our kids, just like explaining a rotary phone, old "pocket calculator", or floppy disks. But Google, as you proabably know isn't infallible as it indexes what's out there and doesn't always distinguish what's actually true, but that's what we're supposed to do for ourselves. William Gibson's bio mentions that if you Google him you'll find out that he writes it all on a manual typewriter, which he hasn't done for a while.

Google now is branching out with news, cool stuff from Google Labs, and my favourite, Google Zeitgeist which gives you a glimpse into what people are looking for. Happy Birthday Google!