Due to the recent events involving Google’S China business (and I doubt that they will stop doing business there), I would like to dedicate an article to Google. The D-Day for one minor part within the Internet revolution was the 7th September 1998.
On this day, the first test version of Google’s search engine was launched with the purpose to facilitate browsing through Internet. Of course there were other things involved, even at that time but the main purpose was to serve people and facilitate the use of graphical user interfaces in order to crawl through the gzillions of data on the Internet.
The devoted reader would ask, what was the time b.g. like? As someone who explored the Internet b.g. and before search engines at all I can say there was not data overkill as it is today. We need search engines because we are unable to find what we are looking for without using search engines. In the early times you just typed in the URL address (not talking about the time before browsers existed). If you wanted to reach the site of microsoft, you just tried www.microsoft.com. If it would not have worked, you probably would have tried www.microsoft.de or .org or whatever until you find what you are looking for. Could be still that easy. Could be. If I look for a way to prepare cupcakes, consequently typing in www.howtopreparecupcakes.com (not tested) and I end up on a porn or scam website, you will know what is wrong.
Thus, we need search engines. Should we depend on them? No. For various reasons. First of all, as Google demonstrates in its day to day business, there are websites which will be included in your search results if you access it from www.google.de but will not be available if you type in the same string on www.google.ch. Other search engines will find other results, order them in another way and if you pay some money your company will appear as special add on top of the other results. There is nothing you can do about it, but it should be kept in mind!
Another story happened to take place last year during a period of time when Google’s server were not accessible. Browsing through fora I discovered that many people actually did not no anymore how to access websites.
‘The Internet is down!’
‘Why? It works for me. And how could the Internet be down?’
‘It always says 404.’
‘Did you try typing in www.genereicwebsite.com?’
‘No, there is not field to enter it!’
‘Well, just type it in the address bar?’
‘Which address bar?’
There have been a lot of people had these or similar problems. If we are so dependent on Google, that without it, we cannot even use the Internet than something is definitely wrong. Normally, I would plead for more media competency but how little do you know if you act like that? That is basic knowledge not even slightly connected to media competency. Basic understanding of how your computer and the software on it works is vital in the era we are currently in.
A friend of mine lately asked me why we have to take theoretic and practical lessons and exams in order to be allowed to drive a car but anybody hardly prepares you how to raise children. Let me paraphrase it. How comes that our children are taught in school how to calculate the area encircled by a mathematical graph but no one ever mentions to them that Google is just a search engine (among other businesses) and the real Internet is something different.
We live in an era of information and communication technologies, therefore we should be aware of their history, their use and the inherent biases. I cannot imagine a hunter not passing by the knowledge of how to hunt in the era when we lived in caves and needed hunting to survive. The skills are then to be improved.