Don't Be (The) Evil (Giant)
I remember being really impressed by the woman in that movie (not having made the connection that it was just my mom, after all). I was even more impressed by her opening line when she got up to speak: "When I was a little girl growing up in Argentina," she said, "it was always my dream to go to America. And be a movie star. And win an Oscar. I never dreamed that one day I would win the Avon Oscar for starring in the soap opera of my life."
My mother had a wonderful story. It didn't need embellishing. But some stories do.
One of the critical ways in which we communicate, grow, learn, and build relationships is through storytelling. And what makes a great story? A hero (usually the underdog), a villain (often the evil giant), and a quest to overcome great odds for an impossible dream.
This clichéd plotline explains something I've noticed in the nearly two years I've been writing this column: We're not happy unless Google is doing battle.
Whether we're talking about Eurekster, Ask, ChaCha, or Wolfram Alpha, we spill a great deal of virtual ink agonizing over whether the upstart can represent a genuine threat to the search giant (and generally concluding that it can't). We scrutinize and agonize over Bing, Yahoo, and even Twitter -- could tweets finally be the behemoth's undoing? Could it really be that simple?
Frankly, when it comes to Google, our schadenfreude knows no bounds. (Don't feel badly if you had to look it up; I only know what it means thanks to Alan Shore on "Boston Legal.") And yet the vast majority of us are addicted to the big G. Why aren't we more on its side?
The truth is that a story just isn't interesting if there's no tension. And if the tension is so minimal as to be barely even noticeable, well, we'll just emphasize it a bit.
This is what news programs do when they're reporting on something "controversial." Even if 99% of the population believes one way, they'll give the dissenter equal time. They argue that it's for fairness or balance, but really it's because it makes a better story if there's a battle.
An alien receiving RSS feeds of tech news would wonder how Google is still standing with so many Google-killers trying to topple it. (Quick nod to the latest attempt, Yebol.) They would ask why, with so many search engines that are smarter, that are more semantic, that spend more money on advertising (or, in fact, any money at all on advertising), Google still leads 3:1 over its nearest competitor. They would probably have a hard time understanding, because they'd only be getting the story, not the reality.
The reality is that Google is a giant, but not an evil one. They've simply served the needs of their market better than anyone else. And, as much as a close race would be more interesting, for the moment they're miles ahead.
There's no such thing as happily ever after. But Google is certainly happy right now.