Of course, being good little adult education providers, we include a lot of right-brain activity for our predominantly left-brain students. We play card games; we run exercises that call for people to get up and move around the room; we allow for extensive interaction. On the first day of each course, the group has to get together to creatively brainstorm a team name.
Our most recent group started their course last week, and their approach to the "creative team name brainstorm" was reflective of the times: after a bit of hemming and hawing, they quickly came to the realization that they're just not that creative after all. So instead, they literally Googled, "What would be a good team name?" The result, "Fear the Turtle," became official.
Incidentally, I tried Binging "What would be a good team name?" The results were useless. So I tried "What is a good search engine?" Bing wasn't anywhere on its own first page, but Google, goodsearch, and pipl.com were.
The late great comedian Mitch Hedberg used to wonder where sesame seeds came from. "What," he asked, "is a sesa-me?" I thought that was hilarious, and made it my personal challenge to find the answer without using Google. It took months, my quest finally coming to fruition via the blurb on the back of a packet of sesame seeds. (As it turns out, there is actually a sesame plant.)
We have developed an absolute expectation that our every question can be answered instantaneously, thanks to the Interweb and Google's navigation thereof. The above anecdotes are mild; that expectation is not. One of my loved ones went into the hospital two days ago. She is in New York; I am stranded, helpless, on the other side of the world. I can call and be called only so often. The limited information we have as a family gets shared quickly by email, and then I have nothing to do but sit around and wait -- and Google her symptoms and resultant diagnoses. My modern ability to research gives me the sensation, however faint and however illusory, that I have some sort of understanding of what's going on. It doesn't help, but it helps, if you know what I mean.
For the industry, search is about heat maps and conversions and brand impression; it has to be this way in order for it to exist at the scale it does. But all of those business imperatives driving the search machine fade away for me when I turn to it, trembling and uncertain, grateful for its patient willingness to answer my every question, no matter how ignorant, no matter how similar to my 20 previous questions.
Upstarts and not-so-upstarts seeking to unseat Google must realize that they are not in a search engine battle. They are in a battle to be a doctor, a priest, a confidante, a trusted advisor. They are in a battle to be your best friend at 2 a.m. when you're unwilling to rouse any of your other friends from a deep sleep. They are in a battle to be the one who answers your every question.
In my opinion, just at the moment, there's pretty much no contest.