I don’t think there’s anything inherently virtuous in rooting for the underdog (unless that underdog is journeyman Paul Shirley) but I loathed the Jordan-era Chicago Bulls. One of the greatest teams of all time? Undoubtedly. Beautiful basketball? Absolutely. 72 wins in one season? Obscene. And that was the problem. You knew that as long as Michael Jordan wasn’t off somewhere playing D-league bocce ball, the Bulls were going to win it all. There was no drama, no suspense. Just the nagging feeling that it was all just coming too easily, and that the Bulls weren’t really GOOD for basketball as a whole.
Google is the Jordan Bulls of search. To its fans, this is a good thing. Google offers a great product in superior packaging. And if you believe the “Don’t Be Evil” mantra, you can feel good about rooting for Google as its stock price attains Shaq-esque bloat. Like the Bulls of days gone by, being a Google fan puts you in good company. Google fandom transcends the home court. Sticking an @gmail.com after your name is like sticking a black, red, and white #23 on your back. Google makes your life better. It’s predictable, it’s comfortable, it’s happy. And until Larry and Sergey set their sights on the pro bocce ball circuit, it always will be.
But what if it’s coming too easily? It’s a quality, respectable product, just like the Bulls were – but what if Google isn’t really GOOD for the internet as a whole? Google has become so ubiquitous with search that it’s a verb unto itself. It seems the vox populi feels that any new thing Google does is going to be the slickest, coolest, most ethical thing, because, well, it’s Google.
Competition is a good thing. It’s what keeps us from resting on our laurels. Google has dominated the search market for so long without a true challenger, it’s getting boring, and according to some, maybe even a little bit evil. And even if it’s not, what is there to motivate Google to offer the best product it can? It’s time to shake things up. Do we leave it up to the perennial also-rans Yahoo! and MSN? Or is there a shrewd upstart waiting in the wings? Either way, it can only be good for ratings.