Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/08/dziuba_google_squared/

Google Squared - the Cuilest search app ever

Everybody point and laugh

By Ted Dziuba

Posted in Developer, 8th June 2009 04:30 GMT

Fail and You Google recently released Google Squared, which is the Mountain View Chocolate Factory’s attempt at structured data search. Riding the tails of the Wolfram Alpha launch, Google hopes to convince people that they actually should care about structured search.

Alpha showed us that it’s possible to do something interesting, albeit of limited utility, with all of this data. In the spirit of free competition, Google has just showed us that it’s possible to act like you’re doing something interesting, but really just fail harder than you’ve ever failed before. Of course, that has nothing to do with structured data search. It’s just pretty fuckin’ funny to watch.

I am not sure exactly what Google was trying to prove with the launch of Squared, but what is apparent to me is that somebody needs to grab Eric Schmidt by the scruff of his neck and forcibly rub his nose into this product. NO! We do NOT DO THAT on the INTERNET.

Google is hiding this abomination behind the "Google Labs" tag, which I guess is a license to fail. Let’s start with the task of figuring out just what the fuck this thing is. It looks like a spreadsheet where you can compare different attributes of search results. Okay, well that’s a marginally interesting idea, but let’s see how it works.

Google Squared

I guess there are several interpretations of the query "united states." I mean I could be looking for information on each of the states. More likely, though, I could be looking for information about the country as a whole. What I am categorically not looking for, though, is a tabular layout of incorrect data. I think Google’s relevance engineers were just a little off on that one.

Searching "united states" on Wolfram Alpha, however, yields an eggheaded topical overview of data about the country. Wolfram Alpha runs its algorithms over carefully hand-manicured data. That’s a tedious process that sure as hell will not scale to anything useful, but it provides a good result set. Google, on the other hand, is not a fan of anything that can’t be automated. I’d be willing to bet that the structured data you see in Google Squared came from some fancy processing of Wikipedia and a few other data sets, in an attempt to teach the machine what the structure is in seemingly unstructured data.

For a company whose engineering staff is still subconsciously conditioned to hastily and without confrontation hand its lunch money over to a high school football player, this sort of problem is a great demonstration of how their pathological hubris has failed. Maybe you guys aren’t as smart as you thought you were.

Perhaps I’m missing the point, though. Comparing Wolfram Alpha to Google Squared is a bit like comparing apples to venereal diseases. After playing with Google Squared a little more, it became clear to me that Google did not launch this product as a competitor to Wolfram Alpha.

They launched it as a competitor to Cuil. I think Google realized that while Cuil may fail at just about every query, there is still value in the eyeballs of users looking for a good laugh.

Am I dumbass?

However, there’s also the distinct possibility that I am a dumbass, that Google Squared is actually self-aware and is cogitating on the information it sends to me on such an advanced plane that my feeble human brain cannot comprehend it. Case in point, the search for "human."

Google Squared

Okay, so that’s a bizarre result that could be attributed to general stupidity, but let’s add a few columns to it. This should elicit the soul of the machine.

Google Squared

As you can see, Google squared is operating on a higher level of cognition. Keep in mind, Eric Schmidt is a doctor in the same way that Timothy Leary was. Once your consciousness reaches that kind of epiphany, it becomes clear as day that kmacleod is the Twitter of a person and Dorayaki is the recipe. It’s a simple revelation, people.

Then again, as a man of science, I must eventually conclude that the simplest explanation is likely the correct one: Google Squared is just a colossal fuckup, and Google is now backpedaling, stressing that it’s still heavily under development. Disappointed squints from tech journalists aside, Google is still trying to brand Squared as something smart. From their corporate blog:

While gathering facts from across the Internet is relatively easy (albeit tedious) for humans to do, it's far more difficult for computers to do automatically. Google Squared is a first step towards solving that challenge. It essentially searches the web to find the types of facts you might be interested in, extracts them and presents them in a meaningful way.

Now, perhaps Google’s definition of "facts" is the same as George W. Bush’s, but even so, this statement is a bit lofty. "First step toward solving that challenge"? How about no. It’s a first step alright, but it’s a first step into something...something squishy and warm when you’re barefoot.

Now, Google has a habit imitating its competitors poorly. The disastrous launch of Wikia Search prompted them to add the "SearchWiki" feature that still infects their main search results. Local news aggregator Topix.com saw a Google attack, when they added a local news section to Google News. That turned out to suck balls too.

If Google Squared was a serious attempt at stealing Wolfram Alpha’s thunder, then any competitor to Google that even remotely has its shit together really doesn’t have anything to worry about. What Google’s engineers have not yet realized is that they can’t just throw something together in a couple of weeks and call their competition obsolete. Just because you work at Google doesn’t mean you can will a product into existence.

Google’s presumptuous nature is finally catching up to them and fuck me, is it satisfying. You know how when you’re driving on the freeway and some douchebag goes flying past in a Honda Civic? How you think, "Man, I wish the police would just nail that guy"? Well, watching Google try and fail is like watching that same douchebag tie his car around a tree.

Google Squared, kindly get the fuck off out of my internet and take your fail with you. You’re making a mess all over the place. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.