I did what?

Google has become more than just a search engine. Since its early years, Google has evolved into a platform that provides a wide array of tools and services to users. Through Google you can find everything from video sharing capabilities (YouTube) to social networking (Orkut/Google +) to metrics and analysis (Urchin). But it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how far reaching Google really is and how much data they have on users.

Google Dashboard

The dashboard feature on Google is very convenient and easy to use. It can almost be compared to a computer’s desktop or some other related organizing feature. Google’s dashboard can be personalized to the user depending on the applications they have added to the dashboard. For example my dashboard included:

And the best part of Google Dashboard is that it doesn’t require any maintenance from the user. Rather, it tracks one’s use of applications and organizes the applications on the dashboard for the user. Google Dashboard also provides short summaries on recent activity or usage of the Dashboard. For example, Google Docs informed me that I “owned” 51 documents, was “sharing” 216 documents and had “opened” 247 documents. It also provided me with the dates of my most recent activity. In general, I found this information to be useful and unobtrusive.

Google History

Google History on the other hand was much more surprising, to say the least. Essentially this feature tracks all of a users web searches in alarming detail. There were many interesting stories that could be told each day just by looking at my web searches. On any given day, Google History could provide insight on my work assignments, what music I was listening to and what mood I was in. Here were my top visits last month:

1. wikipedia

2. twitter

3. techcrunch

4. young changers

5. venture beat

These 5 sites did not surprise me, but Google’s ability to record my web usage did. Even more impressive was the way in which data on my usage was presented. Below is a graph of my hourly search activity over the last month.

The way the data is presented in this nice graph makes it possible for anyone to read an understand the trend in my use (which peaks at around 8pm).

Business with Google

One interesting aspect of Google’s services is that they serve as a pull factor into the “Google Universe.” When users spend more time using Google related services, Google is able to track more data on them. This data is then paired effectively with advertising to create a business model that is incredibly strong. As a result, Google has for years been placed on the internet pedestal.

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