Inklings that Google's growing up into a more sensible beast aside, the computer tech giant is still expanding and tweaking its business. With recent improvements it's clear that soon, Google will be everything, and everything will be Google.
Google Spells it Out With Google Dictionary
Over at the L.A. Times they note that Google has "quietly rolled out" a totally new feature—Google Dictionary. It's simple: When you google a word or phrase inside the Dictionary page, Google returns search answers that gives you the definition of your search phrase drawn from its own database, academically approved sources and Wikipedia.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? And it marries with Google's previous efforts to expand its services very neatly—particularly since Google is now the world's expert on "looking things up." But the potential effects are pretty huge. Because the big dictionary makers each have their own effort at capturing an online audience to supplement falling sales of their ink and paper copies—a change caused by automated spell-checkers and the rise of the Net. And now they're simply going to lose some of their online business to Google without Google having to make much of an effort. Of course those with an academic bent will probably want to know the authoritative definitions and etymology of particular words, and they'll continue to be big-name dictionary customers. For now. Because you can bet it won't be long before Google's mastery over the dictionary is total.
Google Makes Multi-Lingual Googling Easier
Sorry France, but the Web has made English the de facto global second language. That doesn't mean that us Anglophone Web users have it all our way, obviously, and there are billions of Web pages in foreign tongues that might contain relevant info in response to our search engine queries. Until now, though it was possible to translate them using the engine inside Google, it was a few extra clicks of effort. Which is why Google's new tweak is handy: In addition to searching for a phrase in English language Web sites, if you click on "show options," then "translated search" Google will automatically find the translation matches in non-English sites and return them to you in the search list. Anglo-centric jokes aside, the really good bit is that this system works in multiple languages within the same search query, and will translate English sites into French ones if that's how you like it.
The upshot? Google's tweaks make it even more of a globally-useful tool...boding well for its attempts to capture more business in Japan, where it's curiously second-fiddle to Yahoo. We can expect more language tool tweaks like this in the future too, meaning Google could eventually insinuate itself into the very mechanisms by which everyone around the world accesses everyone else's content online.
Gmail to Rule Email
Expert Photoshop users will sometimes talk about the benefits of those silicon keyboard overlays that help you find the relevant keyboard shortcut among the thousands of potential ones. This peripheral makes sense. Now, check out this peripheral:
Though I'm by no means an expert or extensive Gmail user, I can't imagine anyone would consider themselves enough of a Gmail geek to justify a whole USB plug-in Gmail shortcut keypad, would they? Are there even that many functions to play around with? Will spammers delight at the reduced risk of carpal tunnel syndrome this add-on may or may not offer? Impossible to say, but the thing is still on sale right now for $20.
There is one thing positive about the Gboard though: Gmail is surely set to expand. This is a given as Google's dominance grows, and if the future of Google Voice and Google Wave is to entwine with Gmail and create some sort of new hybrid voice-IM-email communications medium, then Google could even end up defining the future of digital communications.
So soon we'll be using Google to translate all our foreign Web surfing, manage our email and even define the meanings of words in our own tongues. Is there anywhere Google won't extend to in the future? Will we one day walk into our GoogleAutomatedHome and have our GVoiceEMail read out to us by a synthetic persona named, uh, Sue-gle? Possibly. If Google learns how to do proper front-end design, at least.