Archive for March, 2005

Google Provides Weather (And Why Google’s Interface Will Need to Change)

I learned from Boing
Boing
today that Google now provides four-day weather forecasts. Just
type "weather, city, state". Or "weather, city" if you live in a city with a sufficiently
unique name. For an example, check out the beautiful
weather we’re having in San Francisco
right now.

What really surprises me about Google is not so much that they are trying to do
everything (and certainly doing a reasonably good job at it), but that they are
doing it with such an unusual interface. For instance, any other site in the world
would have you click on a weather link, then type in your city or zip code. Or
in order to get movie
information
, click on a movie link first, then type in your search terms.
Google clearly identifies very strongly with the Unix world since searching Google
often has the feel of entering a Unix command followed by arguments. I predict
that Google will eventually need to modify their famously simple interface to make
all the search options more prevalent. As Google becomes more complex and versatile,
the simplicity of the interface is actually going to start working against the
experience rather than for it. Ironically enough, I think
Google will eventually need to create a more involved and consistent interface
in order to actually simplify it.

How To Change The Web

While reading the weekly Community MX newsletter
this morning, I came across a Wired article entitled New
Browsers, Same Unwanted Ads
. The article predicts that more virus
writers will begin targeting Firefox as it continues to gain in popularity, but
it touches on something else I actually found much more interesting: the evolution
of intrusive advertising. As more and more people find ways to block intrusive
advertising, advertisers continue to find more and more ways to force people to
view clients’ ads:

One advertiser site, [sorry, no free advertising here], states on its homepage
that "due
to the proliferation of pop-up blockers, we have altered our popup code so
that if a blocker is detected, a layer ad will be delivered." Other firms,
Wilson said, are using a technique in which advertisements load in the background
when a person is viewing a web page, then appear immediately when he or she
attempts to visit another URL. Others will force another pop-up on the user
if the first is closed "too
quickly."

It occurred to me while I was reading the article that the game we play with publishers
and advertisers is actually pretty ridiculous. All of us have the power to end
intrusive advertising without the use of popup blockers, or any other kind of plugin
or utility. It’s called choice. If you don’t like the kinds of ads certain sites
use to support themselves, your best defense is to stop visiting those site. Instead,
patronize sites that have revenue models that you can live with. I can’t think
of any sites out there that rely on intrusive advertising that have content I
can’t find elsewhere. Send those sites a message by denying them your page views.
I’m not saying you should disable your popup blocker, but what I am saying is that
the best way to change the web is to actively participate in and support revenue
models that you believe in. There doesn’t always have to be an adversarial relationship
between publishers, advertisers, and readers, or between businesses and their customers,
for that matter. There are relationships out there that work well for everyone,
and that I believe will ultimately prove the most successful. Relationships, communities,
and conversations are changing business, but the most powerful agent of change
is, always has been, and always will be choice.