Opening the Google.com homepage, as I usually do, I noticed a new enticing link from Google: "New phone or tablet? Deck out your device with Google." I thought to myself, "I like Google's stuff and I do have a new device." So, the basic Stimulus-Response algorithm took me over and 'Click.' That link lead me to a page that boldly states, 'Get the best of Google: Deck out your device with 5 must-have apps.' "I want to deck out my new device with 5 must-have apps," I thought--after all, if they're must-have, then surely I must have them. I chose 'iPad' from the 'Select Device Type' dropdown and the 5 must-haves were instantly revealed to me: YouTube, Google Search, Google Chrome, Google+ and Gmail.
"Hmm," I thought, "Could these really be the 5 essential apps that Google forced me to explore?"
It's funny but I'd never thought of those five as "must-haves" or essential. But it's even funnier because just like the list of essential software applications* that every re-imaged PC that gets a fresh start receives, these are, in fact, the essentials.
Long before Google bought YouTube, it was an essential part of our Internet landscape. YouTube has become synonymous with indie entertainment. Every shmuck on the planet with a video camera or smartphone can now create great cinema and post it for the entire browsing population to enjoy. And, if your creation is lucky enough to "go viral," you could get paid though advertisements for that virality, in spite of how bad it really is. As we all know, quality has little to do with popularity.**
That said, there are thousands of well done, quality works on YouTube that instruct, inform and entertain. I love YouTube. It is one of my regular haunts when I'm curious about a camera or other gadget that someone has played with. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into producing the videos. From YouTube, I've learned to load and unload one of my Russian film cameras, how to create the perfect Black & Tan and how to make a Mentos rocket. Such essential knowledge and diversity can't be found anywhere else. YouTube is must-have.
Ask just about anyone who's been alive for more than six or seven years how to find something on the Internet, and he or she will surely say, "Google it." That's just how essential Google Search is to us--we've turned it into a verb. Yes, we've done the same thing with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other essentials but Google's search engine is ubiquitous. If you can't find it with Google Search, it probably doesn't exist.
You won't be shocked to know that Google Chrome is my browser of choice. I'm using it now to compose this post. I use it on every device that I own. It is always the first software download for any operating system or gadget that I have. It is Essential #1 in my arsenal of utilities. I've tried every browser. I've tried not liking Chrome. I've turned away from it when it got "crashy" on me but I've always come back to it. It's fast, it's easy, it's cross-platform and my bookmarks are everywhere that I go. It is the one application that I would choose if I were compelled to choose only one.
If you haven't tried Chrome, you must. You might never go back to any other browser again, once you do. No, it's not perfect but it's darn close.
Google+ lies somewhere in the nether region between Facebook and LinkedIn. It's really neither a particularly engaging social application like Facebook nor is it really a multi-forum, business-oriented site like LinkedIn. When Google created it, I was excited because I thought that it would destroy Facebook as a social networking tool. It hasn't. In fact, of the five must-haves in this list, Google+ is somewhere between must-not-have and just not essential.
I use it sparingly. Unless Google really spends some time and money on it, I don't think it will ever become essential. I think people will leave it because it really isn't at all compelling. Sorry, Google, Google+ is a fail.
Gmail is the only mail application/service that I use. For the past six or seven years, Gmail has been my email service. It serves me that well. I absolutely don't want to change for any reason. My wife finally converted to it after the company she works at converted to it and now it's her only email application/service as well. How much more of an endorsement is that for a service? I use it and have for several years. In fact, I used it when it was 'by invitation only' and have kept it ever since. I see no reason to change.
The service is fast, efficient, cross-platform (browser and app) and free. Additionally, I can configure aliases, use different email accounts to respond to emails, label my email for better efficiency and easier searching and search my email. I also have plenty of space--over ten gigabytes at this point--and it keeps on growing. Thanks Google for the best mail application I've ever used and I've used a lot of them.
A lot of people, technology journalists in particular, love to complain about Google but I find that if you do anything people are going to complain, and mostly, just because they can. No, Google isn't perfect but, in my humble opinion, it's the best we have and that's pretty darn good. If you know of a company that provides you with more free services and applications and a better search engine, please tell me about it. I need to know.
In the meantime, I'll enjoy Google Search, Gmail, YouTube and Chrome. Thanks, Google, you're doing a great job on creating my essential applications.
What do you think of Google's applications? Essential? Disposable? Talk back and let me know.
*MS Office, Adobe Reader, 7-Zip, etc.
**See Glee and Two Broke Girls as glowing examples of this phenomenon.