Poor old Google. Like this week's favourite rock band, it's gone past the stage of providing sheer simple joy to the masses and is now in the middle of extreme media scrutiny. Can the backlash be long in coming?
The extreme scrutiny is already proving wearing to the newshounds in the office. When faced with a story like "Google hires lead Firefox programmer" and the resulting feverish "Google to do own browser?" speculation, what do you do? Write something that goes along with the hype, quietly point out that there are lots of reasons Google needs browser expertise without going into that business, or just decide it's a non-story and perhaps miss out on a Firefox feeding frenzy? Personally, I think it was just that the chap's called Ben Goodger. Google's probably got some sort of charity search engine in the works and needs to get dibs on the name.
And that was just one story this week: those ever-active Reuters chaps spotted another Googlehire story, this time for someone who knows the black art of dark fibre negotiation. Seems that Google needs to buy lots of cheap bandwidth for long-distance data transfer -- my lord, said the Times, they must be about to buy Skype and start a free phone service. That must be it: it can't be that the company runs a huge number of massive international data centres it needs to keep in synchronisation and thus is consuming global bandwidth on such an enormous scale it needs the best deals it can cut. D'oh.
However, Google didn't help itself with this week's Google Video search launch. Uniquely, it doesn't deliver what it finds and is very limited in scope: it produces a few stills from a small selection of US TV companies alongside a transcript of the relevant part of the show. Useful in a small way, but not as hoopy as AOL's Singingfish service -- a video search service that actually produces video. Video and audio are under-served by search engines: together they present a target rich environment for the Googlistas to plunder, and one that's a lot closer to home than free phone systems or rebadged browsers. And that's just the official stuff: the first search engine to dip its toe into the oceanic currents of illict media would be interesting indeed.
But going off at half-cock like this is not a good idea. Don't be evil: don't be wimpy.