It is perhaps the most identifiable screenshot ever taken from a computer. The Michael Jordan “jump” logo of the Internet. For over a decade it has served as a door for billions, into a new world with endless possibilities and information. A world without demands, and one without prejudice. With its simple design and single fill-in field, Google Search asks only one thing of its visitor: Where do you want to go?
Since 1998, Google Search has received billions upon billions of answers to that question, using some of the most complex coding to provide its answers. However, everything that makes Google Search work its magic has been humbly hidden by its single, and mostly blank page. The process is transparent to users. Aside from the occasional defacing of its brand logo, Google Search has stuck to its simple and original approach to coding: “I’ll worry about the back end. You just enjoy yourself.”
So on August 4, 2013 I sat down to ask Google Search a few questions of my own, about the future of web development, why it matters, and how our lives will continue to be shaped by the greatest communication tool ever known.
Disclaimer: Google Search is not an actual person or web developer. This was a mock interview conducted using Google Search to answer the exact questions you see below … because I don’t know any web developers. Enjoy.
You’re an Internet giant. You answer more than 60% of the world’s questions. How does Google Search handle the workload?
This is a complex question, and honestly one I don’t get asked too often. So serving a Google query is truly a multi-phased process that begins with multiple clusters that are distributed worldwide. This helps me get the answers as fast as possible. Let’s say you want to know something about “society.” I’m going to check terabytes and terabytes of raw documents for your answer, after spell checking it of course. This is uncompressed data, mind you, so the index results are terabytes as well. Then I’ll form that data into pools that are split amongst several machines, which will back each other up in case one goes down during the process. It is a very efficient process, and one designed to serve the user the best results as quickly and reliably as possible.
You seem so simple in person, though, not complex at all. Why the plain appearance?
Ha! Now you are getting to the juicy stuff. The truth is that I didn’t know much about coding when I first entered the scene. I didn’t have a webmaster, and I didn’t really do HTML. So I put together the simplest design I could in order to test myself out. I didn’t even have a search button back then, which is kind of embarrassing. The enter button worked just fine. I remember I met a group of Stanford students one day, and asked them, “What would you guys like to know?” They just stared at me quietly. I asked them, “What are you waiting for?” They said, “The rest of you to load.”
Have you ever considered advertising?
You know, I was going to Starbucks the other day to check on some guy’s rewards account, and I saw this young man waving a sign around on the side of the street. I think it was for Domino’s or some mattress sale. I thought to myself, “I could do that, and I could probably make millions a day.” The truth is businesses would love to run an ad on the most visited webpage on the Internet. But that’s not what I want people to know me for. I’m not here to let the world invade your life, rather I’m here to let you invade the world.
You have been accused of collecting personal information from your users, though. Doesn’t Google Search collect personal information?
Yes, I do retain some log files that record search terms used, websites visited and the Internet Protocol address and browser type of the computer for every search I conduct. However, I have a policy of making money without doing evil, and I believe that infiltrates every bit of coding that makes up my existence.
So then, what’s the future of web development?
With the creation of websites such as CodeAcademy and Treehouse, the doors are opening for people to create their own sites using stable platforms such as WordPress to build from. Will there be less jobs for web developers in the future?
Smashing Magazine actually did a good piece on this, where they discussed the future of web designers and developers. They even threw me in there, claiming I want to take over the Internet. I think there was a lot of truth to what they said, however. It’s true that sites like WordPress, Facebook, and even I can aggregate much of the content that would otherwise be spread across the Internet. And with a single design, it doesn’t leave much room for independent design. However, that doesn’t mean the field will die. The Internet is an ever-expanding and living thing, therefore there will always be room for people to make it a vibrant and fulfilling experience. Content is growing at an exponential rate, as more and more people use the Internet to communicate and help them with many aspects of their lives. Someone has to help keep all this organized, and I certainly can’t do it on my own. The most important thing is for those who want to work on the Internet, is to stay up to date and be willing to change. The basic concepts will always be there as a foundation, but the surface is ever-changing. If a web developer remains engaged and forward-thinking, she will undoubtedly be included in the future of the Internet, through all of its transitions.
This Interview was conducted by Rob Snyder for Web Development at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. For more about the future of the Internet and web development, or to ask Google Search your own questions, visit www.Google.com and type in your question.