The All-Knowing Internet

by Ted Neward

That's right--I think the Internet has achieved true omnisicience, and its name is Google. Google sees all. Google knows all. If there's a computer nearby, Google knows about it and can report on it.

The Catalyst

What's triggered this sudden burst of enlightenment? A recent email thread between two DevelopMentor peers. One wrote
I seem to remember hearing somewhere that MS owns a significant part of Verisign. I'm curious to what *significant* means. Does anyone know how I'd go about figuring this out? I'm not much of a businessman myself...

The response that came in shortly thereafter completely blew me away:

MS was one of 10 strategic investors, not listed near the top, of a $30M round. Doesn't necessarily mean that's all they've done, but that's what comes up with a Google search of "Microsoft", "Verisign", "investment" limited to the two company sites.

The amazing part about this lies not in Microsoft's funding of Verisign (Microsoft is getting around to funding everybody--before long, we'll hear about Microsoft making a sizable investment in Sun just to p*ss Scott McNealy off), but in the fact that this information was available through Google.

Think about what's going on here. You have a question. A petition for knowledge. You want to know something about the world--nothing at all to do with the Internet, even--and you ask Google. If it's somewhere up on the Web (and what piece of information today isn't up somewhere on the Web?), Google will tell you in rapid order.

For example, I want to know how many men Saddam Hussein can throw at us in the event of a war. I type "Iraq" "military" and "men" into my Google toolbar in the browser, and get pointed to a number of news sites with mainstream media articles, but then, down near the middle of the top 10 results, I see this link,, which turns out to be an online paper, "Iraq's Military Capabilities in 2002".

Another example: I'm serving spaghetti and meatballs to my kids for dinner. I want a nice wine to go with my Chef Boy-ar-dee. Google gives me, in response to "spaghetti" "dinner" "wine", a link to Smart-n-Final (a discount grocery chain) Spaghetti Dinner Fund Raiser Shopping List, in which one of the ingredients is listed "Dry White Wine - 750ml bottle - 1". (I am definitely bookmarking this page, by the way--I get involved in volunteer dinners all the time for various organizations.) I'm still not quite sure which wine to open with my microwaved pasta, however, so I'll refine my search somewhat: I add "serving" to the list. (There's probably much better keywords to use here, but I'm still new at this yet.) Sure enough, in the second page of links returned, I get a link to, on which is a complete menu for a spaghetti dinner, at the bottom of which I see "Recommended Beverages: We recommend a Salice Salentino, a Red Wine from the Southern Region of Italy or a Chianti from Tuscany."

There is nothing Google doesn't know. Or rather, there is nothing the Internet doesn't know, and Google is the High Priest. Join the new religion. Seeking enlightenment? Ask Google.

Anybody want to form a Google cult?


2002-11-04 21:12:44
Google's Great, but not a blind replacement
With the success of Google there is an a consistent, disappointing, phenomenon in mailing lists.

A newbie posts (the same old) newbie question.

Then, an untactful member responds with: , or a similar empty snide remark.

Of course the newbie /should/ look first, but that's still no excuse for the lack of tact on the veteran end.

A great example of a proper respone can be found here:

Which teaches by example AND supports the google page ranking system to promote the helpful link.

Google CAN help replace the "read the archives first" complaint, but certainly not replace it.

2002-11-05 06:20:28
Great, another late-to-the-game Google cheerleader
Google was news 4 years ago. Hyping about it now is like telling everyone how great air is.
2002-11-05 16:12:57
Your insight is truly awe-inspiring. Surely O'Reilly readers weren't aware of the fact that Google is a great search engine.
2002-11-06 11:06:46
Over the Top
Ted Neward is way over the top with his comments about Google. Don't get me wrong it's a great tool but it's not THE answer. It's a tool and nothing more.

First, other useful web search engines exist. Teoma and AlltheWeb are very useful. This recently published article from SearchDay makes this point.

Second, if you're looking for an article from a publication like the Wall Street Journal you won't find it on Google. Looking for a news story over two weeks old, Google is most likely a no go. How about pdf files? Yes, Google searches them but they stop crawling the files after 120k. If what you're looking for is at the 121k mark, Google doesn't provide access.

Third, are books now obsolete?

Fourth, any one can place anything and say anything on the Internet. Open web information needs close analysis. In other words, don't always believe what you read on the web.

Fifth, take a look at the databases that most public libraries in the U.S. provide access to REMOTELY! 24x7x365, from any computer with a net connection. For example, look at what the Los Angeles Public provides to anyone with a LAPL library card.

Sixth, are libraries obsolete. If Mr. Neward was writing a paper or dissertation, would he only rely on Google for material?

Seventh, what about all of the material available for free BUT not accessible to Google or any other engine? Invisible or deep web stuff.
Database generated content. It's not there.
Sites with robots.txt files also.

Finally, Google is an important tool but all-knowing? No way!

2002-11-07 15:57:35
Over the Top
Of course, Ted is not *really* cheerleading for Google itself, so much as the Web itself. But does the Web (or Google) have everything you need to know? The answer is a resounding no. Let's say you want to read all articles published in print and online about Oaxaca, Mexico, in the past year. Google? Sorry. It's a pain-staking trip to the library, filling out little slips of paper and hoping the print or microfiche is available.

Unfortunately, Ted is promulgating the idea all to present among the net savvy: that the Net has it all. It doesn't. Magazines, books, newspapers, radio and TV, are all much deeper resources for information, thought, perspective, facts, and context.

But of course it *should* all be on the net; it should be available to everyone, whenever they want to look something up.

But it's not. And google doesnt change that.

2003-04-02 07:12:19
Full Circle Enligthenment
Oy. Oy I just hurt my head. For fun, I went to google and typed "Seeking enlightenment on the internet". For the first hit, I got an article, which at the end said "There is nothing Google doesn't know. Or rather, there is nothing the Internet doesn't know, and Google is the High Priest. Join the new religion. Seeking enlightenment? Ask Google."

It is a circle of ending up where I started. Which was the most profound revelation...