Friday, October 23, 2009

The search (algorithm) for good music

Google is launching a music service. They're keeping quiet about the details until they make an official announcement next week, but it looks like they're aiming to compete with iTunes. From WA Today:
Google will launch music search pages next week and include ways for consumers to buy songs for download, according to people familiar with the matter.

The music pages will package images of musicians and bands, album artwork, links to news, lyrics and song previews, along with a way to buy songs, they said.
My first reaction was, that's nice, but iTunes already does all that. How will this be different?

Then I remembered my introduction to Google.

About a decade ago, I used AltaVista for all my searches. It worked. I was perfectly happy with it. A coworker used another search engine that she really liked, however, and she recommended that I try it. The name of that search engine was ... Dogpile.

I gave it a shot. Then I promptly went back to AltaVista. I had nothing against Dogpile -- their results were just as good, as far as I could tell. I just preferred what I was used to.

Meanwhile, I kept hearing about this new search engine called Google. One day I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Just like Dogpile, it seemed perfectly OK, but I couldn't really tell the difference.

Except that after I tried it, I never used anything else. And I didn't know why.

In retrospect, I think it was the clean design that hooked me. AltaVista was cluttered with all sorts of links below the search field that I never bothered with. Google had the logo, the search box, and a whole lot of whitespace.

So who knows. Maybe Google will offer a better aesthetic experience than iTunes. If not, maybe they'll at least be able to hook me up with some Beatles songs.


Anonymous said...

Either way it kinda bothers me. Obviously there's the whole free market thing at work, so that helps. But still, Google trying to first get its hands in, then corner the market for every damn thing on the internet isn't any different than what Microsoft did. And everyone considers MS evil for having done it.

I suppose as long as Google doesn't try to choke off would-be competitors from starting out later, it's okay, but somehow I doubt they will be able to resist that temptation any more than any other publically traded huge company has. :/

cinderkeys said...

Trust your corporate masters, GreyLupine. You'll feel better.

Seriously? I think there's a reason that people don't give Microsoft the pass they give Google. Microsoft pissed off a lot of techies (of which I am not one) because they broke standards. They dominated the market, I'm guessing, because they were cheaper, not because they were better.

(Macs sucked in the early years too, but people get pissed off by the products they're actually using, not the ones they're ignoring.)

But from what I'm told, Google dominated their market simply by being better at what they did than anyone else. I couldn't exactly tell you what made them superior, but something made me stick with them despite a reasonably strong brand loyalty to what I'd been using before.

So Google is still riding the wave of goodwill. They may be monopolists, but at least they're competent monopolists. (Well, for the most part. I had to delay posting the Google post because Blogger was down.)

Should we be concerned when they buy YouTube? Maybe. Should we be concerned about their latest venture into music? I'm not. They didn't buy up an existing company to do this. They saw an existing company doing this and decided they could do it better. iTunes is pretty big and powerful in its own right. Seems like a fair fight to me.

Let the best service win.