While the Internet cynics are looking at the Google Screenwise project as something curious in light of recent Google moves, I find the general idea a bit refreshing and something that has been sorely missing from the equation for a very long time.
The page at Google which describes this service offering says the following
Google is building a new panel to learn more about how everyday people use the Internet.
The new project is called Screenwise. As a panelist, you’ll add a browser extension that will share with Google the sites you visit and how you use them. What we learn from you, and others like you, will help us improve Google products and services and make a better online experience for everyone.
Wait, did I read that correctly? Google wants to learn more about how everyday people use the Internet? Wait, you mean Google is not interested in the prevailing wisdom that everyone is some Internet power user and sits around all day long wondering what kind of sinister change Google will next thrust upon the poor
self-important Silicon Valley hipster “regular” Internet user?
It’s about time Google acts like it is interested in the vast majority of those who use the Internet. We are constantly focusing on the uber-user of search engines and the Internet in general and, let’s face it, that’s not how most people use the search engine or the Internet in general at all. Heck, if everyone was a Scoble or (insert Internet pseudo celebrity name here) then all of these cries of “Foul!” around Google would actually make sense in the big picture.
The truth is that most people are not super users. They do not know the ins and outs of search. They are not thinking about privacy. They are simply interested in getting answers to questions. They don’t freak out every time Google makes a change. In fact, they are oblivious to the business of Google and quite happy to stay that way.
It’s about time Google offers an olive branch (although it feels the need to use Amazon gift cards as bait, which is just silly) to the Internet commoner. The online world has a concentration of power users that has unfair influence and sway in saying how it should all work. Google should be studying the regular Joe’s of the Internet so they can be better served in their mere mortal user of the Internet. Why? Because that’s a big number of people!
I know I am laying it on thick here but the Internet industry should do everyone a service and get over itself. There are many more people out there who are getting great benefit from the Internet as a whole without having a kitten every time Google, or any other company for that matter, does something that could further their business or, better yet, the experience of users.
In the end, marketers are trying to reach those who might end up buying their stuff as a result of their online interactions. That includes large numbers of “everyday” people. In a way, just the fact that Google uses that terminology shows just how disconnected the whole Internet business is from reality. I hope this chasm closes sooner than later.