Big News Today!

Whether you like it or not, the big news today wasn’t the outcome of “The Big Game,” the 2010 Toyota Prius Recall, or the fact that Verizon is “deliberately” blocking 4Chan for wireless customers (though those last two are admonishable attempts by the respective companies to submarine news).

It was the fact that today, Google advertised its core search product on TV in a $2.6 million Super Bowl ad. Wait, did I just say Super Bowl? I meant “Big Game.”

Hell proverbially froze over, by CEO Eric Schmidt’s own admission.

But if you actually watch the video, and watch closely, you’ll notice that very little of the advertisement focuses on the search experience itself. In fact, it spends so much effort building trite emotional appeal that it completely neglects at least half of the front-facing search experience. In fact, what it disregards is a feature so neglected, even I didn’t realize it was completely passed over until I watched a parody.

First, watch the “Parisian Love” ad itself:

Now watch the brilliant parody “Is Tiger Feeling Lucky Today” by slate:

Disregarding completely the message, the search terms, what the so-called “story” was, did you notice how differently Google advertised their own product compared to how well Slate did? Slate used “I’m Feeling Lucky.” Google? Not once. In fact, doing so could have been absolutely brilliant in the context of the ad’s cheezy romance theme. Imagine “will she marry me” -> I’m feeling lucky.

So what?

So what that communicates is that even Google doesn’t know what the heck “I’m Feeling Lucky” is doing there. Ask yourself, when is the last time you actually used it? Is it easily accessible? Is it part of that seamless, effortless Google experience they talk about? Is it so essential a part of the search experience that if it was missing, some part of your being would be inexorably changed forever?

You get the point. It isn’t.

No love for I'm Feeling Lucky

There’s nothing easy about using “I’m Feeling Lucky;” you can’t get to it with shift-enter or any other keyboard shortcut. It isn’t natural; everyone’s so used to just hitting enter or using the browser search bar. I ask then what purpose it’s serving.

For my answer, I googled. I didn’t use “I’m Feeling Lucky” :

The “I’m Feeling Lucky™” button on the Google search page takes you directly to the first webpage that returns for your query. When you click this button, you won’t see the other search results at all. An “I’m Feeling Lucky” search means you spend less time searching for web pages and more time looking at them. –Link

Oh really? That’s, you know, awesome, but isn’t diving head first into the first result of some search query just as dangerous as using link shorteners? As opening links in email blindly? As bad as everything we’ve always taught people not to do? Moreover, isn’t randomly guessing kind of a bad algorithm for mentally sorting through search results? I mean, if you use “I’m Feeling Lucky,” you’re going to have to come all the way back out to the front to re-submit your query. What’s elegant, beautiful, or simple about that?

Take a step back and think about the name of that button as well. What does “I’m Feeling Lucky” imply? Why the need for obscurity? Why not just call it “First Result” or “Dive In Blindly!™” or something else that’s approachable and friendly?

Years ago, the first time I clicked this, I half expected to be taken to some sort of contest entry form.

Of Simplicity and Sacred Cows

We’ve all read a lot, and I mean a lot about how much time, effort and money Google pours into keeping their famously-lightweight homepage simple. They’ve evolved the design. They’ve removed things. They make it fade in slowly so those of us challenged by reading aren’t scared or overwhelmed. They count and have sleepless nights over the number of words on it!

Oh, I know what you’ll say, it’s part of their “corporate identity,” part of their “product,” part of what makes Google, Google. Nonsense; that’s the kind of talk that turns innovation into stagnation for the sake of consistency. My high school English teacher would be proud, because two of his favorite quotes apply directly to the kind of idiotic allegiance they have to that worthless button:

  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. -Oscar Wilde

For all of Google’s engineering talent, all that time, all those fancy positions, titles, and critical thought, they don’t realize that their biggest Sacred Cow is staring them in the face. That “Sacred Cow” is ‘I’m Feeling Lucky.”

C’mon Google, even you don’t use it or know why it’s there.