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The Google Interface Opportunity

Patrick Lannigan - Summer 2004

I have referred to the Google interface as the “command-line interface” to the Web. That's not entirely correct. Google is a vastly superior command-line interface compared to that of operating environments like MS-DOS, Unix, VMS, etc. The Google interface incorporates elements of forgiveness, knowledge of underlying data, and keyword customization into its design, creating a user-to-computer interface that is heavy on collected knowledge and habits of its users.

The question I ask is, What opportunity exists for an energetic entrepreneur to add a second-generation Google-like command processor to applications that are used in corporations today? Yes, mouse-driven applications were much lauded in their day, but the interface design for most of these applications is too rigid. Take a typical customer database application. When we’re looking for the address of a customer we must first type in the name of the customer to find the information we’re looking for. If we spell the name wrong, we’ll more than likely get such helpful messages as “Record not Found” or “Customer does not Exist.” These simple search type problems are just a small taste of the bitter and unfriendly interface that sits in front of most business applications today. It gets worse as we go deeper into the application. For example, with most manufacturing applications, if we wanted to find a particular order by a customer for blue widgets, we’d first have to find that customer name, then look up the orders, and then surf through each order looking for one where they ordered blue widgets. What a waste of time!

The "problem" of the brittle interface is also an opportunity. Some entrepreneur could potentially make millions by selling an add-on component to Google-ize the dominant corporate applications that exist today. Imagine if users could simply type in “Lannigan order blue widgets” to discover all the orders by Lannigan for blue widgets? Google-izing an application can go further still. While Google has very sophisticated underpinnings, at the interface level it is really just two things. It is, first and foremost, a search engine that has superior ranking capabilities according to referential data (e.g. page links). But it is also a second generation command-line processor. By second generation I mean that it has a strong component of forgiveness, can incorporate special keywords, and has knowledge of the underlying data itself.

The "incorporating special keywords" feature also means that corporations could customize special keywords for their users—a private dictionary of sorts. As an example, while one company may prefer to use the word “order” to look for orders by a company, another company may prefer “po,” as in purchase orders. As such, a search for orders by Lannigan in Company A may be “orders Lannigan.” This same search in Company B would be “po Lannigan.” You get the idea.

Technically speaking, Google-izing an application is no cakewalk. Somebody has to have knowledge of the underlying data, incorporate search engine technology that doesn't interfere with the main technology, and then provide a second interface to the application that also does not interfere with the normal operation of the application. This is a tall order, but doable (that is if Google hasn't snatched up every search engine expert in the world ...). The upside is tremendous. It could be that the antiquated, carpal tunnel-inducing applications we use today would be transformed into something as pleasant to use as Google.

If you know of anybody doing research in this area, please contact me. I'd love to be one of their "test subjects." Conversely, if anybody wants my two cents into the "go to market" strategy, I'd gladly provide it.


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Email Patrick Lannigan at lannigan at gmail dot com for more information

This page was created and/or refreshed on April 12, 2017 @ 14:50:56
by Patrick Lannigan (or one of his cronies) in Markham, Ontario, Canada
The page subject is: Google Interface