A Google press release informs us that Google and Four US States Improve Public Access to Government Websites. This is good, right? At least, all the weblogs that I've looked at so far say that it's good. Anything that helps the individual find out information from/via/about their local or state institutions is a good thing. Don't deny that for a second. Yet, why does this give me an uneasy feeling? Is it something to do with the fact that, yet again, Google is getting involved in another initiative (and I wonder if this is one of the 60%-70% Marissa Meyer is expecting to fail?) which just extends the tentacles a little bit further.
Basically this can be done in a couple of ways - using the Google sitemap option which has, in their words 'been widely adopted by the search engine industry', and by creating Custom Search Engines - Google ones of course, that provide access to their information. So basically, these organisations are letting Big G wander in through the front door, index their stuff and make it available. And that's good. Oh yes.
The Google press release contains lots of nice quotes from lots of nice people, who say their "goal is to provide easy, quick and intuitive citizen access. Google is helping us to achieve it." And " Government must be innovative in order to offer the best possible services to citizens".
Is a partnership with one search engine the best way to do this though? Even if that search engine is Google. Sure - other search engines might well be able to get into and access this information as well, and to be fair, Google's not actually doing anything different to any of the other crawling that they do. However, surely if a state body is going to be all helpful, and assist people to find stuff, shouldn't they actually be working on why it's so difficult to get in the first place? Shouldn't they spend their time ensuring that their information is readily accessible? Shouldn't they create webpages and navigation aids that work properly?
If they don't and this appears to be the case, isn't it just possible that in the future they'll be more likely to think that they can just throw stuff into databases, or onto badly formed webpages, or into black holes with a smug 'doesn't matter, Google can find it' approach? Is that actually going to help anyone? Is it helpful to produce resources based on the Google custom search builder alone? Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it - it's a great, easy and simple to use tool and I've created one or two myself, but it's not the only one out there. The Eurekster swicki, the Yahoo search builder, Rollyo to name but three. Why use Google. Or rather more - why *just* use Google? What if the Google tool isn't actually the best one for the job?
I know that's heresy, but it's a consideration. I know that I always seem to be knocking Google, (I don't, but that's another story), but it's a fact - they don't always do stuff best. And yet there are these people from these government websites happily walking down the aisle with Google, seemingly without a care in the world. And making a virtue out of it.
I just get uncomfortable about it, and am a little concerned there may be tears before bedtime.