Let’s play: The Google of (fill in the blank)

All of the reporting for this post was conducted using Google, or, if you prefer, "The Google of Search Engines."

This outburst of Googling was prompted by the arrival of a press release that begins: "The Allen Brain Atlas, a genome-wide map of the mouse brain on the Internet, has been hailed as (the) 'Google of the brain.' "

And no doubt it has been so hailed. Everything, it seems, is the Google of something. In fact, if your company, organization, service or invention has yet to be hailed as "the Google of" its domain, well, chances are you've hitched your wagon to a fading star, say a Lycos or an AltaVista, often mentioned as the Google of its time.

Thousands of examples are but a Google away (and I only culled the first 50 pages of 69,300 entries on Google search for "the Google of," as well as everything current on Google News). In fact, this addition to the lexicon - "the Google of" - is so pervasive that it deserves its own acronym: TGO.

"Has anyone noticed that Wal-Mart is sort of the "Google" of retailing." ... Sort of?

"Wikipedia seems like the ‘Google of encyclopedias'." (Cool thing here is that the link within that link brings you back to Buzzblog.)

Search engines just naturally aspire to TGO status, for example:

Baidu is known far and wide as a TGO, in this case, "Baidu is the Google of China and booming." The site even looks so much like you know what that the fact that it's in Chinese almost goes unnoticed.

The Google of mobile search has yet to be crowned, says one blogger, although you might think this candidate in particular would have a leg up: Google Mobile.

Greens will appreciate "The Google of Renewables."

And then we have the Google of wine blogs, as in "Alawine.com has created a Wine Blog Search Engine. Now how cool is that?" (Optimally, about 60 degrees for reds and 50 degrees for whites, according to this entry the search engine provided.)

"Think of them as the Google of the gaming world," suggests a story that carries the headline "The Current State of FPS." Think of what that way? Why, Xfire, of course.

"And the Google of VoIP looks like it might be Skype." Or maybe eBay.

Even companies that are already behemoths in their own right aspire to TGO status. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is all over Googledom having boasted that Comcast wants to be the Google of television. As a former customer, allow me to borrow from the late Lloyd Bentsen's most famous line: "Comcast, you're no Google."

Amazon, the Google of booksellers. Undisputed.

Sometimes it takes a village to raise a Google: "Zillow and sites like it are the Google of the real estate world," reports a business writer.

"They're the Google of DVD," says an executive for the Independent Film Channel describing Red Envelope Entertainment, the content acquisition and production division of Netflix. Of course, as video on demand becomes ever more popular, being the Google of DVD begins to look a lot like being the Blockbuster of VHS.

The either/or version of TGO can be a lot of fun, witness Democratic political consultant Chris Lehane's take on presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama: "Is he going to be the Google of the presidential campaign and redefine the model or will he be the Webvan.com, which has a lot of promise on paper and takes off quickly, but ultimately sinks?" Not exactly the Google of analogies, but you get his point.

TGO status can be fleeting. In March, 2004, FastCompany.com described Bloomba from Stata Labs as the Google of e-mail. That fall Stata was bought by Yahoo, which a year later licensed the Bloomba technology to Corel. And, well, let's just say that it's obvious Yahoo cannot be a TGO and Corel is where TGOs go to hide from the authorities.

More recently, there was this assessment of the online video world: "It's just that when it comes to audience preference, YouTube is the Google of video." Someone writes a check for $1.65 billion and now Google is the Google of video.

"Chad and Steve remind me (of) when I first came to the Google of Larry and Sergey, and I say that with great affection." Of course, we're talking Hurley, Chen, Page and Brin, and it's Eric Schmidt doing the reminiscing.

"The Google of science could end up being Google itself." ... And I'm getting dizzy.

There are the TGOs that only a geek could love:

"People have wrongly perceived UDDI as the Google of web services discovery."

"Keep your eye on Ubuntu, it just may become the Google of Linux."

"Krugle is the Google of programming code."

The self-proclaimed TGOs are legion ... and in some cases delusional:

As "The Google of Hollywood", the Web site provides fans with a wide range of online media related to their favorite stars.

A matchmaking site called OKCupid must be better than just OK given that its founder sees the company becoming "the Google of online dating."

"FishStart is the Google of the aquarium hobby." ... Is there a Yahoo of that hobby?

"Shared Spectrum Company is "The Google of Spectrum Access." "

"We're going to be the Google of food." ... Not without a food fight, they aren't.

"About.com recently profiled the new service, referring to it as the ‘Google of local grocery shopping and budget-minded meal planning.' "

"We have been described as the Google of the Christian Communications."

"Gino DiCaro, one of the creators of the site told me that they hope to be the Google of California politics."

Sherman, set the TGO Way-Back Machine:

"Ford Motor was the Google of the 1920s."

"RCA was like the Google of its day - a new technology (radio) with lots of excitement and stock activity."

"Lotus was the Google of it's time in 1982."

"Remember the yellow pages? The Google of the paper era?"

"Somewhere along the way Kleenex became the Google of facial tissues."

"Skip back to the late 90s, when AOL was the Google of its day."

Which brings us to the generic constructions, as in "the Google of today" ... "the Google of tomorrow" ... "the Google of the future" ... "the Google of the past." ... and the google's of the world (Note to Google: Better alert the trademark lawyers on that last one; I'll call the spelling police.)

And, finally, we're going to wrap up with my favorite TGO, authored Jan. 21 by blogger Terry Ballard of Merrick, N.Y., who describes himself as "a pseudo-famous librarian." Ballard asks: "Is Google the Starbucks of information or is Starbucks the Google of coffee?"

Yes, Terry, my answer is yes.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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