Google truly is an internet phenomena. Here’s a company that started with absolutely no business plan for making a profit but grew into a company with billions of dollars of cash on hand (As of March 30th, Google had $8 billion in the bank).
With so much cash at it’s disposal Google is free to play around with dozens of new ideas – some of which might turn out to be quite brilliant, others which will turn out to be real losers. The crazy thing about Google is that while many companies are extremely secretive about what they are working on, Google is quite open about many of their projects (don’t get me wrong, they are also quite secretive about bunches of them too).
You might think of Google Labs as Google’s sandbox. Google Labs, reachable at http://labs.google.com/ is where Google posts links beta versions of products that their scientist and engineers are working on – some of which are neat as hell, others of which will never see the light of day.
Many of Google’s current offerings started out at the Google Labs site. I first started using Google Desktop when it was a beta product at the Google Labs site and it’s changed the way I store and find things on my computer. I know longer have to worry creating folders or files with recognizable names to store things on my computer. I can just dump everything into My Documents then use Google desktop to search for them when I have to access the file.
Google Earth is another neat product. Google Earth is a collection of satellite and aircraft photos from all over the world that you can access on your computer. Most of the earth is covered and you can see enough detail to usually be able to pick out your own home. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you can get some pretty detailed views of your home for example (Marilyn, I can easily pick out the octagonal deck addition to your patio – the hottub is partially in the shade so it isn’t as easy to pick out). Google Earth is wild because you can take panoramic tours of various locations (the Grand Canyon and Chicago River tours are particularly interesting). Google Earth also has a community of users who use Google Earth’s forums to tag interesting items on the photos (talk about mundane – there’s a ton of people committed to finding flying airplanes and their shadows in the photos).
Google Earth turned out to be such raging success, that the Labs now have a Google Mars where you can zoom in on the Red Planet using photos taken from various Mars Missions.
Some others interesting offerings curently in beta include Google Video, where you can search for videos by keywords using the familiar Google interface.
One that I want to try out but haven’t gotten around to it yet is Google Page Creator which proposes to be an easy way to create your own website (Marilyn – you might want to look into this a bit as a possible way to build a site for Dawn).
That’s a quick glance at Google Labs. Try it out. Also check back every couple of months. New and interesting stuff shows up all the time.