AdSense turned 10 years old today. That 10 years has taken it from a cool experiment in figuring out the best ways to earn money on the nascent web to an enormous project that accounts for about a third of the revenue of one of the most successful companies in the world.
The web is such a central part of many of our lives now that I like to be reminded occasionally how new it really is. This one is a particularly notable reminder for me: of the 10 years that AdSense has existed, I’ve worked on it for four; and I work with several people who have been on the project for more than half of its lifetime. I couldn’t hope for a better team to work with.
My Twitter and Google+ feeds today have been filled mostly with complaints, wails of despair and expressions of shock at the news that Google Reader is to be shut down this summer. Maybe Facebook too, I don’t know. Who cares what those Luddites are talking about, right? Obviously I’m not going to say anything about what led to the decision beyond what’s already been said in official channels, but I do have my own reaction to the news that I think is worth sharing.
I think, on balance, it’s a good thing. Some brilliant people have worked on Reader over the last eight years, and it’s a fantastic project. But it never got the support and push it needed to turn it into a really mainstream project, and in the last couple of years it’s been largely neglected. Reader earned its spot as the king of the feed readers by truly being the best option, but it hasn’t evolved in years, and that means the entire market of feed readers has stalled along with it.
While Reader’s usage wasn’t significant enough for Google to want to continue its development, its disappearance will make room for tens of innovative new companies and products to replace it. I look forward to seeing the effect this move has on the market for feed readers and by extension on the entire ecosystem of blogging.
In Google we have a practice called “snippets”, where every employee writes a short list of the things they achieved over the course of the preceding week, allowing anyone else in the company to keep track of anyone’s progress. It’s a handy way to find out what’s going on, and it’s also a good way for managers to keep tabs on their reports without having to micromanage them.
In the nearly two years that I’ve been at the company, even bearing i mind the kid of superstars that make up some of Google’s employee numbers, I’ve never come close to seeing a set of snippets to rival this day’s-worth of work. If I ever feel like I’ve done enough for a day and can afford to slack off for a bit, now I know that I haven’t and I can’t.
If you’re unlucky enough to use Windows, there’s some faint light—not at the end of the tunnel, but at least slightly illuminating the squalid darkness. Pick yourself up a nifty new browser at some point today or tomorrow (depending on your time zone, and whenever it actually comes out for real). Sadly, I have to wait for the Mac version.
I like laughing and I’m also partial to some amount of lounging, so you might expect that I’d quite enjoy a venue named The Laughter Lounge. I always thought so too, so it’s surprising that I’ve lived in Dublin for over a year and last Friday was the first time I ventured into said establishment, accompanied by work friends B, C, J, and C’s two visiting friends. Everyone I work with has single-letter first names. It’s weird. I think they were all named after characters in a maths text book.
Sadly I can’t remember nor can I find online the names of most of the performers in the show I saw. It was headlined by a Kiwi (a person from New Zealand; not a fruit, nor a flightless bird. Though I assume he was flightless) named Al Pitcher. He had the virtues of being comprehensible, confident, and having original material, each a virtue lacked by one of the other performers.
The second performer, from Northern Ireland, was so difficult to understand I settled into a routine of doing a sort of offline translation of what seemed like the important bits. I was just trying to remember the sounds and then deciphering them in retrospect when he looked like he thought he’d said something funny. “Oh look, he’s preening. Time to figure out what the hell he just said.” I’d feel sorry for my non-Irish companions, but they didn’t miss much.
Pitcher himself was excellent. I’m not sure that I haven’t seen him before actually, though I can’t recall when. It would be bad form to relay his material here, even if my memory was capable of lasting four whole days, so I won’t try. I’d have been amused to see where he went with his ad lib‘d banter with J if J had mentioned the big G (i.e., Google—should I try to write the whole post in initials?) when Pitcher asked what he does for a living.