Google as Swiss Army Knife, but closed, but not any more

swiss knife animation found on nastynets Some time ago Google’s product manager in Russia and Eastern Europe was writing about Google’s unlimited functions in the blog and quoted Marissa Mayer’s words: Google is like a Swiss Army Knife.

Looking for the source I was not precise enough with my search query and found many many pages where developers of applications, operating systems, frameworks are comparing their products with Offiziersmesser, meaning that they can do so many things so good without occupying a lot of space. I don’t know if Marissa Mayer was the first one in IT business who came up with this comparison, but for sure only she, as Google’s product manager, has the right to bring this analogy to the ultimate level, saying “like the Swiss Army knife closed”, meaning Google’s distinct minimalistic interface.

I think Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere. When you need a certain tool, you can pull these lovely doodads out of it and get what you want. So on Google, rather than showing you upfront that we can do all these things, we give you tips to encourage you to do things these ways. We get you to put your query in the search field, rather than have all these links up front. That’s worked well for us. Like when you see a knife with all 681 functions opened up, you’re terrified. That’s how other sites are - you’re scared to use them. Google has that same level of complexity, but we have a simple and functional interface on it, like the Swiss Army knife closed.

She said it in 2002. In 2007 it is not true anymore. iGoogle looks not any different from many other services. You can switch back to Google classic. But you are encouraged not to. Even classic is not as “closed” as it was. And it’s a pity. Because, I’m sure that already now for us (people with connected computers) Google is a more familiar tool than a swiss army knife. It would be already time for Google to become a metaphor itself, to be the the first analogy that comes to mind when describing something simple and multi functional. But it won’t happen without the “closed” look.

I need digital culture heroes, Internet symbols and software metaphors. Why Google is not serious about its appearance anymore? For how long knifes and spoons will be metaphors for digital matters?

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