I’ve been spending the last few days fooling around with Google Squared, the search giant’s experimental attempt to generate structured results, and for the most part I’d consider myself cautiously optimistic. Now, Google has made it clear that Squared is still in pretty early stages. The logo has a nice big “Labs” title slapped on it, complete with green beaker. The blog post introducing the product to the public stated that Squared is experimental and that “this technology is by no means perfect” and is merely a first step. There’s no question that Google doesn’t think this product is ready for prime time. It’s just opening up the lab so we can see the nifty stuff that’s starting to form.
Which is why I’m already getting annoyed by the stories pointing out how funny it is that Google Squared has declared the current Russian president dead or that President Obama passed away in 1982. Oh, Prince William kicked the bucket, too. And Google Squared apparently hates conservatives. It’s probably only a matter of time before the mainstream press picks up on a potentially offensive result and multiple organizations scream with feigned outrage.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with it, Squared is a fairly major departure for Google that could eventually change the way we look up data on the web. If you run a query for “dogs“, rather than present a list of pages relevant to canines as the ‘normal’ Google would, Squared attempts to generate a spreadsheet of dog breeds, complete with their average height, weight, and country of origin. As with Wolfram Alpha, another structured data search engine, it’s very cool when it works — it just doesn’t work all that often.
Anyone who has used Squared for more than two minutes knows that it messes up quite a bit. I think you’d be hard pressed to search more than a few queries in a row that didn’t result in clearly incorrect facts or glaring omissions. Many of the service’s initial reviews pointed this out, and for good reason. We’ve all seen the goofs. But at this point honing in on a poor result just feels mean spirited and lazy.
The alternative is for Google to restrict access to Squared until it does work consistently, which could be years, if ever. What Google is doing here is pretty gutsy, and the fact that they’re letting us play with it when it’s still half-baked makes it even more so. So let’s take Squared for what it is, and (hopefully) help it grow into something powerful rather than harp on its self-admitted flaws.