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Google’s little reputation alphabet September 9, 2010

Posted by salla in Blogroll.
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Yesterday Google officialy released their new Google Instant search, which basically means the search engine is doing and refining the search immediately as you type (you can check the example video on Google’s site behind the link). The service is rolling out for users in US and UK and a few other European countires, but Finland will have to wait for a few months.  Though since 2004 we’ve had Google Suggest, which gives the user suggestions in a dropbox below the search box, so actually Google Instant is just taking this one step further.

Both Google Instant and Suggest have inspired the listings of Google Alphabets. What the search engine suggests when a user inserts just the first letter of the search string? Check for example a recent list from yesterday on Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, or another listing based on autocomplete function from 2008 at O’Reilly Radar. These lists (which can of course be checked pretty easily by yourself as well) give the glory to the famous and the popular. A goes for Amazon, I for Ikea, S for Skype and E for eBay. And Å for Åhlens. According to Google, these suggestions are solely based on search popularity.

Google suggestions are an interesting popularity rank based on masses and their interests. However, popularity alone does not give us information on evaluations and thus is not equal to reputation (as reputation can be shortly defined as discourses and evaluations). After a quick look through the Digit’s list and the Global Reputation Pulse 2010 list of most reputable companies in the world, it seems that the search alphabets concentrate – not so surprisingly – more on online services and companies, but both lists are consisting of popular BtoC companies and share some same names as well.

Reputation models usually do count in the popularity or public image of the company investigated, but they also measure several other qualities. So, a company does not have to be widely known in order to have a good reputation. A company can even enjoy extremely good reputation in a small group of stakeholders, but a far worse reputation in some other group of people. Actually quite an interesting larger scale example of this is the fan culture visibly present within gadget users; there’s an ongoing dispute between Apple fanboys and PC lovers, for example.

While these popularity lists are very interesting to see, there remains a question of the reasons why people are over and over again searching for these certain companies – maybe all publicity is not good publicity? And then again, the funny fact that Google itself is on Google’s most searched items list is a good reminder: the list probably tells more about people’s habits of using the web than about reputation.