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I Heart Google

It all started last year when I joined a Virtual Stock Exchange competition with a bunch of friends. We were to play the stock market for a year straight using $10,000 of fake money. Whoever had the biggest gain by the end of the year would win. I came in second, right behind a guy who made some last-minute shortsells, and I have Google to thank for it. I almost doubled my fake money.

I bought their fake stock about 6 months or so ago and it rose slowly in the next months. Then, rumors started about a Google Phone soon to be released and their stock exploded. It rose even higher after they actually released the “Google Phone” and continued to rise after that. What makes them so special? Release after release of easy-to-use, life-easing web applications. Let me just share a few that have struck my fancy.

1. Google Maps

“Google Maps is the best! / Trudat! / Double True!”

Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell knew what they were talking about. Even if Lazy Sunday was a year or so ago. I use it at least once a day without even thinking about it, it has become that much a part of my life.

What makes Google Maps so great is their constant innovation. I once used street view to prove the accuracy of a photo sent to me in an email (Proof here). I just used Satellite view last Sunday to see if there was anywhere to park near our new church building. Over the holidays, I used the route-drag feature to change my driving directions to use the Merrit Parkway to get from Boston to New Jersey, and then to add a pit-stop in Manhattan on the way back. For our wedding, I made my own embedded Google Map that contained markers for all the important venues in the area around our reception. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

2. Google Reader

I used to spend hours every week just checking my friend’s various blogs to see if they had updated anything. After a while I just gave up, it was too much to keep track of. I had heard of reader programs, but never tried any because they seemed so foreign. It wasn’t until I installed Lifehacker’s Better Gmail Firefox extension that I realized how great a reader program could be. It put Google Reader right there in my Gmail window (the new version does not have this feature yet, they’re waiting on someone to come up with an updated Greasemonkey script). I had to try it out.

Basically, like any other reader, it stores your blogs in one central place and updates when your blogs update. But what makes Google Reader so great (besides seamless integration with all the other Google products) is their new sharing feature. I can mark blogs that I think will be useful to my friends without having to email them a link to the site. I just click “share” and move on. Then it’s up to them to look or not.

My wife shares a lot of design possibilities to try in our house after we move and I’ve been exposed to a world I never knew existed with my brother’s programming blog shares. Sure, there’s programs like, digg, and StumbleUpon that do similar things, but with Google Reader, it’s all right in front of me as I read my blogs, no need to bookmark or install anything else.

3. GMail + Google Talk

Before I moved to New York City, I mainly used AOL’s Instant Messenger. I’ve had an account with them since junior high when AOL was the way to the internet. A few of my friends were on MSN Messenger, so I started using programs like Trillian (for PC), or Adium (for Mac) to talk to both in a single program. When I moved to New York, I discovered that I was years behind. Sure I had a gmail account, but I was not on Google Talk. Everyone was on Google Talk. I decided to check it out.

What makes Google Talk so great, is the fact that you don’t have to install any additional software, it’s right there in your web browser. This means I can chat with just about all my friends no matter where I am, whether on my computer or not. My wife uses it at work because it’s so easy to hide. It just looks like you’re typing an email. In fact, that’s how we got to know each other at first. She never would’ve married me if not for GTalk. Sure I use Adium for all my chatting purposes, but that’s only because a few of my friends still have not moved over to Google.

There’s not much to say about GMail that you probably don’t already know except that it’s great. I have about 4 different accounts that forward to one master account for easy labeling¬† on emails like work, family, and online accounts. I use that same account to check my business email using POP, and I have most of my contacts grouped for quick mass emails.

So there it is. Call me a fanboy if you want, but I heart Google. Honorable mentions include iGoogle, Google Calendar (my wife and I share ours to keep up on each other’s appointments), and Google Text. Google Info has potential, but I have yet to see it give me reliable results.

And while I’m linking, check out Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.