Google has released a new service, but this time without any fanfare. In fact, the service, called “What Do You Love,” (wdyl.com), was first announced by Tech Crunch, based on an anonymous tip from a Google insider. Yet even Tech Crunch isn’t sure what the precise purpose of wdyl.com is, except to say that it is, “a cute gimmick at this time.” Digital Trends is more is more blunt about that, saying, “It’s not exactly clear what the purpose of WDYL is, at least not yet.”
Though there is some puzzlement as to why it is, there is no question as to what it is—an opportunity to group together all possible search result for an item on a single page, based on the particular type of search service the user prefers.
A search for “coffee” is a good example. Some people use Google to find links to a comprehensive history of the beverage since it first appeared in writing in 1671 (says Wikipedia). Others may be more interested in finding out where the closest non-Starbucks coffee shop is, so that they can get their daily fix. Still others might be stuck in northern Spain, and not know how to ask for coffee in Basque (“Maiatzaren dut kafea batzuk, mesedez?”), while still others with way too much time on their hands may want to render a cup of steaming hot coffee in 3D. Praise the Long Tail! WDYL offers Google Search, Maps, Translate, SketchUp, and 17 other possible searches on a single page.
Users can email someone about coffee on Gmail, call someone about coffee on Voice, scour the earth for coffees untried on Google Earth, or start a discussion about coffee on Groups. Then there are the more traditional searches, such as images, books, and YouTube videos. Users simply need to type their query into the search window and click on the little heart to show their undying affection for it.
Nevertheless, Digital Trends wonders, “While WDYL is reminiscent of iGoogle’s layout, it still seems peculiar to us that Google would allow its employees to spend time create something that’s so surprisingly unhelpful.” What does WDYL really offer apart from a chance to showcase Google’s many diverse products, as helpful as they each may be?
One possibility, suggested here first, is that it may help to personalize advertising, an important ability particularly given the rise of Facebook and the suggestion that its advertising revenues might surpass Google’s. By collecting data on users’ demographics, interests, and likes, Facebook can provide invaluable information for targeted advertising campaigns. They know exactly what interests whom, and that is worth billions of dollars.
Google lacks that key advantage. In theory, it can know that a particular high school student or political candidate conducted several searches for, say, Paul Revere, but they have no way of knowing whether that search was for a history paper, a stump speech, or a genuine fascination with the historical figure, which can then be translated into advertising revenue. They can, however, know what people like if they drop the algorithms for a moment and follow Facebook’s model by simply asking, “What do you love?”
Of course, that is all supposition. The official launch of WDYL has been held up because of “engineering issues.” Perhaps the launch will help answer that eternal question, “Love, what is it good for?”