More On Google & Other Desktop Search Stuff

Below, some assorted reports and comments on Google’s new desktop search tool and other similar
tools. They cover: a workaround for getting Firefox data tracked by GDS (the acronym that I see in growing use for Google Desktop Search), one blogger’s fear GDS has made his
computer unstable, AOL confirming it has its own product coming, a recap of products from Google rivals and existing desktop tools, reports of more than a C drive being
indexed and revisiting desktop search privacy issues.

Various Reports

  • Firefox history in Google Desktop Search from Jon Udell explains how you can
    add a hack that lets Google Desktop Search keep track of what you view in the Firefox browser.
  • A coincidence? from Dave Winer has him uninstalling the tool after finding his system becoming unstable.
    So far, I’ve been OK.
  • Google Launches Surprise Release of Desktop Search from Brad Hill finds that more than his C drive is
    getting indexed. That’s great — wish it was the case with me, as well. Officially, Google says that only a primary hard drive will be indexed.
  • Google Desktop from Jason Kottke has a lot of great comments where others are sharing their experiences
    and tips, including how the cache lets you see document such as Word that may have been password protected.
  • We had a roundup of coverage yesterday. If we missed something, Nathan Weinberg’s probably got it in
    Who’s Talking About Google Desktop? Everyone!
  • The day after Google released desktop search engine from Robert Scoble has some kind words and also
    ponders speculation that Google pushed its tool faster than it may have wanted to. Could all those Microsoft search
    , having seen some neat things under NDA, helped light a fire?

Other Desktop Search Products

Robert Scoble hints at what the search champs may have seen without saying it, a Microsoft desktop search tool. I’ve seen it during my visit up Redmond-way last July. NDA
also prevents me from providing specific details about it, but MSN is talking publicly that it will be a standalone application out before the end of the year:
MSN Desktop Search Still To Come This Year, Despite Longhorn Delay.

What about AOL, rumored this week to be readying its own tool? The company now confirms that it will have
its own desktop search integrated as part of a new AOL browser being tested. More from AOL launches new
portal, tests desktop search

FYI, Ask Jeeves also
to release its own later this year. A tool from Yahoo remains a rumor, but one that’s not
hard to believe.

Via the comments over at John Battelle’s summary of some GDS coverage, I came across Michael Wexler’s great
introduction to desktop searching, along with a list and review of various products: Desktop Search, or just where did
I leave that knowledge?

We’ve mentioned some of these before. Copernic Desktop Search is probably Google’s most serious
contender at the moment given that it is free and powerful. Gary Price did a review of it here: A New
Player in Desktop Search

Blinkx is also free. Om Malik from Business 2.0 likes it. Gary’s
not been too impressed with it so far. I’ve never gotten it to work on my computer, so I’m even less impressed.
The same’s been true for me of the free HotBot Desktop — never got it too work. Maybe you’ll have more luck. Learn more the
tool in this SearchDay article: HotBot’s New Desktop Search Toolbar

Gary’s testing out
, so watch for future comments from him about it. That’s a paid tool, as is x1 and 80-20.
Gary says he uses x1 and likes it. Again, expect more comments from him.
ISYS:desktop is apparently
another long-standing paid product I was just told about.

I actually bought a copy of 80-20 specifically for email searching about two years ago. It never worked well, so I gave up on
it. Instead, I turned to NEO and have absolutely loved it. I’ve also loved
Microsoft’s newly acquired
Lookout tool. It’s free, it works — if you have Outlook, it’s a no brainer to use.

Want more? Chris Sherman’s got it on his calendar for a desktop search round-up later to run in
SearchDay. But this recap may have you wondering. With
so many tools already out there — and many of them more
powerful than Google — why all the hype about Google?

Revisiting Security & Privacy

The excitement is because Google’s tool is free, fast to download and so easy to use that that many people who never had desktop search will get into it now. Google’s isn’t
the best, but it’s good enough. Down the line, it will have to improve. Competitors will also improve. The state of desktop search, woefully inadequate for so many now, is
going to get much, much better.

It’s also why people will have to think more about the security of their desktop. Your data is about to get much easier for people to locate through any of these tools,
unless you keep your computer secure. For more on that, see my article: A Closer Look At Privacy & Desktop

Google Desktop Search: Security Threat? from Tom Spring over at PC World also looks at how if multiple
users are on the same computer, you can see things others have done.

One thing not covered in my article is the fact that in some very specific instances, Google might be able to tell that you (an anonymous you) performed a particular search
with “desktop” intent. I discuss this more in our forum thread, Google Launches a Desktop Search Tool,
where privacy has come up. Google itself covers it in its desktop help information: Does Google
know what keywords I’m searching for?

Overall, it’s not a major issue to me. That’s because it’s already been an issue that people have worried that Google (and other search engines) might track what they
search for on the web. We already search for lots of personal things, so the idea that in the odd instance, desktop search might reveal a bit more isn’t that shocking to me.

Of course, it might be a wake-up call for those who’ve never thought about the fact that the terms they enter into Google or other search engines potentially could be
linked to them. POTENTIALLY. My Search Privacy At Google & Other Search Engines article looks at this
in more depth and how so far, it’s not been a major issue.

If you totally dislike the idea that in some circumstance, Google could tell you (again, an anonymous you) did a “desktop-specific” search, then disable “Google
Integration” in your Desktop Preferences settings. After that, if you do a desktop search, never then click on the Web, Images, Groups, News or other links. They take you back
to Google itself, with the terms of your last desktop search sent along (in order for those terms to be used to do a different type of search).

Perhaps Google might add a further option allowing people to disable this, as well. That will limit some nice things about the tool — but it would be great for people
concerned to be able to easily do so.

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