Oct 5, 2011


tonight, google commemorated steve jobs by changing its homepage and adding what used to be called a homepage promotion in every language google.com is available in: a link under the search box. (the link points to apple.com, a beautiful gesture in itself.)

the amount of traffic to the google homepage makes it tremendously valuable real estate, and that promotional spot is fiercely protected because it is so closely associated with the google brand. homepage promotions go through many rounds of approval because so many people see the homepage every day. because of that little line under the searchbox, tens of millions of people (at least, maybe over a billion, depending on how long the link stays up) around the world will know of steve jobs's passing. it's hard to imagine a more effective way to spread the word. the homepage promotion went up within a few hours of the apple announcement and i'd like to think that the phone call that did it came out of a flurry of emails up top and didn't go through weeks of the usual approvals and clearances.

one thing i won't regret about having worked for a short time in the valley is seeing first-hand that technology is made by people. i was working on earth and maps in 2007, the year when jim gray was lost at sea after putting out his boat in san francisco bay. gray was a computer scientist at microsoft who'd influenced many senior googlers. a few days after he'd been reported missing, the maps team got a phone call to buy up satellite imagery of the area for the last few days, timestamp and georeference it, break it into little pieces, and send it on to amazon where the web services team was going to run a mechanical turk project to have people look in each little image for jim gray's boat. the imagery team dropped everything that day to do this, and the pictures went out to amazon in a few hours. 

the search for jim gray proved fruitless but it called forth acts of human discretion all through the valley and beyond. and so it is today. loss shows that technology is a family.

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