Where Did Froogle Go?
By Michael Stillman
If you have been searching for Froogle, Google's product search engine, recently you may have noticed something different. It isn't there. Gone. Vanished from the face of the Earth, or the face of Google anyway. Gone without a trace, almost.
Froogle is nowhere to be found unless you start digging around the bowels of the site, for example, the Google Blog. Here you will find that it has been unceremoniously replaced by a new, and very similar service, Google Product Search. If you are looking for Froogle, go to Google Product Search instead. From the Google home page, click on the "more" link just above the search box. That will bring you to six choices. Click "Products" and you are there – Google Product Search, almost like Froogle.
This switch is a sign of just how big and dominant Google has become. How many businesses would dare to change the name of a popular product and not bother to tell customers the new name or even where they can find it? Only an 800-pound gorilla can do that. Still, I can't fathom why there wasn't an unambiguous announcement, or why they removed the links to Froogle without first making it clear Froogle had morphed into Google Product Search.
As for the name change from the clever, rhyming "Froogle" to the pedestrian, boring "Google Product Search," Google has its reasons. In their blog, VP Marissa Mayer and Product Search Manager Jeff Bartelma state, "the name [Froogle] caused confusion for some because it doesn't clearly describe what the product does." That's a fair point, and the "Froogle" name certainly doesn't conform to Google's pattern for service names - boring but descriptive. It is a more logical choice, though I will miss this one bit of irreverence on Google's part when they picked the "Froogle" name. I hope they don't next rename the Google site "Search Engine."
So what has changed besides the name? In the blog, Mayer and Bartelma say, "We're taking the opportunity to refocus the user experience on providing the most comprehensive, relevant results in a clean, simple, easy-to-use UI." Do you know what that means? I think it means "we haven't done a thing," but I'm not sure. I don't speak this language very well. There probably will be changes in the days or years ahead, but for the moment, Google Product Search seems practically indistinguishable from Froogle to me. With one exception... At the top of the results, there is a little box that says "Show Google Checkout items only." If I were paranoid, that would scare the bejeezus out of me.
Google Checkout is Google's version of Pay Pal, a checkout system that any business can use to accept credit cards. It can be a useful tool for your business, or a distraction and unnecessary expense. It all depends on your situation. You decide whether you want to use it. At the moment, Google's offer to show only Google checkout items is a secondary choice for the consumer to make. Only after seeing all of the items listed in Product Search can you choose to see just Google Checkout items.