Finding Waldo seems to be a hot item at the moment. The natural way to find anything now is to Google it. That’s the challenge that Melanie Cole, a Media Art student, has set Google Earth. The glasses-clad, lanky geek in the striped white and red tee, matching hat (complete with pom-pom), jeans and his trust cane has now been painted on Vancouver, BC rooftops, creating a larger-than-life game of Where’s Waldo!
The challenge is reasonable since according to Google, its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. There would seem to be no limit to its ambitions. Perhaps not surprisingly, Google has just announced that it is crawling through HTML forms. This seems to be upsetting some website owners, but Google is unrepentant.
This experiment is part of Google’s broader effort to increase its coverage of the web. In fact, HTML forms have long been thought to be the gateway to large volumes of data beyond the normal scope of search engines. The terms Deep Web, Hidden Web, or Invisible Web have been used collectively to refer to such content that has so far been invisible to search engine users.
Perhaps it’s time for Google to revisit its mission statement. It is after all a publicly-owned company. It should endeavor to balance the interests of all its stakeholders. Perhaps some parts of the world’s information just aren’t worth accessing. At the very least it would be interesting to see a cost-benefit analysis done for all the different places it is seeking that information.
Footnote: if you want to know where to find Waldo, then Frank Taylor, who knows a bit about Google Earth, has some revelations for you.