Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

The Real Heroes of the Web

With all the hoopla in the news about the Google IPO, let’s take a moment to remember the real heroes: The people who put all that great stuff on the web in the first place.

I love Google, I really do. But I also enjoy a nicely toasted bagel. And when I’m spreading cream cheese on my toasty bagel, I don’t say, “Wow, my toaster sure is great.”

A toaster is just a tool. It’s the stuff you put in it that makes it worth having. The same goes for Google.

Google is, at its heart, a search engine. The best search engine available at the moment, sure. But just a tool to do a job, like a toaster. Deprived of all the spontaneous, altruistic, amateur content on the web, Google would be about as useful as a toaster without bread products.

The other day I heard a journalist talking about how much easier finding informations was, thanks to Google. And it’s true, Google has used a combination of programming moxie and computational brute force to create the fastest and best search on the net. But Google did not put all those pages online – people did. And I think they deserve much of the thanks.

So let’s raise a glass to Google and congratulate them on their successful IPO. Some are calling it the biggest IPO ever. And they did it all without being evil, in accordance with their company mantra. They used a Dutch auction system that let ordinary folks get in early, instead of just the bank’s buddies. Their stock debuted at $85 and shot up to $100 in the first day, making millionaires out of a thousand employees and billionaires out of company founders Serge Brin and Larry Page. Not bad for a company that started in a dorm room a mere six years ago.

But the next toast should be to the geeks, freaks, and oddballs who put all those pages up in the first place. Most of us who self-publish on the web don’t do it for money. We do it because we’re passionate about something. Whether it’s personal stories or amateur photography or a pet Pug, the web was built on people just crazy enough to share their obsession with the world.

It’s the countless billions who have posted their thoughts, research, and stories to the web, often for no logical reason whatsoever, that deserve to feel proud of Google’s success. Because it was us that gave Google something worth indexing, and gave the world something to search for.

To all my fellow homepagers, bloggers, and webpage quarterbackers out there, this IPO is for you.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.