Many newspapers and magazines have reported on the new Google Desktop Search. What I find interesting, and somewhat disturbing, is Google’s positioning of this tool as a “photographic memory.” 

Google now has a beta version of software that allows searching the contents of the local disk drive. “Google Desktop Search is how our brains would work if we had photographic memories” is the opening sentence of the overview web page. “We really want to make this a photographic memory for computer users” says a Google product director according to a New York Times article on October 18th.

I chaff at the idea that a photographic memory is the goal of information management. Being able to find any item has value but I think the higher goal, and certainly the goal of KM, is to be able to find the “good stuff.” Most professionals see far too much information over the course of a day and a week. While full-text search of everything is useful, I fear that the hype around the new Google desktop search will overshadow the bigger KM challenge of finding what you really need.

I may be swimming upstream here. Bill Gates writes in the October 18th issue of Information Week’s Special Anniversary Report that “the growing capacity and tumbling cost of storage is enabling unimaginably large databases so that it soon will be possible for people to store every piece of information they encounter.”

On a separate note, I have downloaded and tried the Google Desktop product. So far I prefer 80-20, a product I have used for some time to search my hard drive. The main reason is that Google Desktop does not index as many file types as 80-20 (e.g., PDFs or Outlook items other than e-mail messages). I suspect that the introduction of this product will shake up the desktop search market and we will have more and better options, including Google Desktop enhancements, in the future.