Public Data Explorer has escaped the cull at Google Labs, from which it has now “graduated”. There were signs that it might survive when Google started adding public data charts to the top of the results for some statistics searches. It can now be found at http://www.google.com/publicdata/home. Public Data Explorer allows you to search and compare sets of public data such as population, energy consumption, mobile phone usage and government debt across countries. You can select the countries or states that you wish to compare and view the data as line graphs, bar charts, map visualizations or bubble charts.
Data sets include information from the OECD, World Bank, Eurostat and various US government departments. There is also an option to upload your own data sets – details are at http://www.google.com/publicdata/admin. This probably accounts for some of the very specific data that is now available, for example: Australian Population Estimates, Unemployment rate Italy and Catalan municipalities indicators. The full list is at http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory. It is worth exploring the more generic titles such as “World Bank, World Development Indicators” and “OECD Factbook 2010” to uncover the full range of what is available.
Yesterday I heard that Google had axed Google Directory (Google Kills Google Directory, Says Web Search Is Faster http://www.seroundtable.com/google-directory-gone-13731.html). If you try to access the directory you will see a message telling you that it is no longer available and “We believe that Web Search is the fastest way to find the information you need on the web. If you prefer to browse a directory of the web, visit the Open Directory Project at dmoz.org“.
The directory was not one created by Google but a version of Dmoz.org, The Open Directory Project. I began using Dmoz when it started as an alternative to the Yahoo Directory, which Yahoo had stopped updating. I have not used it for several years, though. The quality of an increasing number of the entries was suspect and the number of dead links unacceptable. I have just revisited Dmoz and the quality seems to have deteriorated even further. It is as tedious as ever to navigate and one often ends up with a list of commercial pages advertising companies and services. I did not have much joy with the search option either (powered by AOL Search). Marketing pages dominated all of my search results. I will not be mourning the passing of Google Directory.
Google does not seem to have made an official announcement about the directory and in the time honoured fashion has simply dropped the service. It has, though, dropped the bombshell that it is to close down Google Labs. (Official Google Blog: More wood behind fewer arrows http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/more-wood-behind-fewer-arrows.html). They will carry on with “in-product experimentation channels like Gmail Labs or Maps Labs. We’ll continue to experiment with new features in each of our products“. Android apps will be available on Android Market. There is further comment at “Google Labs To Be Closed As Larry Page’s Product Streamlining Continues” (http://searchengineland.com/google-labs-to-be-closed-86575)
This is something I did not expect at all and I will miss the single point of access to Google’s experiments. Fusion Tables (http://www.google.com/fusiontables/) has already “graduated” but what is to become of experiments such as the Art Project, Google Correlate, Image Swirl and the Public Data Explorer? Google simply says that updates will appear on the Labs website (http://www.googlelabs.com/). The close down emphasises the importance of not become totally reliant on Google search features and services. Get to know the alternatives – they are sometimes better!
I am now wondering what will be next in the firing line.