Google Shopping arrived at last in Australia earlier this week. That's a welcome development, but it also served to remind us that there are still some services which Google doesn't offer down under. Here are the five we most want to see on the fast-track list.
I do try and keep a sense of perspective about this. While we rarely get first access to new Google features, they will usually appear for Australia well before they migrate into other languages. Many options can be accessed by using Google's non-country specific page. And most of these products are free, so complaining excessively seems, well, excessive.
That said, Google is always quick to boast about projects whose development first happened in Australia, like Google Maps. (Though that was also true of Google Wave, which did not work out so well.) But even local development doesn't guarantee local delivery — we got turn-by-turn directions on Android way after the rest of the world.
I realise that Australia is a smaller market and we're rarely going to get services at the same time as the US. But Australia is the audience I write for, so I have to stand up for what Aussies need. Thus if Google has an internal priority list for local features, I'm really hoping this stuff is on it.
5. Barcode support for shopping searches
As readers were quick to point out earlier this week, while we might now have a shopping search option, there's still no support for barcode scanning via Android for Australian products. As we noted recently, barcode support is a real challenge across the board in Australia, and one big factor is that getting the data can be expensive. But if we were looking for a company with deep pockets, Google would be high on the list.
4. Better prediction features
Google recently enhanced its autocomplete prediction technology to make guesses based on every word in a query, not just the beginning of what you type. It would be great to see this appear on the Australian site.
3. More robust specialised searches
Sometimes when Google builds a search option designed to highlight particular kinds of information, it doesn't make it flexible enough. Take postcodes. We've noted before that if you search for a place name followed by the word postcode, Google will return the answer as a snippet ahead of search results, saving you having to click through to another page. However, the process doesn't work in reverse; if you type postcode placename, that doesn't happen. Surely that could be fixed pretty easily?
2. Nationwide public transport directions on Maps
This one isn't Google's fault; it's largely to do with recalcitrant state transport organisations not wanting to open up their data. So while we have very welcome public transport directions on Google Maps for Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Cairns, it isn't an option for our three most populous cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. (We were promised Brisbane last year, but nothing seems to have happened.)
1. Google Voice outside the US
Yes, with a little cheating you can get a Google Voice number in Australia, but its usefulness is somewhat restricted, especially if you don't want to make lots of calls to US numbers. What would be truly awesome is the ability to get a local Australian number that integrated with the other Google Voice features such as redirecting your calls, transcribing messages and full-scale Gmail integration. I suspect we will be waiting a long time for this to happen, but a boy can dream.
Which international Google features would you like to see rolled out in Australia? Let's see a list in the comments.