Google Gives You Wings

If you're between the ages of 18 and, oh, 35 and living in Southern California, chances are you've done one of the following more than thrice in the past year: (1) forgotten your MapQuest driving directions on the printer; (2) assumed a friend would handle the MapQuesting, only to find out she forgot the directions on her printer; (3) been stuck in bumper-to-bumper on the 5 freeway, tired, cranky, clueless about where you're headed, ready to kill your friend and, for some reason, desperately needing to know the population of Luxembourg.

Ten years ago, none of this would have been a problem: your friend would have simply dug out the Thomas Guide from the seat back and consulted her pocket encyclopedia about the whole Luxembourg thing. Nowadays? It's better to just head home—you've got the entire first two seasons of Wingson TiVo, anyway.

Or at least it was until a few months ago, when word about Google's new SMS (Beta) search service began spreading around the Internet. At first, the main attraction was that you could punch in a food query—”Thai,” say—and your ZIP code—92704, perhaps—into a text message—like this: Thai.92704—send it to 46645 (GOOGL, get it?), and within a minute get a text message back from Google listing the nearest Thai restaurant to your house. Oooh. Sweet.

But everyone already knows their favorite Thai restaurant. What people struggle with is how to go from point A to point B. Or remembering the population of Luxembourg. Google SMS can solve both for you. Forgot how to get to the Kitsch Bar? Easy. Simply text Google “From (starting address, city, or ZIP code) to 891 Baker St., Costa Mesa, 92626.” In less than a minute, you'll get a text on your phone with point-to-point driving instructions—clearer than MapQuest, even!

To find out that nagging population question, text “Luxembourg population.” Taking a vacation? “Weather Luxembourg” is what you'll want to text before you pack. But don't stop there: you can also find out movie times, stock quotes, recipes, address and phone number listings, product prices (via Froogle) and dictionary definitions.

Best of all, while it's in beta form, Google isn't charging for its SMS service. All it costs you is the price of a text message (around five cents if you don't have a text messaging plan; see your cellular provider for more details). Now you'll never be able to ditch your friends for Wingsagain, because you'll have directions, and they'll know it.


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