I have to admit that, when I first ran across this site (http://www.google.com/romance/) early on Saturday, April 1, I was taken in for at least 15 seconds - probably because I wanted so much for it to be true. Not because I wanted to make use of the service myself, but rather it just seemed such an excellent opportunity to apply the principles of Enterprise Decision Management.
For those of you who haven't yet clicked through, let me present Google's own summary:
"When you think about it, love is just another search problem. And we’ve thought about it. A lot. Google Romance™ is our solution. Google Romance is a place where you can post all types of romantic information and, using our Soulmate Search™, get back search results that could, in theory, include the love of your life. Then we'll send you both on a Contextual DateTM, which we'll pay for while delivering to you relevant ads that we and our advertising partners think will help produce the dating results you're looking for." [My emphasis.]
So how would a Contextual Date work?
Well, I can envision users of the service arriving at a restaurant, and when they order "Chicken Quesadilla", the waiter quickly returns with an offer of a discounted trip to Guadalajara. Or at the cinema to see "A Scanner Darkly", the theater prints up recommendations for other Philip K. Dick-inspired movies to be rented from Blockbuster along with the tickets and the receipt.
Of course, none of this true - yet. But the frightening thing about the best April Fool's Jokes is that they have some significant degree of credibility to them. On the same day that Google Romance story emerged, Britain's Sun newspaper reported that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was going to repaint the front door of Number 10 Downing Street bright red to match the socialist leanings of his ruling Labour Party. Sounds plausible, doesn't it?
And, on that basis, I really don't think the Contextual Date is entirely out of order either. If Google used the principles of Enterprise Decision Management to embed rules and predictive analytics into the operational systems that surround the prospective lovers, then the process could be quite straightforward.
A system of recommendations at a movie theater would be easy to construct. When either dater presents a credit card for payment, the same system could quickly interrogate a central rules repository and associated analytics system for appropriate recommendations. The in-restaurant approach may require some manual processing, but integration with a handheld Point-of-Sale system could quickly overcome many other hurdles.
I think the bigger question mark over whether such a service will ever exist is probably more of a cultural one, than a technological one. And it is the same one that Google presents in other domains: In return for some valued service, are you willing to give up your privacy so that you can be served up with advertisements? Perhaps anyone inclined to make use Google Romance to search for the perfect data in the first place may also be part of the very same segment willing to make that tradeoff.
Post-Script: Does Google Romance present a new meaning for the Acronym B.R.M.S.? Would Business Rules Management System be replaced by Better Romance is a Matter of Search? Your answers on a postcard, please.