Google is, actually, one of my top three disliked companies. The other two are Microsoft and Adobe. Why I dislike Microsoft and Adobe is a post for another day, but today I would like to talk about Google. Believe it or not, I will explain this without ONCE saying any personal bad experiences with Google’s services.
Google has recently unveiled at a developer preview their new product “Google Wave”. If you have not yet read about this, or watched the introduction video available on their webpage, I suggest you click here to go there now, and watch it.
If you have heard of it, and if you’ve watched the demo, you will be amazed. Not only have Google come up with a killer product, they’re going to open-source it, and developers will have access to the most amazing resources to produce the most amazing web applications possible. If you’re still reading and you haven’t watched the video, please go watch the video first.
Right – so the question is, why, especially if it’s open-sourced, are you against Google?
Try to look at it from this perspective. At this moment, we have three main operating systems, Linux, Mac and Windows, each with desktop applications built to cater for the underlying system. You might prefer one more than the other, and thus the more popular ones get more applications built, developers move to develop on the platform, and when the developers move, most users don’t realise this, but it’s where the developers like to go that determines what will progress and ultimately be used by you regular folks.
Right. So it’s a bit stupid to have a lot of competing technologies, and it’s obviously better to have one uniform system that just works ™ for all. That’s why we start to depreciate older technologies, merge together technologies, define standards, etc to make desktop systems more integrated, etc. This is well seen in stuff like KDE, GNOME, etc.
However, Google’s seen something a lot of others have been blinded about. The web is the only cross-platform, standardised system that exists. So whilst Microsoft, Linux and Apple go and fight their differences, Google, armed with its existing monopoly in the search engine system (yeah, indexes the internet, nice one) decides to take over the internet.
Here’s where you roll your eyes. But I’m not joking. Allow me to explain.
Since nobody can actually own the internet, Google has managed to think up another way of doing it. The plan starts with creating a lot of “uncanny” web applications. The uncanny valley was a concept used to describe the point at which one’s appreciation of technology due to its advancement changed to disgust because the technology became too “humanoid”. Eg: a humanoid robot only gets so awesome until it starts look identical to you, and better too, and with a hidden flamethrower. When used in the context of web apps, this is where the website’s interface mimics that of a desktop application. Like, for example: Google Docs.
This impresses a lot of users really quickly, as it allows them to do what was only previously possible if the software was installed on the system instead anywhere around the world with an internet connection and with a decent browser.
…and then Google starts releasing web APIs and toolkits to allow developers to take advantages of the systems it has created. This sounds really good, until you think about what else Google is doing.
Once Google has a place in the browser market, they have every right to start sticking in their own ideas into the new HTML 5 standards. Now Google has their arsenal to define exactly what the browser is capable of. Together with their existing web toolkits and demos on the amazing stuff that is capable, who wouldn’t be happy to oblige?
Well, nobody. Google has made it so easy for the average person to access all of these great features. Even though Google Sites is a complete joke for web developers, for Joe down the street who can’t spell out HTML to save his life, Google Sites is amazing.
So people start switching. Because the technology behind it, too, is so impressive, developers start switching. In the end, what we now have is in effect “an operating system right in your browser“. Or as one person in IRC put it, another layer to depreciate the coding layers below it. Soon we will not need desktop applications any more, and everything will be done on the web. (of course there are also technical implications about this, like what will happen to the rest of the programming languages)
No, the web is still just through one browser you say, it’s not at all useful like that.
Actually, what about Chrome running as separate processes? What’s the difference between that and different applications? All that means is that instead of running KMail, your notetaking application, Pidgin, IRC client, OpenOffice and feed reader, now you’ll be running 6 or 7 Chrome separated tabs (so they’re just like individual applications) connected to GMail, Google Notepad, GTalk, Google Docs and Google Reader. In fact, you can have *deep breath*
GMail, Google Notepad, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Reader, Google Contacts, Google Desktop, Google Gears, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Sites, Google Books, Google Translate, Google Scholar, Google Medical Records, Google Directory, Google Groups, iGoogle, Google Adsense, Google Streetview, Google Sync, Google Android, Google Youtube, Google Analytics, Google 23andme, Google Lively, Google Dictionary, Google Voice, Google Feedburner, Google Chrome, Google Chrome OS, Google Public DNS, Google Go, Google Shopping, Google Checkout, Google Apps, Google News, Google Video, Google Blogspot, Google Finance, Google Sketchup, Google Orkut, Google Trends, Google Code, Google Picasa … and now Google Wave.
Every single thing to replace every single desktop application you’ll ever need save for some development tools. I swear I could actually live a year with only using Google Products.
So once people try to compete with the huge massive framework Google has created for itself, the only way to create competitive products is to either rebuild your own framework (which is likely to be extremely time consuming and impractical) or …. Use Google Toolkit and Google API and Google Code.
So even though Google doesn’t own the web, Google has taken over the web. It doesn’t matter if it’s open-sourced, if you have to use Google Toolkit to make anything decent, that’s “Google is here to define what can be done” for you. The ultimate czar of the Internet.
Welcome to the future, where nobody knows what “desktop application” means.
Edited Dec 09 to add 8 more Google products to the list.