Category Archives: google

Comcast and Netflix, Already Crushing the Internet, Now Outright Breaking It

This is some seriously bad news, and the best argument so far against the Comcast/Time Warner merger (not that TW is a network neutrality saint either).

Also exactly why Google is building Google Fiber (and, please, do it fast), because if they don’t, as their services require more and more bandwidth, their options are to either cut exactly this kind of private deal with the broadband providers (assuming we’re left with more than one) or to live in the internet ghetto of grudging “open” peering that remains after all these private deals get made.

Be the Google

Would you like 500mb of web hosting, plus Python, plus Django, plus a lot of Google database and application goodies? Would you like it for free? Then, my friend, what you need is Google App Engine. No mention yet of what the pricing is like after you hit your 5 million hits per month. But trust me, if you’re at 5 million hits per month, you don’t care.

Sorry Amazon S3, but you can basically suck it.

Update: um, yeah, it’s wait-listed. Though if you have Google Apps, you’re probably in.

The Real Problem with Corporate Transparency

Or maybe it’s a problem with trying to feign corporate transparency. In any case, it tends to demonstrate to the world the fact that some of your employees are particularly craven and one-dimensional, for example when this Google blogger puts her foot in her mouth up to her ribcage. And then recants, or retracts or CYAs or something. ZDNet has decent analysis.

Some of this woman’s statements are just so patently dumb that I still want to believe it’s a hoax. “…whether Mr. Moore wants to challenge the healthcare industry, advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue” Seriously? You mean as opposed to going out and interviewing people for a documentary on the topic?

This is why your CEO doesn’t want you blogging.

The Great Date Debate

I was all set this morning to do a long rant on why we should be using this date format:

2007/05/22 (or 2007-05-22 in situations where the “/” is inappropriate)

Looks a little weird, I know, but no matter what culture you’re from, there’s no doubt what date that refers to. I didn’t even have to tell you that it’s YYYY/MM/DD–because what else could it be? My personal reason for adopting this format over 10 years ago was that it sorts well in plain-text data–like in the file system on a computer. It continues to sort well even when followed by a similarly-standardized time (like 16:22:03).

Anyway, the reason I don’t have to do a long(er) rant is that a fast Google Search reveals a lot of other people thinking about this:

And perhaps the most solid recommendation in the modern era, and what got me thinking about this today: Google uses it. It’s right there at the bottom of the Gmail advanced search options.

And if Google does it, it’s got to be good, right?

Google Gets Into the Vaporware Business

I guess you know it’s a mature technology company when it starts releasing phantom products. Google announced (pre-announced?) new hosted software for presentations. But since when does Google announce things without anything to showcase? Shouldn’t they have been in beta for a year or so first? Shouldn’t I have an account before they announce it to the world?

Though they say it’s not a PowerPoint competitor, I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop at least since the acquisition of Writely. (I’ve also argued that Google search already outperforms PowerPoint when it comes to making an actual, honest point in a transparent business world, but that’s a more philosophical debate.)

It’s interesting that Google’s explanation for why their soon-to-be-comprehensive “office” collaboration platform is not a direct Microsoft Office competitor is “It doesn’t have all the functionality, nor is it intended to have the functionality of products like Microsoft Office.” That’s at best a backhanded compliment, since one of the perceived problems with Office is the creeping featurism and overall complexity (not to mention being backed by byzantine technologies like Exchange Server that are prone to blowing up in the faces of small businesses). Many have argued that 80% of users could (and sometimes do) get by with 20% of the functionality of Microsoft Office, with improved productivity due to reduced complexity, and this would seem to be the territory Google’s hosted workspace is prepared to inhabit.

By the way, if you want to sniff the vapor a little more deeply, poke around the Google cache or Internet Archive of Tonic Systems original web site. Tonic is the recent Google acquistion rumored to be tasked with making gPresentations fly. It looks like they already had a pretty dense Java-based toolkit for manipulating PowerPoint presentations.

A Halting First Step Toward Online Privacy Transparency

A googleblog post and AP story today indicate Google’s initial foray into a heretofore undiscovered country of transparency about what our actual expectations should be regarding how companies treat our personally-identifiable aggregate data online. Current “privacy policy” and “terms of use” statements tell us very little about the hows and whys of the data that companies maintain about us.

By telling us that personalized search data, IP addresses, etc. are to be kept for no more than 18-24 months “unless we’re legally required to retain log data for longer,” what Google actually revealed today is how bad the current state of online privacy protection is. Not only are companies collecting and maintaining this data almost indefinitely, but in some cases they’re legally bound to do so. This constitutes one of the dirty not-so-little secrets of online existence: we have little idea about and almost no control over the data that is collected about us.

Imagine if everywhere you drove a record was kept of your route, speed, what stores you visited, who you talked to, etc. In the real world this kind of surveillance requires a warrant and an enormous amount of effort (digging into your credit card purchases, getting your cellular company to flip the switch that turns your phone into a GPS-enabled mobile bug, etc.). But to perform the same observations on line all you need is access to Google’s databases–between the Toolbar, Gmail, Talk, Desktop Search, AdSense, Google Analytics, Google Checkout, etc., etc., a huge percentage of what you accomplish with a computer can be tracked, analyzed, and ultimately connected back to you. And this is just one company. There are literally hundreds of major companies that have access to and maintain this data. How much? For how long?

How long does your ISP keep logs of the web sites you surf to? How long does Yahoo keep a transcript of your chats? How much information does the web-integrated Windows Live search in Vista phone home about you? These are questions we’ve ignored for the sake of utility and expedience, but I have a feeling they’re about to get asked. Google has broached the subject; now it’s up to the industry at large to respond, and hopefully, when they realize how bad it is, online citizens to get involved.

Austin’s Cap Metro Joins Google Transit

Austin has become only the 10th city to partner with Google to offer computerized route planning via Google Transit . For some reason this is even more amazing than turn-by-turn driving directions. Perhaps because as someone who has never been a regular user of any kind of mass transit, the maps and schedules have always seemed particularly opaque and incomprehensible. In fact, I’m not sure I even believed that city buses ran on a schedule. And yet, I now know that if I were willing to walk to the bus stop (Google says 13 minutes from my house, but I’m not buying that), I could get to downtown Austin for 50 cents (the trip would consume about an hour, however, double what it takes by car). It even tells me how much the trip would cost in my car: approximately $5.25, not including parking. I guess maybe Austin is serious about that whole going green thing.