Archive for September, 2008

Reflections in the Chrome.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Town Crier IconSo I’ve been mulling over the idea of Google’s Chrome for a few days and it got me thinking… What’s in it for Google? Browsers are free… and I’m sure a good portion of the company spirit is altruistic… building a better browser, speeding things up, isolating crashes, etc… but be assured, altruism is in the minority. Google is a publicly traded mega corporation that makes money by connecting advertisers much more specifically to their demographic… how better to get a picture of your personal interests and desires then by tapping into your web browser?

Sho’ nuff… there was the always predictable outcry… the feature “Google Suggest” was what folks took particular offense to… so Google posted this to their blog yesterday (09/08) announcing that the 2% of user entries to the OmniBox that are sent back and logged by Google servers daily… will be anonymized within 24 hours…

But what does that mean?

What’s fair game on that data in the interim?

And how do we know for sure that Google will be doing what they say they’ll be doing?

The thing that has me wondering is the “Cookies” paragraph in the Google privacy policy. It reads;

When you visit Google, we send one or more cookies – a small file containing a string of characters – to your computer that uniquely identifies your browser. We use cookies to improve the quality of our service by storing user preferences and tracking user trends, such as how people search. Google also uses cookies in its advertising services to help advertisers and publishers serve and manage ads across the web. We may set a cookie in your browser when you visit a website and view or click on an ad supported by Google’s advertising services.

Some parts are little ambiguous no? Truth is, if you use Chrome you’re taking the chance that Google knows every URL you type into the OmniBox… every partial URL too… every word or phrase you search for is fair game as well… What’s worse is that if you have a Google account (whether for Chrome or any other Google service), all this information will be tied back to your user account because Google sends your cookie along with every automatic search it performs.

Unfortunately, the internet has become a place where if you want to use it… you’re gonna be giving up some, most or all of your privacy… and I guess the bright side is that if I’m going to get bombarded with advertising anyway… it might as well be advertising for stuff I’m interested in. One way or another, Google’s privacy policy was an eye opening read.

I encourage any of you who have an opinion on this to post a comment…

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Google Chrome : Enter The Coliseum Humble Browser.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

On the Air IconCrazy happenings… the verified existence of Chrome, Google’s long rumored, never verified entry to the browser wars… has gone viral here over the past couple days… and I use the term “viral” loosely as Google is sitting on top of a gazillion computer servers… they could most likely launch your Aunt Sophie’s online collection of cat pictures global with any inclination… but Google’s vast, vast server farms are a big part of what makes their launch of a brand new browser intriguing… what might happen when the gatekeeper for the majority of internet search traffic also starts building the gates?

At first I’ll admit… I was put off by the fact that this new browser is being freed upon the world without Mac or Linux support… I was prepared to boycott, as I’ve done in the past, until such day came when all platforms were embraced…

…but then, as I’m sure happened to millions of others… I got sucked in by THE COMIC. As far as things go, an awesome brochure for Google’s new Chrome browser… but also a brilliant tutorial, in laymen’s terms, on what the key issues underlying everyone’s browsing experience are… it caused me to ponder that most internet users probably think in terms of bandwidth issues (connection speed) when their browsers slow down, or even completely crap out… but in reality, the issues are a lot more complex and widespread when you look under the hood. The team behind Chrome, especially after having read all 39 panels of the comic, seems to really have thought through things when mapping this one out… a bunch of radical new ideas at play here.

Of the 30,000 words I could spew out right now on why the ideas behind Chrome are so important… the best place to start in this initial post on the subject is probably why we indeed have room for this particular new combatant in the ongoing browser wars…

On a significant front, this can be boiled down to processes that happen on the Desktop (processed by the chip in your personal computer) vs. requests that are processed and returned to your desktop by THE CLOUD (which is a relatively new term referring to online computing/processing by remote servers). Google is betting that the browser is the new desktop, that it will become even more essential than your actual operating system… a lot of indications make this a pretty solid bet.

Existing browsers, even the highly vaunted (and still very cool) Firefox 3… were initiated in a time when browsing was simpler… jumping from html page to html page… many of them with pictures of course, some had sound and video (although it didn’t work that well)… but at the end of the day, pages didn’t do that much in terms of providing a service, they were more or less online brochures…

But we’ve now entered the age of searching, purchasing, online banking, Facebooking, twittering, chatting, video conferencing and file-sharing… all of which are online mechanisms that provide a service to internet users… Increasing exponentially is the use of online coding languages, primarily Javascript, to serve as the engines that power all of this internet activity… and with this also comes the exponential increase for things to go wrong… this is computer code that’s being executed… just like when you run your local copy of Excel or Photoshop… The best existing browsers can do to keep pace is to continually “add-on” to their code bases… but over time, the inevitable destination of this approach is “bloatware”… and my own opinion holds that FF3 is starting to show early signs of this… Further, a browser like Internet Explorer, even though the worlds most used browser, should barely have a seat at the table for this discussion… their ongoing glacial development cycle seems so mired in corporate malaise as to no longer even have relevance… yet their beat rolls on…

But Chrome looks to be positioned on blowing this whole thing up. Coming from the (enviable) standpoint of being able to create a new browser from scratch, unencumbered by much of the old baggage… they seem to have come up with some revolutionary ideas in terms of building a browser for today’s internet… and they’re keeping everything Open Source so that Firefox, Safari, Opera and any other future Open Source offerings can continue to mutually benefit from each others innovation. Evidently a giant internal issue for Google was to not look as though they were trying to upstage Mozilla and Firefox who they’ve had such a long-standing relationship with… Although it would be naive to discount the business side of things (Google’s trying to move everyone to the CLOUD, where they dominate…), there definitely seems to be an altruistic side to this in effectively moving the web forward.

I’ll stop there for now as this Chrome beta may come out tomorrow and spastically dart off into obscurity like a balloon escaping before properly tied off… But I doubt it… ’cause Google’s the new Microsoft… and they’re hell-bent on world domination…

…but perhaps we can all benefit this time around.

Give THE COMIC about a half hour of your time (if you haven’t already done so), it’s an awesome read, handsomely illustrated by Scott McCloud, for novice and expert alike… And for a bit more insight into the who, when, where, why & how… read this awesome overview in Wired by the always formidable Steven Levy.

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