Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My symbiosis with Google.

Yesterday's article by Brad Stone on Google in the NYTimes made me pause, yet again, to reflect on how utterly my professional and personal life have been altered by the 'free' services of this behemoth and 'the cloud,' most notably google search, Blogger, YouTube, gmail, Calendar and Contact synch of my iPhone and all my computers, etc. I have not filed away the hard copy of a scientific article in years, instead putting the PDF of any article of interest in the images file that supports this blog. I've just switched to their Chrome web browser which has blazing saddles speed compared with Firefox, Safari, Explorer, etc. (By the way, Kakutani has a review in the same NYTimes issue of "GOOGLED - The End of the World as We Know It" by Ken Auletta. titled "Still Counting the Ways to Infiltrate Daily Lives.")

The Brad Stone article describes partnerships with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to bring updates from those services into its search index within seconds, so for example, you can see comments on the Copenhagen climate conference scrolling past as they are made. A new feature called Google Goggles, allows people to send Google a cellphone photograph of, say, a landmark or a book, and have information about the contents of the image returned to them instantly.

From Kakutani's review:
Because Google “enjoys a well-deserved reputation for earning the trust of users,” Mr. Auletta says, it is “hard to imagine an issue that could imperil the trust Google has achieved as quickly as could privacy.” He adds: “One Google executive whispers, ‘Privacy is an atomic bomb. Our success is based on trust.’ ”...If users, Mr. Auletta writes, “lost trust in Google, believed their private data was being exploited and shared with advertisers (or governments), the company regularly judged one of the world’s most trusted brands would commit suicide.”
“Google appears to be well positioned for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Auletta concludes, “but it is worth remembering that few companies maintain their dominance. At one point, few thought the Big Three auto companies would ever falter — or the three television networks or AT&T, IBM or AOL. For companies with histories of serious missteps — Apple, IBM — it was difficult to imagine that they’d rebound, until they did.”...In short, one of the few things it is impossible to Google is the future of Google.

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