Googled to Death

For someone interested in this sort of thing–I am interested in this sort of thing, aren’t I?–I never did make a statement about Google’s Gmail.

Gmail is a centralized email system with virtually unlimited space to hold your messages, and with the ability to use Google’s search algorithms to research your email. Bells and whistles aside, that’s all it is. I have a Yahoo email account I maintain for emergencies–where’s the beef?

There was some discussion about privacy concerns because after all, Google does hold your messages, your data, and does search your email to post targeted ads. I agree with Tim O’Reilly on this issue in his writingThe Fuss about Gmail and Privacy: Nine Reasons Why It’s Bogus. Some folks think that Big Brother will force Google to allow him to peek into our private emails. However, for the terrorists among you, I would suggest that you consider not using a centralized email system to exchange words about your plans to take over the world.

What Tim says about privacy and email is spot on: we’ve had centralized email systems like Gmail before, and email itself is notoriously easily compromised. Never assume privacy with email and if you want to say something in private, I suggest lunch in a quiet bistro somewhere.

However, I do disagree with O’Reilly’s overjoy about the benefits of Gmail. He invisions this great global social software network that would allow our email systems to link us to appropriate people based on need and someday we’ll move all our data to the Core and access it with our data ports that also double as tie clips, cellphones, and nose rings.

Yeah, and when that happens to the general populace and not just the Network junkies, pigs will fly on pretty, pretty dragonfly wings.

Do you really want who you know and who you like and who you trust mapped into some universal algorithm so that your system can tell Person B who knows you who knows Person A and then Person B pushes you to connect them up with Person A, when maybe you don’t necessarily agree with Person B about what all this knowing really means.

Do you really want to be that wired?

Even if I and most people could get over our repugnance with this type of overall encompassing and non-directed and pervasive/invasive social software network, this type of overall, all inclusive centralized core of data is anathema to those of us who believe in decentralized systems.

O’Reilly writes:

Storage of my critical data on one of the largest, most reliable data storage banks in the world. As Rich Skrenta made so clear in his recent weblog posting, Google is the shape of the future. Forget Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law. Storage is getting cheaper faster than any other part of the technology infrastructure. I remember Bob Morris, head of IBM’s Storage Division and the Almaden Research Labs, telling me a couple of years ago, that before too long, storage would be cheap enough and small enough that someone who wanted to do so could film every moment of his life, and carry the record around in a pocket. Scary? Maybe. But the future is always scary to those who cling to the past. It is enormously exciting if you focus on the possibilities. Just think how much value Google and other online information providers have already brought to all of our lives — the ability to find facts, in moments, from a library larger than any of us could have imagined a decade ago.

Anybody who would store their critical data on a system in which they have no control, and one which is used by millions of people is, well, to put it kindly, caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment.

I guess I am old, and too set in my ways. Too many ghosts in the machine for my liking now, without opening the door to hordes more of them, just because somebody dangles a new pretty in front of my face, and I like the sparkle.

Besides, I am getting weary to death of Google. First it was Google buying Blogger, then Orkut, and then Gmail, and now its the IPO where we get to hear about how some very rich people are going to get even richer. It’s just a software company. It’s big machines with lots of data and some good developers and some interesting algorithms, some of which don’t always work as well as we would like. I agree with William Grosso: Anyone Else Bored by the 24 x 7 Google Watch?

(Well, that was good–I managed to fulfill my Google quota for an entire year with one posting. Good, economic writing, that.)

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