Organizing the Information of the World
In this post I'll explain through a comparative analysis of Gspace and G2G Share, two Google-based web 2.0 mash-ups, why Google is the Real-World SOA*, and why we should be alert and watch our steps.
We have an intuitive-protective understanding of the sentence "Organizing the Information of the World". This "Information" is something that sits in web sites, congress libraries and dusty government archives; it has nothing to do with us. Google's mantra is therefore noble and promethean: bringing the light of information (knowledge) to the human race.
But if we consider Information in its pure sense we must face reality as it is. "We" are Information. What we are - is Information, as well as what we are not. Our life-style, our census data, our files in our desktops, our click-streams (recently re-branded by Steve Gillmor as Attention or Gesture), and one day – our thoughts. These are all Information.
Google's well-known aspiration is to "Organize the World's Information" (Peter Norvig: Inside Google). Whoever organizes the Information of the world is in a potential position to control the World, and that's already well understood (GoogleWatch).
Currently, the Googles (Google, Yahoo, et al.) seem to "just" want to monetize their knowledge, by means of selling us user-friendly, ubiquitous services (advertisement or subscription – it's the same). The future will tell what else they "just" want.
Now that Web 2.0 is around, an interesting play is emerging. On the one hand, it allows the Googles to offer us mashed-up services. But on the other hand, it allows us, no less, to mash-up their services. When that happens, the Googles lose control. As some Gillmor Gangers described, the Googles want us to be part of their process. We need to have a world in which we are in charge of the process.
You see, Google is offering us an ever growing number of services. Hardly a week goes by without Google introducing some new services, features and hacks. They aren't doing this to make us happier; we are the resources at the end-points, mediated through their services. Their Service-Oriented Management & Control System knows who's behind the service (you, me) and controls us through Google processes. Would they allow us to have our own processes on our own(!) Information, once 'organized' by Google?
By doing a comparative analysis of two Web 2.0 Services - Gspace and G2G Share, we would be able to answer this question at once.
Firefox 1.5 introduced an extension named Gmail Space or Gspace, that allows turning a gmail account into a virtual 2GB drive (that's not a new idea but the first to be ultra convenient). One could have thought that Google would prevent such an abuse of its storage space, but they actually didn't. And why? Because it serves well their Control through Information strategy. You place your files inside the Google's vats, and with that, you made yourself more exposable and analyzed. And what if you place files which are violating digital rights? Silence.
Now let's talk about another service, G2G Share, offered by a 17 years old teenager named Robbie Groenewoudt. This service is the logical evolution of Gspace. If my files are already loaded into Google storage, why couldn't I share them as I see fit? Here's an excerpt from NewsForge Teen teaches Google to share describing G2G Share:
A PHP script logs into subscribers' Gmail accounts and makes a list of all the files there, then publishes them with links on the G2G Share Web site. Anyone who visits the site can search for and download any files they please.
"If someone wants to download a file at your account, the system accesses [it] and forwards the mail with the file," says Robbie Groenewoudt, the 17-year-old author of G2G Share. "Everything is done by the system and no user will ever see any passwords." Gmail's labels serve as file indexers, and mail account holders can specify which labels are shared on G2G and which remain hidden.
This time, the information creation process is controlled by the users; Google doesn't control it. And Google's reaction was to shut down the G2G Share site. Google revealed here its real, dangerous face. It turns out that the Information we store at Google is not ours. We cannot share it how we want, with whom we want. We might be able to do so but only if it's part of a Google process.
In Dave Winer's public stream of consciousness I found the following bits: "So here's an idea, let's start a company, hire some great people to run our database. Instead of being the users in "user-generated content," we'll be the owners".
Let's start the revolution.
*This is the concluding post in the "SOA as a Management & Control System" trilogy (first post: SOA, Matrix, second post: In SOA We Trust).