It's almost funny.
Google has released 38 products in the past 70 days.
Most of these won't be seen by all but the most dedicated Googler, but some will change the face of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry forever. And the venerated company doesn't seem to be losing any steam. Anyone paying even slight attention to Google for the past ten years understands that their meteoric rise to world dominance wan't a fluke. It has followed a pretty steep upwards curve and nothing short of full-on catastrophic Google-cide will remove them from their throne upon high.
One of the 38 releases I refer to is a nifty little tool called Real Time Search. It wasn't hyped much, and much like other Google releases, flew under the radar waiting for people to stumble upon it. It's a simple idea, really. When you search for something like Healthcare Reform, a little box appears within your search results that gives real-time updates of news from that subject. "News" includes Twitter updates on the subject, RSS feeds from blogs, as well as Facebook and MySpace feeds about it. This all flows down in the box at a steady pace, updating every few seconds to show the lastest results.
At first glance, this seems pretty cool, but borderline useless.
But then I got a glimpse of the Singularity, otherwise known as Web 3.0.
Web 2.0 is still a buzzword these days. It represents the idea that users should be able to put publicly accessible data into web containers hosted on websites. The most visceral and raw version of Web 2.0 is YouTube. The content is all user-generated, and the website is only as good as the content users dump into it (which means YouTube is pretty atrocious as far as web sites go). This idea took off and became MySpace, followed by Facebook. It became Picasa and Flickr, Blogger and Digg.Web 2.0 changed the way we see the Internet, and is the sole reason the Internet recovered from the .com burst a few years back.
Twitter came and sounded the death knell of Web 2.0. I don't think they meant to do this, but they quickly grew from something resembling a glorified status-update to a quantum leap in the speed of collaborative communication. Twitter provided a near-instantaneous walls-free link to the 140-character thoughts of anonymous users all over the world. The use of the simple hashtag (#) to group subjects and keywords grouped tweets into streams that reflected what people around are thinking about, say, #google, right now. This has no boundaries, no friends to accept, no privacy settings to drill through, and no networks to join. Just pure, raw, text-based flow of collective consciousness. This wasn't Web 3.0, but it was definitely 2.5 at least./ It abstracted the ownership and control of data on the Internet even more than social networking did, and became a media-driving giant faster than anyone could believe.
There's another pattern behind the versioning of the Web, aside from the issues concerning control over content. As the technology behind data communications grows by leaps and bounds, as the connections between nodes become exponentially faster, continuing the ever-popular and ever-insistent trend of Moore's Law, we're getting closer and closer to an ideal form of communication that is instantaneous, and is passive instead of active. We are coming into an era where information is not something you seek out, but something you absorb as it simply appears on your screen the moment it is created.
Let me cut to the chase here, and explain to you how Google's real-time search works. This is an innocuous little feature that works like this: When you search for anything, you can go into the search options to display "updates only". What this will do is provide a continuously updating feed of comments and thoughts from sites like twitter, facebook, and myspace. This all happens in real time. I tried it out. I had a search open for "google" in google. In another window, I had my Twitter account open (@Interwebsruler fololw me!). I "tweeted" (I hate that word, but I guess I should get used to it) "google is awesome!" Almost immediately, my tweet showed up in the google search, with a little "posted 1 sec ago" blurb at the bottom. This is an unbelievable feat of search engine power. And it means that Google has achieved the beginning of a revolution in the way we interface with data.
Remember, the entire paradigm of data in the Internet is changing. Instead of the search for knowledge being an active process, an activity that has the user searching for something that already exists on the Internet somewhere, the tables are turning, and the whole idea of search is switching sides. As soon as information comes into existence, it's already on your screen. It's now a passive experience. The idea of "jacking in" to cyberspace and living in a world of consistently updating data flows is now a reality.
This is what Google is aiming for. Google wants to create an Internet that is ubiquitous and instant, not a repository of information, but a living, breathing, dynamic, world of information that it always alive and always changing. As users, our job is not to find the data, but simply allow the data to find us. When you put content into the Internet, you don't give it a destination. It doesn't travel, really. It just becomes instantly available for anyone that wants access to it. Instead of the Internet being a framework in which data repositories like Facebook and wikipedia can communicate with each other, the Internet will eventually be the container in which all the data is stored. The website will no longer be a place to control and input data. It will simply be a filtering system to direct the persistent flow of data to those who want it.
And guess who is going to control that data container? You guessed it. The Google.
I know that a lot of this probably makes no sense to many people. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me either. But I think I've given you a clearer picture of what the Internet will look like once the age of Web 2.0 is left behind for a newer, even more daring, frontier. And I think we all know that Google will be at the forefront of this war over the control of data flow.
The final frontier of Google dominance is where the war with Microsoft begins. You see, an integral part of the control Google wants over the flow of information is the protals through which the data flows. As of now, Microsoft owns that. The browser and the OS that is used to access the Internet is still not under Google's control. This is Google's biggest challenge. Data flow is only as good as the method used to get the data. Google plans on fixing this. They released the Chrome web browser (which is now able to have plugins, much like firefox) last year. They released Android, their Mobile OS, this year. Next year is the release date for Chromium, their PC OS. Seems like they've got their bases covered. They even have a little package called "Google Chrome Frame" which lets you take your IE and emulate Chrome on it.
It's going to be an interesting few years, and I'm just excited to be a part of it.