Earlier this month, I had a short commentary on why Google scares me, and yesterday they reinforced that thought with College Life, Powered by Google – a new site that combines all their most popular services in a nice easy-to-use bundle for college students.
Google is very, very good at manipulating information (not that this is a bad thing) but what Microsot managed to do with document management, is what Google is going to do with online identities, and this is what worries me.
People define their computing environment by their operating system and software. Yes, it’s often laborous to change that system, and so it’s argued that Microsoft has a monopoly. However, Micorosft doesn’t own your information. However, with all of Google’s services, when you put your information on their server, your details are in their hands, and they can now use it however they want. They will have thicker files than any government service agency, and they will own it. By own I don’t mean intellectual property-wise (although that can be debated) but it will be, for all intensive purposes, impossible to switch.
Everyone knows how hard it is to change your email address, you need to let people know, you need to redo everyting that links to it publicaly, then for months (sometimes years) you need to field issues with people still sending stuff to your old adress.
Now imagine this same scenario applied to EVERYTHING you do online – your software, your documents, your email, your photos, your name, your identity, your chats, your messages, your phone, your public image.
Right now, it’s a relatively easy matter to irradicate and resolve old mailing information (3 cheers for a postal service that does redirection), but imagine not being able to expunge Google’s perception of your online reality from the public domain. You will have no choice except to continue using Google services, because they already have everything you’ve done. Talk about a captive market.
And yet people still love them – as a marketing engine, I’m in awe.