Google Everything

So, Google has pretty much done all the stuff I intended to do, oh so many years ago, with their very good and very clever web apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, Reader, Google Home Page, Docs & Spreadsheets, etc. So I’ve decided to wade in and start using all the great little applications – well, not little, big. A few slight snags – first, for Gmail to be useful, I’ve had to forward other mail accounts to it. Second, I had to change my name. My old Gmail name was something I thought was really cool when I was like 14 and into BBS’ing. However, I’m 900 years old now, and I have professional needs and stuff, so I had to come out with a slightly more regular-human-sounding name. Okay, easy enough, done. Now alllllll this crazy Google shit I’ve accumulated over the years I have to try and move over. Not so easy. Browser Sync? Easy, delete the service and re-add it. Email? Forward my old gmail to my new one. Docs? I guess I can share out all my docs to my new self (done), and this Blog here…well…I guess, I can invite my new self to collaborate with my old self…weird, because my old self is going to remain a weird vestigial account forever in the future, I guess…until Google lets ownership of things migrate back and forth. Some services of Google’s I don’t even mess with, but I’ve used at some point, so I don’t have here. But I don’t think that matters.

So, problem number one. My browser just hung while I was typing this. My opinions about browsers are well known, and I’m on a Mac, which can be less nice than using a Windows box when it comes to AJAX-heavy Javascript-ey stuff. So I had to actually type the first paragraph again while looking at the frozen screen in my other browser. This is why I always have 15 browsers available in my Applications.

Next – as much as I like to keep thinking of myself as ‘ahead of my time’, I’m not. Quite frankly, I never imagined that the Web, and regular-issue Web browsers, would ever be able to do the stuff we can do in a Browser today using Javascript and the DOM and such. I mean, don’t get me started on the fact that Javascript is an interesting language that’s just miserable to program in because the environment it lives in is so awful, or the DOM as being the worst API to do anything anywhere, but the end result is still insanely powerful.

But, now I got it all here, and I have to say, I’m a liiiiittle bit disappointed. Not very, but a little. Gmail isn’t as fast as I had wanted. It’s still fast – and really comparable with Mail.app, which is my favorite mail program up until now. We’ll have to see how it goes.

And I made my own custom Google homepage. That’s really, really, really great. I have a little box for my mail, my calendar, my RSS feeds…it’s pretty cool. I tried to do this with my Apportal software (one of the many failed or semi-failed attempts at making the NetServOS software back in the day), and it didn’t quite make it, but Google has completely nailed this one. Very impressive, guys. I’m even considering making a little doodad for it.

The only thing that bugs me – only slightly, but it does bug me – is that you only get what you’re given. What you get is what Google gives you. And that’s nice, Thank you Google, for giving us stuff, but I don’t think I can imagine a world where all software comes from one single great benevolent software entity. Even Google. Or Microsoft. Or MicroGoogleOracleIBM. Eventually, someone’s going to want something that doesn’t exist.

Proof: Let us posit that Google has made all applications that you could ever want, which all work in whatever fashion you desire. Ok, fine. So I want an application that lists applications that I want, but don’t exist yet. Ah ha! Wait, I guess that means Google might give me a nice Google-branded empty window which says, “Here are all applications you want that don’t exist!”…crap. Forget that proof.

Okay, just take my word for it. Nobody can make everything you want. So what’s going to be the solution for that? I think lots of that is tied in with Identity – and there are some stupid people working on it (Microsoft, Liberty Alliance), and some less stupid people working on it – http://www.openid.net – for example. But they insist on representing a user’s “identity” as a URL. Clever, but people tend to identify themselves more with email addresses, I would’ve gone with that instead. Though I guess “mailto:brady@sldkjskldjflskjglkjelkjsldkjflskdjflsdkfjsldkfjalkjdfalskdjgalskdldk.schlorm” is a valid URL. Who knows.

And after that, of course, we then come to interoperability. If the only thing that ties you together throughout all these applications is your identity – well, that’s kinda weak. Not terribly so – if you think about how you use your applications in your day-to-day life, you probably don’t chain them together that much (unless you use Unix, but that’s a perverse case). The big one is your Mail application and the rest of your OS in order to open documents on it. Or your web browser and documents or files you’ve downloaded from that. If you’re on a Mac, your Mail client and your Calendar work well together – but they cheat, I don’t think they’re using any protocol or anything to talk to each other. Or if you use something to transfer files to Important Places (FTP, SFTP), it might be nice to open the files after you get them. But I don’t think this is as important as I thought it was. I’m not sure, we’ll have to see how much my Google usage intersects with my Regular Computer Usage, and see. For the first time in literally years, I’m running with Mail.app shutdown, and it’s not bothering me in the slightest, so I think we may be off to a good start.

I will most definitely keep reporting in.

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