Web Week on Wednesday

Looking back over the past week (i.e. Thu to the Wednesday that finished an hour of so ago), the last few days seem to have been particularly busy. But representing the latter half of last week here is Jeremiah Owyang’s account of the many challenges facing the social media industry. Jeremiah starts with the lack of profits. He goes on to mention the cutthroat competition, and that’s one of the things driving profits down; I’d say the customer expectation that stuff on the web should be free of charge is another.

Gmail was the big story on Monday. Gmail Goes Down – Twitter Survives, as Frederic@RWW nicely put it. Many were tweeting about their lack of Gmail, but Twitter held up. The following day, Merlin Mann gave a good getting things done without Gmail (GTDWG?) tip.

As you can see, and as John at All Things Digital remarked, Apple (AAPL) has eclipsed Google (GOOG) in market value.

The blog comment service Disqus is high on many “I wish we had this at WordPress.com” lists, especially after its recent update. Mashable Adam wrote that Disqus has a shot at owning the commentsphere. But please don’t let its absence stop you from commenting on this post.

Cuil Goes Dark, Hits Back

The big web story of the day is the launch of Cuil, the search engine with the black background and the ex-Google founders. There are already two strikes against it:

  1. The service went down shortly after going up. That’s not as serious as it might sound: many heavy hitters take a strike. Or, as kindly old Uncle Mikey TechCrunch put it, flatlining right after your launch is more of a rite of passage than an embarrassment.
  2. Cuil is coming to bat on Google’s field. Or, as Mashable Stan put it, the entire web bends to Google’s will because every web site wants to be positioned well on Google.

Then I threw Cuil the Changing Way pitch. It got a hit, as you can see. I’ll see how it does in the second inning and beyond…

James Hall and Perfect Security

Who is James Hall, and what does he have to tell us about security? Here’s one answer (via Glyn).

The chief executive of the [UK] Identity and Passport Service has said the ID cards database will not be completely secure.

James Hall said on Thursday that, after a string of high-profile data breaches in the past year, people should be concerned about the security of their personal information held by the government.

Seeing that, I felt the need to Google “James Hall security.” Several of the top places went to a James Hall I assume to be different.

Beware the end of time has come,
and fear is everywhere,
the mortal world has become cold as ice .
But I have this reassurance…

Those are lyrics from a gospel song called Perfect Security. Google does reveal some strange namefellows…

Google Gears at WordPress.com

If your blog is hosted at WordPress.com, you might have noticed a link on your blog’s dashboard (top right): Speed Up. If you click on it, you’ll find that it asks you about Google Gears. It hasn’t been a secret that Gears support is coming to WordPress.

But the average WordPress.com blogger didn’t know that, and probably didn’t know what Google Gears is. The Gears Help Center isn’t very helpful. For example, it tells us that “Gears is a plug-in that extends your browser to create a richer platform for web applications” but doesn’t tell us why we’d want to enable it for our blogs.

Let’s try to clear a few things up. Some of the following comes from the support forum topic on Gears that was started today.

  • Gears is a browser plugin. If the plugin hasn’t been implemented for browser and version you’re running, you simply won’t see “Speed Up” on your dash. From this point on, I’ll assue that you do see SU.
  • If you click on SU, you’ll be asked it you want to get the browser plugin. You don’t have to.
  • Once you have the plugin, you’ll be asked if you want to enable it for use with WordPress. By the way, the question could be better worded. It’s really asking if you want to enable it for use with that particular WordPress.com blog.
  • If you say yes to enabling Gears, it will download some stuff from the blog to your machine.
  • Because you have a local copy of said stuff, the amount of back-and-forth with the WordPress.com server will be reduced. That’s why the “Speed Up” was chosen as the text you click on to use Gears.
  • When Gears first came out, about a year ago, it was widely described in terms of offline access. Once you have a local copy of stuff, you can use that copy when the server isn’t available, including when you have no web access.

In closing, it’s worth emphasizing that Gears is opt-in. In particular, WordPress.com will not automatically add the Gears plugin to your browser. Neither will it stop working if there is no plugin for your browser.

Google Gears and the Need for Speed

The purpose of Google Gears, I thought, was to make browser-based applications available when the web wasn’t available. I was right, but there’s more to Gears than that.

MySpace said it would use Google Gears to power search and sort functions for its email, giving users a highly sought-after functionality at little cost to MySpace infrastructure, reports GigaStacey. So Gears allows MySpace to do more processing without having to invest in more cloud power.

James left the intersting comment that WordPress is using Gears in a similar way. I clicked over to his Geniosity blog, where I found his post about WordPress 2.6 and Gears. That forthcoming version of WordPress uses Gears to manage a cache. James finds it appropriate that the way to enable this caching is to click on the new “Speed Up!” button.

I’ll resist the temptation to make jokes about “Automattic gears” and “top gear.”

Google Sites Revisited

Google Sites (previously) is now open for everyone (as Mashable Stan puts it). In other words, it’s available as just Google Sites, rather than as part of Google Apps.

My first thought was: can I stow MP3 files there and play them from this blog (which does not have the WordPress.com space upgrade and hence cannot host its own MP3s)? and if so what are the storage limits? (I sometimes have rather long thoughts. And I sometimes over-use parentheses.)

It turns out that Sites is a good home for MP3s, such as this track from the Barenaked Ladies rather charming kids album Snacktime. It’s topical, seasonal even, for many of us in the northern hemisphere.

Sites Help states that: Attached files and uploaded images are currently limited to 10 MB. Each domain is limited to 10 GB in total size. The 10 MB is more than enough for most tracks. The file embedded in this post isn’t a good example, since it’s less than two minutes, and encoded at 192 Kbps, but it takes about a quarter of the 10 MB limit. Nevertheless, the 10 GB limit means more than 1,000 tracks.

So I’m liking what I see of Google Sites. It’s likely to take over from Google Page Creator as my place to store the MP3s I embed here. I mean to spend some time making musicway a site worth visiting, rather than a warehouse, but there are many things higher on my to-do lists.

FeedBurner to Carry AdSense

Mashable Kristen seems positively giddy over the news.

Even before Google acquired Feedburner last year, integration of Google ads into Feedburner feeds was an exploratory wonderment that many wanted to blossom into fruition.

I see ads as weeds rather than flowers. I won’t be planting any in my feeds. If I were the polling type, I would ask: what’s more annoying, a partial feed, or a feed with ads?

Google and Salesforce

Here’s what Salesforce announced today.

With Salesforce for Google Apps, you can now run your favorite desktop applications and your Salesforce applications side by side by accessing Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs all seamlessly from within Salesforce.

Erick at TechCrunch has more details. To quote Erick, “Google is in effect becoming Salesforce’s productivity suite.” To quote him quoting Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff:

Certainly the enemy of my enemy is my friend, which makes Google my best friend. I have spoken with a lot of customers who want to get off of Microsoft Word.

It looks to me as though this alliance makes more sense than would an acquisition. I admit that I’m looking from a literal distance of several thousand miles, and that I don’t have any insider knowledge. But acquisitions can be expensive, in terms of time, attention, and morale as much as money. Just ask Microsoft and Yahoo.

Comparing Platform as a Service Offerings From Amazon and Google

A few days ago, many of us posted about Google App Engine. Most of us made some sort of comparison between GAE and AWS (Amazon Web Services.) I remarked that I didn’t understand why GAE seemed to arouse much more concern about lockin than did AWS.

Dion Hinchcliffe compares the two “Plafform as a Service” offerings, concluding that:

The decision for many startups will be an easy one; the benefits of using these platforms for their new products are compelling across the board despite minor concerns about platform lock-in even though the models used by both companies are actually surprisingly lock-in free.

So maybe the perception that GAE poses significantly greater lockin risk than does AWS is a perception about the difference between Google and Amazon, rather than a reflection of technical differences between the two platform as a service offerings. It’s a feeling that one should be wary about being locked in by the “don’t be evil” company.

Google App Engine

Yes, this is another post about Google App Engine, which you either don’t care about, or have already read about. Actually, it’s more about how such things are reported on the web, using two prominent blogs/publications as examples.

My favorite account of AppEngine so far is the account of building and launching an app provided by Henry at TechCrunch. I sometimes weary of reading account of web services obviously written by people who haven’t actually used the service. To provide the one-sentence summary: Henry was impressed with the speed with which he and Mark McGranaghan could get the app going.

Turning now to ReadWriteWeb and to Marshall Kirkpatrick, I was struck by the concern about lock-in.

It’s very, very important that there be no barriers to leaving App Engine and that the service retains customers based on price and superior service. Anything else, any lock-in, will drive a stake through the heart of innovation.

The concern is striking, not in itself, but in contrast with the comparative lack of such concern about Amazon’s competing offerings when they were launched. In fact, I don’t know anyone who expressed concern about getting locked in to Amazon Web Services besides me.

That’s one of the most interesting aspects of Google App Engine: the competition with Amazon Web Services. It promises to drive the cost and time of building and deploying web applications yet further down.