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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Will there be any spot on the web without Google?

Google offers hosting for Wikimedia projects is one of the headlines of the last couple of days.
Just to be more precise: Wikimedia is:
a super project of free content wikis and a wiki engine called MediaWiki that runs them. The Wikimedia wiki projects so far include (oldest first): Wikipedia, Sep11wiki, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource and Wikispecies.
John Hokes hopes:
that this is a good thing in the long run, and that there are no grand schemes to slowly assert any control over the content and day to day operations of Wikimedia in a negative way.
paidcontent thinks more along the lines that I am thinking about:
A possible tie-in with eternal beta Google News? Google Answers? Something completely new?
Let me just recap of a few areas that Google has now moved into:
1) there are, of course, all the search related functions: keywords, images, maps (new), TV programs (new), groups and news.
2) Gmail: you can store 1GB of your emails (and Google even suggest not to delete any of them)
3) Blogger: Google purchased blogger.com (my very own hoster of this great blog) offering free&easy blogging for users without a website and hosting environment
4) Wiki: Google might now also be hosting the wiki projects.

See the pattern? In the not so distant future, Google will know exactly what webusers
- write to each other (over a history of 1GB, including your "social network" and the stuff your network talks about),
- search for (regarding all sorts of media!),
- blog on about, and
- what is worked on and talked about in open wiki environments.
No other company will have such profound data on what's really happening on the web. What the users, who as an aggregate mass, are doing and wanting.
And if there are any other areas on the web, where Google has no part in, I am sure they will soon move there, too.

Given this load of information it is only a matter of computing power (and time) to aggregate comprehensive user trends and profiles. Once they have their ear in every corner of the web, they will have a competitive advantage that I fear we don't fathom yet. We are in the information age, the whole web is about information. And those that manage and utilize the information best, will win. Obvious as it is...

I personally think that Google is soon on its way to overtake Microsoft in terms of relevance and mindshare for the everyday PC user. And they will be a powerful player as far as information on the web is concerned. Not only search, for which they already have cornered the market, but everything regarding intelligent information management.

Is this good or bad? Sofar Google has not charged any money to the everyday user (at least that I know of). If they continue to make money by (relevant, thank god!) advertising through, e.g. Adsense, then it's fine for me. I don't mind a little advertising as long as that means free content.
But if they manage to get even a near-monopoly on information management on the web, they might exploit this and charge users for content. Even though I don't think this is very likely, the danger exists.

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