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The Column icon The Column: Issue 66

The Library > The Column Archive > The Column 066

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Phone Chrome From Google

"Chrome", the new browser from Google has launched. The browser will likely have a significant impact on what the web delivers - think of "Chrome" as an operating system that is being dropped into Windows, Mac, and Linux. The reason for the development of the "browser" (which has been branded as a modest, helpful, and free application) is to allow Google to deliver a web OS and applications that generate revenue.

Google provides non Microsoft branded applications via its web interface that is sure to develop over the coming months and years, and it will not be long before we see Goggle Apps doing most everything installed Windows software programs currently achieve. Make no bones about it, this is a significant development and there are very many implications of this move by the ten year old giant of the Internet.

Is Simple Best?

The trend towards the ever cleaner interface seems to marry with the requirements of good design, and there's no doubt that on first glance Chrome does a great job of providing an uncluttered user experience.

The user is encouraged to browse rather than explore the features or functions of the application, and the user adopts a more passive role in their interaction with the browser than other software applications they might have installed on their system. The simplicity of the browser interface lets the user focus on content rather than technology. Chrome becomes transparent in the browsing process - and as a result any functional changes that result from automatic updates will likely also go unnoticed.

Ownership and Rights

Web applications keep the delivery, control, changes, and licensing of "software" in the hands of the owner of the web server. If the network or application server fails, or there are problems with your Internet connection, you're ability to use the applications will be significantly reduced if not completely curtailed. By their very nature, web applications require users to be hooked in. The world is moving towards technological interdependence.

Web applications are updated without your input (you won't have the choice of installing updates). In other words, unlike installed software, the user is out of the ownership loop and has no control of what version they have, nor what they want the software to do or how. You'll sign the licensing agreement at the start and that will be that.

Google and others will present updates and changes in the same way Facebook and others do: enjoy this great new feature - free (whether you want it or not). You'll sign a license agreement that states the service provider can change the functionality and terms whenever they wish. The service provider will update the application and that feature or function you liked is suddenly different and there's nothing you'll be able to do about it.

Google calls this "open source", but when a developer makes an application that interfaces with Chrome and a specific web server, that web server application company who define their own terms and conditions will limit the rights of developers. Although developers are free to make applications for the service, they hand over their rights to delete, change, alter, or do whatever they wish with the source once it is in the service provider's hands.

The Technological Trojan Horse

Users will begin to use Chrome full screen, and the Trojan horse of a "browser" will effectively become the operating system (tabs will replace the seperate Windows). Google will use the existing operating system as the shell. But the important stuff (functionality and revenue generation) will happen within Chrome.

If all your applications use Chrome there's no need for Windows at all and users and PC manufacturers will turn to what appears to be a cheaper alternative (there's no Windows license to pay for). Of course Google will be gaining revenue all the while in a variety of means - for example by mining the invaluable historic data that will be constantly flowing through Chrome and updating the Google systems.

It's a savvy commercial business model. Revenue will be generated in more subtle ways that mine data and feature advertising. As the developers of Chrome, Google are hoping their online applications will take off with far more sophisticated features and efficient memory management than is possible or affordable on a local computer. The deal from Google is this: Sit back and relax. We'll worry about the functionality, storage, and computing power that needs to drive the tools that are essential for your business and play. You need only connect and everything you need is there. What the majority of users are likely to forget is that every moment they browse outside of the incognito tab, Google is phoning home.

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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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