Interesting post over on Nick Carr’s blog – The loose ties that bind – talking about Google’s strategy to capture 100% of users’ data and the possible implications.

The Google strategy is simple – make storing your data online the default behaviour:

“…As we move toward the ‘Store 100%’ reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local machine copy serves more like cache…”

This approach makes a lot of sense and probably worries a few of their competitors (makes you wonder why they didn’t buy Flickr and…). Increasingly there are far more benefits to having your information stored online than having it stored locally on a computer – instant accessibility from any device for starters. But you still want to be able to access that information locally without always being connected to the Internet. For example, I don’t want to require an Internet connection to review my calendar or contacts, regardless of the device I’m using (currently they are stored on my laptop, PDA and mobile phone, with synchronisation software between the laptop and other devices).

But this approach has both pros and cons.

The benefits are simple – having all your information stored online in one location makes sharing data across applications and devices much much easier. There can be both productivity (reducing clicks to complete tasks, instant synchronisation across devices) and intelligence (new insights from analysing data, mash-ups that combine data sources) gains that are simply not possible when data is stuck in separate silos, be they software or hardware barriers.

The costs are also quite simple – the more you rely on integrated products and benefit from them (those productivity and intelligence gains), the higher the cost of switching to alternatives. You become dependent on the vendor who provides you with convenience.

Google isn’t the first to exploit this approach. Microsoft has long been criticised for integrating products and leading customers down the dependency route, initially using proprietary tools and formats and latterly using integration between desktop and (web) server products like SharePoint. Will using the Web and open standards make the situation any more palatable to those critics?

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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Google have a statement in their contract terms for GAFE that declines any liabilty for loss of data. Pretty scary if you don't happen to have a local copy on your PC at hand …Also, you're comparing a software company and an advertising company — the difference being that we only want your money (which is a pretty straightforward deal), they are play a different game and you will find yourself in a much different relationship with them [[fill in your ethical perspective on ad companies that have complete insight into your data and online habits here]].I note that you don't claim Google=equals=Microsoft, which is an important distinction to make (thank's for that).// "do no evil" Moritz

  2. …very good point. Whilst the plans appear to include synchronising so that you do have an offline copy, there will be the risk that a sync will wipe your local copy if the online (unavailable) copy is considered the master version….and its true, there are key differences in the relationship between customer and vendor for each. But does MS want to become an ad-revenue supported company? It's a bigger pie than the software market…They are two very different companies, so to compare like-for-like would be wrong. But it is fascinating to watch Google follow the tried and tested tactic of customer lock-in, albeit from a different angle.Thanks for your comments! 🙂

  3. Hi SharonFirstly wanted to say great blog – glad I finally find you :)Secondly, be interested in your views on the notion of the master copy living in the cloud. You have to ask yourself, would you want (insert name of big company) with master ownership of your personal data? If I think of photos in particular I have to say "no way".

  4. Hey SteveIt's great to hear from you!It's an interesting dynamic. I'm not too comfortable with the idea of my master copies being in the cloud, but I know the next generation behind us views the world differently. We've grown up in an era that has enabled us to explore our individual talents – something our parents where less likely to have the freedom to do. But there has been a cost – our generation appears to be the first to suffer large quantities of depression and loneliness. The next/net generation are more comfortable with sharing stuff online and have fewer privacy/ownership concerns. That approach too will have a dark side for them, likely in how the content is exploited by less altruistic motives.Living in this shift will be a fascinating and bumpy ride.

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