It is no secret that Google has become a dominant influence in the way the Web is accessed and used. The word “Google” itself has become a verb, and people will often begin their web sessions with Google, even if they know the exact URL of the site they want to access. From E-mail to search to maps to shopping, Google dominates the Web experience of millions of Internet users.
Google, however, is not just a passive player. The search engine giant extends its influence over every aspect of the Internet it touches and has aspirations to reshape the whole Web in its image. The purpose here is not to determine whether those goals are good or bad, but to highlight the many ways in which Google has already changed the web and what might be on the horizon over the next few years.
Searching for Anything and Everything
Google’s bread-and-butter is still search, and they have systematically nurtured their search capabilities into a multilayer system. Users can now search for images, videos, maps, phone numbers, scholarly research, books, products, and much more.
Over the course of the next year and in the years to come, Google may want to increase the reach of its search capabilities. By introducing the Android mobile operating system, they have already started this process in the mobile phone markets. With Google TV and Chrome OS, Google will promote searching as an interface rather than just a tool. In essence, the focus of the user experience will be the search. A person will turn on a TV – or his laptop – and be greeted by a Google search bar.
Aim for the Cloud
According to the dedicated hosting company 34SP.com, cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of software or services over the Internet. For Google, the Internet is the new desktop. Cloud applications, according to them, offer the best mobility and simplicity for today’s two- and three-device users. With cloud services, you do not have to worry about installing applications, updating them, transferring documents from one device to another, or any of the other nuances of traditional desktop applications.
Chrome OS focuses entirely on the cloud, rendering the entire desktop interface as a web browser, rather than the browser as a single application. On the business side of cloud computing, Google sees itself as the answer to large-scale deployment problems, providing software as a service (SaaS) rather than as a standalone product.
The next major shift in the architecture of the Web, if Google has its way, will be away from third-party plugins like Flash Player and towards more standards-based development with HTML5. Google wants images and video that will load and stream fast and play in any browser, on any device. To ensure this happens, they created the WebM video format (to replace Flash) and the WebP image format (to replace JPEG).
The consistent factor with most of Google’s projects is openness. Their Android and Chrome operating systems are both powered by their own customized versions of Linux, and both systems are free and open-source. Their Chrome browser and countless other smaller projects are also open-source and freely available to download, modify, and share.
Every summer, Google hosts the Summer of Code where major free and open-source software organizations and companies sponsor student work toward the creation of new open code. Among the 2010 participating organizations were Apache Software Foundation, Drupal, GNOME, KDE, Mozilla, Ubuntu, and many others.
With YouTube, Android, and Google.com itself, Google’s reach is vast and extends far beyond traditional desktop computing. Only those inside Google know exactly what their plans are, and it is anyone’s guess whether or not those plans will succeed.
If you love Google and love the principles they stand for, you can expect to be excited and impressed with their myriad of new developments over the next year. If, on the other hand, you cannot stand Google, expect to be annoyed and hope for their competitors to knock them off once and for all. What is clear is that the company has big plans for the Web and its future.
Author Byline: Tavis J. Hampton is a librarian and writer with a decade of experience in information technology, web hosting, and Linux system administration. He currently works for LanternTorch.Net, which offers writing, editing, tech training, and information architecture services.