26 Mar

Out-of-Left-Field Idea of the Day: Google Broadband

Over the past decade, the headline of this entry, first published in October 2004, seemed less and less outlandish. By March 2014, Larry Page had made that a very explicit goal, echoing Bill Gates’ earlier promise of a computer on every desk and in every home. Here is how the idea that Google would get into the internet access business – as a fundamental enabler to bigger things, not in a Comcast incumbentish (hereby a word) way – turned into reality over the years:

04/2014:  The P in P2P in People – Jon Udell sends us back to a time when a billion people hadn’t already surrendered their privacy in exchange for free functionality and convenience. See how Thali‘s architecture is very close to what I described below, back in 2004. It’s brilliant, the right thing to do so that you’re the user rather than the product, and it’s going nowhere.

03/2014: All About Google Loon’s Low-Cost Space-Based Competitor, Outernet

01/2014: Cisco’s “fog computing”:

“Fog Computing is a paradigm that extends Cloud computing and services to the edge of the network. Similar to Cloud, Fog provides data, compute, storage, and application services to end-users. The distinguishing Fog characteristics are its proximity to end-users, its dense geographical distribution, and its support for mobility. Services are hosted at the network edge or even end devices such as set-top-boxes or access points.”

06/2013: Introducing Project Loon: Balloon-powered Internet access

03/2010: Google traffic

02/2010: How much should Google be subsidized?

02/2010: GOOG’s experimental fiber network

01/2008: Broadband Capacity Is The Alternative Minimum Tax Of The Web

09/2007: Google plans new undersea “Unity” cable across Pacific

02/2006: All Your Information Are Belong to Google

11/2005: Google’s Shipping Container

09/2005: Cerf’s Up for Google

08/2005: Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet (speculation too)

05/2005: Google Web Accelerator

02/2005: Google Now a Registrar

Continuing with my theory, Google will give away free domain names as part of their Broadband offering. Much more elegant and less arcane than dynamic DNS.

01/2005: CNet: Google wants ‘dark fiber’

Initial October 2004 entry (magnificently obsolete in some way, yet dare I say otherwise visionary)

Despite the buzz, I’m not really excited about Google working on a browser or IM client, though I definitely can imagine them buying Trillian and giving its Pro version for free. I guess they’ll negotiate interop with AIM and they might even force the hand of Microsoft and Yahoo, which would be a Good Thing. But looking at Google Desktop and its local web server comes a more intriguing thought. How about partnering with or acquiring a large ISP/WISP (say, Earthlink) to deliver an affordable service bundle with symmetrical bandwidth, static IPs, reliable DNS, and self-publishing with Blogger, Picasa and Hello.

Let millions of personal web servers bloom and piggy back on that big wave of user-generated content. Google would basically re-index their customers’ sites (just a directory on their desktop really) on the fly, and share the results with the rest of the world (or not) based on user settings (do not confuse the wedding pictures and the honeymoon sex tape, ok). And now it makes sense to give software for free because you have other ways to bill consumers and learn about them. How’s that for increasing targeted ad inventory while diversifying your revenue sources, and wiring yourself into people’s life as well as within the fabric of the internet? There might also be a side business out of caching in there for Google, they already have part of the infrastructure and would only need to move to the edge. (Hmm, ok, looking at Akamai’s $150M in yearly revenue, caching is not that exciting from Google’s perspective at this point.) Add P2P (the Hello angle) to that to take care of content propagation so that publishing something popular is not asking for a DDOS.

Anyway, imagine the landscape 5/10 years from now with ubiquitous PDA/cam/phones/whatever, lots of connectivity all around, more occasions and ways to generate content and to put it online instantly. Uploading pictures to a damn server with restricted storage just to share them with friends and family is akin to going to the telegraph office to send messages. It’s just a transient state in the infrastructure that doesn’t make any sense in the long run (provided we eventually get decent security on the desktop). Google is not going to win against Microsoft or even decisively beat Yahoo by going through predictable motions. GBrowser is just a way to wave a red flag at Microsoft with “please come and squash me” written on it. I find it funny that the same people who get all excited about the GoogleOS are claiming that operating systems are a commodity and there’s no money in there anymore. So why should Google do it then?

Instead, Google has to keep being disruptive and unpredictable. Microsoft never made much out of its broadband investments, Yahoo is humming a boring song with SBC, AOL TW is toast. Incidentally all seem to confuse the Internet with TV. Maybe Google could really turn the tables. It’s all about empowering end users… Right now even Altavista is better than Google at indexing media content. A first telling sign would be a Google Images that doesn’t suck. We’ll see (literally).

In other news, I’m amused to see CNet slowly wake up to search engine optimization techniques that we small fish have been using for years. First they started stuffing keywords into their URLs, now they look at their referrers to welcome Google users and suggest other relevant stories besides the one displayed. Wow, leading edge!

3 thoughts on “Out-of-Left-Field Idea of the Day: Google Broadband

  1. Olivier,
    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Google getting into the hosting business which to me still makes sense. Now I see that might just be a little part of the grand scheme of things…

  2. Fascinating idea.
    I’m particularly interested in the comment “Incidentally all seem to confuse the Internet with TV”.
    What if Google were to take their ethic (or whatever it is that defines Googleicity) and take on distribution of content? I.e., Google acquires The Daily Show and whatever other content is truly valuable, and makes it available, indexed in interesting ways, accesible in a _modern_ way, to the hordes who are so bored with broadcast TV that we’re building PVRs at significant cost. I for one would be happy to pay for access to intelligent content.
    In other words, Microsoft shouldn’t be the target — the attitudes around mass media content creation, advertising and distribution are.

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