Sunday, September 28, 2008

Google is the Borg

It's been a while since I last talked about Google (you might think it was just five real blog-posts ago, but that also means it was back in May). Most of the Google news these past few months have deserved nothing more than a tweet or two, if that*-- though of course I still share blog posts about the company all the time-- but things are starting to get really interesting as Google's plans to take over the world, er, I mean their plan to organize the world's information... is taking them to new places (literally, in one case).

Google announced the Android platform last year, and now T-Mobile unveiled the first ever commercial smartphone that runs on it: the T-Mobile G1. I'm really hoping that such open platforms like Android and Openmoko become successful. The competition that could potentially be offered by these dirt-cheap platforms ought to accelerate the development of better, cheaper, more open mobile technologies. And with that, average people will begin to finally find some use in buying smartphones and not see them merely as expensive toys. We could finally be entering an era of smartphone ubiquity.**

Now, we knew last year that Google created a simple Webkit-based browser as part of their Android software, and that should have been a clue to the biggest bombshell they dropped so far this year: the Google Chrome browser. Cynical jokes have been made about how the Google Borg isn't content that people use their sites and is now telling people to use Google sites via a Google browser. You could almost imagine some digital monster crawling slowly but surely, first on a web page, then onto your taskbar... then suddenly you see a clawed, bluish hand reaching out from your monitor and grabbing your throat... Well anyway, Google says they created the open-source Chrome because they wanted to help others make better web browsers, because they want a better Web, because the Web is their home sweet home. Whatever their reasons really are, I'm already shamelessly using Chrome as my primary browser. It doesn't have extensions, but I just love not having to wait forever to load Firefox just to check my reading list. I'm also pretty happy with its intuitive Omnibox search features. Still, the thing is in beta.*** I use Firefox occasionally when needed, like whenever Chrome won't play nice with certain sites (the problems are usually CSS-related). Another problem is it sometimes stalls for a few seconds when switching tabs, which is quite annoying given the amount of multi-tasking I do at work****. All in all, I can't wait for the next Chrome version to come out.

The last bit of news is that the Philippines (among others) is now editable in Google Map Maker. I've been playing with it for the past few days it's been very, very educational so far. See, I once got lost in the middle of the very city I live in because all the jeepneys in the area were going to places I didn't know. Heck, I don't even know the names of half the streets in my small neighborhood. Reading all day and never hanging out with friends during the weekends does that to you. But now I can memorize all the main roads in Metro Manila without leaving the comfort of my house/office/dorm. They always say that travelling the streets and exploring places is good exercise for the body, and so I think I'll go travelling some more now. Let me just open another tab. There you go. Drag, drag, double-click... I can feel the health benefits already!

* Okay, okay... I'm just a lazy blogger.
** What can I say? I like to daydream. :)
*** Well, this is Google we're talking about. Most of what they do are in beta. What I meant was Chrome is in very early beta.
**** All work-related... if "work" is defined as "clicking on the mouse of the work computer".