Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Google, Internet, and Privacy

This is an interesting article if you ask me. I just read on Facebook how Facebook now has 350 million people registered, and, even if that includes inactive accounts and spam accounts, that’s a lot of people, more than perhaps most countries, independent of each other at least.

So anyways, basically, everyone is on facebook. I have just 184 friends, many of whom I don’t really know that well, but many who I do talk to a lot. I see maybe 20+ of my friends on facebook regularly and the rest are people I want to keep in contact with that I’ve known from before or are TPS friends. But the thing is, while 184 sounds like a lot, it’s not. I have friends with nearly 500 friends on facebook, some with perhaps close to 1000. It’s not that hard to get that many friends, especially if you go to a big school and add anyone from your school.

But, that being said, I think it will be interesting to see how social networking sites like Facebook continue to expand and continue to grow and how we, as people, treat them. Right now, when people think of making money via facebook they think of creating an application that will allow for monetary gain. Games like Mafia Wars and Farmville. However, I do not think it impossible that in the near future many business transactions will be done over facebook. Business will create pages with their sales and specials advertised on facebook. I can easily see facebook and other such social networking sites soon replacing things like Email and possibly even text-based chatting. I do think Facebook’s chat system needs serious improvement before the former can happen, but seriously, with 350 MILLION people onboard, Facebook has the ability to knockout Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo Messenger and AOL if they devote the time and energy into doing it.

And while we’re on the topic, the BBC did an interesting article on Google previewing their new OS, Google Chrome. This OS is, for now, just going to be for Netbooks, but what google is trying to do really is amazing. Microsoft has always been about expensive software you buy in a store and install onto your machine. Windows was invented when the internet was hardly even available to the public. My parents, in 1989, used Fax and Long Distance Phone Calls to deal with people in the US while they were in India. Google is doing their best to show how “old” and “obsolete” MS’ design of “you don’t need internet” is. Google basically is assuming that the users of this OS (which is designed to run on netboooks, so it makes sense) will always have access to the Internet. Everything on this machine is designed to be done on the internet, Word Processing, Spread Sheets, everything.

On one hand, its exciting, on the other, I do find this somewhat scary. See, I love the internet, and I love it when in Star Trek the Captain will say, “Computer, play some 20th Century Jazz,” or whatever and some Random Jazz plays. That’s amazing. I want to be able to listen to ANY music from ANY era like that. I remember in one episode Riker and Deanna research something and instead of working their way through dusty tomes they use the computer to cross-reference topics. Their computer database as all sorts of information readily available for people and while searches can take a long time, they can be done without much need for manual labor.

This type of stuff does exist to a point now. Assuming I have a large database of Jazz music, I can pull out my computer and listen to Jazz, and with the likes of Google I’m sure there are programs that could, somewhat accurately, cross-reference searches done on google and stuff. But, its not the level where everything is on the net, freely available via the Socialist/Communist society of the Federation. But it’d be nice to such a society, methinks (it’s a Utopia. What’s NOT nice about it?).

So, one side, I’m all for this kind of awesome technology, but, I’m also apprehensive. I think one thing that I always want to know is how secure things are. If I am hosting all my Spreadsheets, which contain all my Financial data on the Web, who has access to them? Nothing is unhackable, yes, but it’s a whole lot harder/worth less to grab my personal data from my personal harddrive on my personal computer than it is to break into the Google mainfraim and steal data. I wonder how easy it will be to do this, and while I do realize that it’s unlikely that such hacks will happen, having lived in the third world where all the hackers and pirates operate. Every supposedly “unpiratable” game has been pirated within a week or two of release and distributed.

So, I kinda get this feeling that as more and more stuff gets on the internet, I wonder how privacy will develop. I realize there are some things that people will just have to deal with, stuff like me having my profile pic on Facebook open for all to see (though I can change that I think…) but at the same time I wonder what privacy issues will be enforced, and how they will be enforced.

Anyways, I think the development of the Internet is very interesting. 10 years ago no one could have known what the Internet today would have looked like. 20 years ago the internet hardly existed. And 30 years ago it basically didn’t exist. That means, for anyone 40+ years old (read: my parents) we have gone from an internetless society to one that will soon be (if google’s schemes work out, which I think they will, eventually) completely dependent on access to the Internet. It will be interesting watch both how this happens, and the response on MS as they try to fight to keep their dominance in the market of OSes.


Cap'n Salty said...

Very interesting, Isaac. I've wondered about the Chrome operating system. As one of those old people, I can certainly relate to the amazing progress. When I was in fourth or fifth grade I recall saying to myself how neat it would be to have something the size of a notebook that you could type notes into and save them. It was a science fiction type dream. Now I use a 10.1" Netbook to earn my living. It's smaller than the three-ring binder I lugged around in elementary school.

Isaac, the masterofweirdness said...

Wow... that's something to think about. I still haven't completely graduated from a paperless "office" (though I really did like it last year have an e-textbook for Chemistry), and all the books we have for latin certainly doesn't help. :P But it is a thought. The amount of word documents I have saved on my computers (9th-12th grade papers, reports, labs, plus all my blog posts and random writings), in addition to my large collection of music, as well as video games, is huge, yet my (largish; at 17in) laptop could easily contain all these and more. Pretty nifty. :)