Is Google trying to take over the World?

Google is ubiquitous. Its name has become a verb and, for some, a destination. Starting out as a search engine, Google has conquered much more Internet territory in the years since it launched. Need an email address, Gmail has you covered; need help scheduling yourself, others or the universe, just check out Google Calendar; don’t want to shell out money for a word processing program, just head over to Google docs and everything you could need is there including online storage if you are so inclined.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make. I love Google. I use Google as my search engine, my email provider, my calendar and my RSS feed. I lusted after a Google Wave invitation and I was sad when it ultimately failed.  I have been a Google evangelist – spreading the word to the uninformed about the beauty have having all your mail in one place. I was one of those people who every time someone complained about their email, I told them Gmail’s fix for whatever was vexing them at the time. After years of my mother complaining about not having all of her email on each of her computers in different geographical locations, I finally got her to switch to Gmail. She loves it.

Certainly many people, some might say conspiracy theorists, have argued that Google has nefarious intentions. Until this last week, I actually just thought they were a great company offering a lot of great products for free. In hindsight, I suspect I was naïve. Now I think Google was keeping its plans to take over the world under wraps. That is until NOW!

Google has once again taken a foray into social networking. This is not something Google has succeeded at in the past. Does Google ‘Buzz’ ring a bell anyone? Almost every one I know turned off Buzz as soon as Google gave us the option. I am surprised that Buzz survived after they breached so many people’s privacy.

Now Google has made a huge foray into the social networking field again. Except this time they don’t just have Facebook in their sites but Twitter too.[1] Launching Google+ with the ability to both keep posts private or within certain ‘circles’ and the ability to broadcast publicly. But it does not end there.

Yesterday a post went out from the Gmail blog[2] about convincing people you know to switch to Gmail. The poster relays a story about how just one friend was not on Gmail and how he wore him down over time to get him to switch. I going to resist the urge to talk about how the inherent creepiness in this kind of behaviour because it gets worse! Yes, not only are we all supposed to track down all of our friends who do not worship at the altar of Google, we are supposed to stage interventions for our recalcitrant friends.

It is starting to look like Google wants inroads into every aspect of our lives. I am not really concerned about the data they have as it is simply too much to be of any use to them.  What does concern me is the cutthroat behaviour Google is using to convince more people to drink at the Fountain of Google.

I am not really sure what all this means. I think if Google continues its proselytizing[3] they will alienate people – even people who love Google may begin to question their use of Google’s services. I really don’t want to think that Google is plotting how it is going to take over the world but their behaviour is certainly indicating that indeed that is their plan.

[1] Thanks to Veronique for the observation about Twitter in a Google+ post.

[2] Which of course I follow on Google Reader

[3] They are behaving as though they are a religion and they need more soldiers to spread the word.

Tech Stuff

I am constantly amazed at how my life is enhanced by computer addiction. I love my computer – we are one. Think of the borg and you will get it. So, I thought I would share what things, tech-wise, I am really digging these days:

1. Facebook – I am not a big fan of the remake of facebook yet again. However, I love how much more interactive it has become. Commenting on friends’ status updates and having long conversations going has become the highlight of my day. I am spending way more time on facebook then I ever did before. I especially like seeing the little red notifications number in the double-digits. I know, I have no life.
2. Google Chrome – after reading several articles on Mashable about Google Chrome I decided to make the switch. Mostly I was getting annoyed at how slow Firefox seemed to have become. I am opening up the same number of tabs in Chrome yet it loads in about a quarter of the time. There are other features I really like as well. You can re-order the tabs1/. When you open and close tabs in Chrome, it automatically re-sizes them to take up about the same amount of space. I like that the bookmarks menu is right under the new tab icon – very good design feature. When you open a new tab, thumbnails of sites you have been to recently are there and you can select them. Oh, and I love that you can search in the address bar. I had become so tired of opening another tab to get to search. I am not one to embrace change when it comes to computer programs2. In fact, the only reason I switched to Firefox was because I did not want to leave myself open to viruses.
3. Gmail – I continue to love Gmail. I have even converted my mother to Gmail because she has 2 houses and she could never figure out where her emails were. She wanted one email in Radium and the other in Calgary. She was making me crazy. I kept explaining what the problem was and she finally got it. Now, the big test will be whether she will figure out how to access her Gmail in Tuscany! I love the labs feature in Gmail and enjoy trying new things out.
4. Google Calendar – I love google calendar. I have now managed to sync my 2 google calendars (home and work) with my blackberry seamlessly. I make a change now and it propagates through the system in about an hour. I also love the ‘desktop’ calendar that you can use on the Windows or Google sidebar.
5. Google Reader – still in love with Google Reader. What more is there to say?
6. Yet another google product – Picasa. I love how all the photos in my computer are organized and easily viewable. I came across some photos yesterday that I had not seen in a while. Picasa saves you the hassle of going through all the folders. Plus you can tag and caption them. I am sure there are more features and I intend to explore them.
7. iTunes DJ – I have been using this feature a lot lately. Basically what it does is cue up music for you to listen to in a random fashion. I am horrible for buying music, only listening to a couple of songs and ignoring the rest. Sometimes I am just not in a mood to appreciate new music. This feature allows me to discover ‘new’ songs I had missed.

1Which in my OCD world is very important. I like to have everything in the same order all the time. There were times I would actually shut down Firefox only to re-open it so the tabs were in the correct order. Now, with Google Chrome, if I accidentally close a tab I can re-open it and put it where I want it.
2I am still highly annoyed about MS Office 2007 and it has been out for 2 years. Way too much change there!

Tech Stuff

As I have mentioned before, I have a love of keyboards and mice. I am always on the lookout for the newest and best I can find. We were at Future Shop the other day and I saw this gorgeous keyboard. It had a lovely design and all the features I like – especially the ability to flip through songs and pause from the keyboard. I like to play games and I don’t want to have to go to iTunes to change the song. The first thing I noticed was that the keys for controlling music did not work with iTunes. In order to get it to work it meant that I had to use the mini-player and always have it active. It was annoying but I could deal with it. The next thing I noticed was the deal-breaker. I don’t know if any of you noticed but that keyboard is lacking something. Can you see it? The freaking keyboard didn’t have a number pad! I simply cannot live without a number pad. So, it goes back.

The newest thing I have tried using is the Genius feature in iTunes. It is very simple to use and it allows you to (re)discover music in your iTunes library. I have over 3000 songs and sometimes I don’t listen to all of the tracks on a new disc I download. Basically, you pick a song in your library and click the ‘Genius’ button which will pick similar songs. In the last 2 weeks I have discovered songs I never listened to and rediscovered songs I have not listened to in years. I am loving this feature and I urge everyone to try it out.

Google, ahhh, google! I love Google. I use Gmail, Google Reader, Google calendar and Google docs on occassion. I have things set up so that my personal calendar and my work calendar all sync, automatically, with my blackberry. I have also been using a desktop calendar in the Windows sidebar which shows upcoming appointments. It completely rocks!

Tech: I love Google

I am an avid user of almost all of Google’s applications. I use gmail, google reader and google calendar. There are many advantages to using web-based applications.

1. When your computer goes down you don’t lose your email. Right now, my computer is in the shop for various problems. I did not have to scramble to copy email addresses and other things I might need because they are all in gmail.

2. You never have to re-type your address and contacts again. Once they are in gmail they are there to stay. You have access to them from any computer or handheld device with internet access.

3. Labels!!! Labels rock in gmail. Instead of using folders gmail uses labels. You label conversations and then you can search for that label with a click. You can also colour code your labels.

4. Searching in general is very robust and fast in gmail.

5. Google Reader is an excellent RSS aggregator. It allows you to follow many blog feeds as you want and read them from one central place. My only pet peeve is that with some blogs the whole blog does not come into reader. I believe this is a setting put in place by the blog owners.

6. Searching is also very easy in google reader.

7. Back to gmail for a second – it preloads your email so you don’t have to wait, like most web-based email programs, for the message to load.

8. Google calendar is integrated with gmail so you can schedule stuff from your email. You can also invite people in your contacts list to meetings etc.

9. There is lots of room in google calendar for extra information you may want to add about an appointment.

10. You can also set up numerous calendars in google calendar. For example, I have one for appointments and one for things to do.

11. One more thing I love about gmail – you can have multiple addresses coming into your gmail account and choose which ‘account’ you want to send email from. This works really for people who have multiple email addresses but who don’t want to check them all the time.

I have used google docs but only in a limited way. I am thinking that is next on my agenda.

Google Reader

I follow about 10 blogs regularly. At least once a day (sometimes many more given my OCD like nature) I would check all the blogs to see if they had been updated. This was starting to grow tedious. I would also come across blogs that I wanted to follow. I would bookmark them and then promptly forget about them.

What is the answer you ask?? Google Reader!!! Now, I have subscribed to the RSS feeds supplied by the blogs and Google Reader tracks them for me. I can go to one place and see what is new in all of my favourite blogs and read them. Anyone familiar with GMail will instantly understand the interface.

If you want more information or a really good primer go to Tucows.