It seems that within the last few months, much has been made of so-called Web 2.0 sites. The fact that it is impossible to even attribute a noun to describe “Web 2.0” — is it a paradigm? a metaphor? a meme? (ugh) — should be enough to convince you that “Web 2.0” is just the latest buzzword to describe webpage design and innovation, but I digress. My objective today isn’t to complain about the use of the term Web 2.0, but to talk about one alarming aspect of these new Web 2.0 sites: the fundamental outsourcing of your private data storage to commercial entities.
- ease of use
- no need to worry about data storage on one’s local (volatile) storage device
- no need to be maintain one’s locally-installed software, apply security/bugfixes, etc.
- ability to quickly “upgrade” to new vendor-released versions since the application is centrally-managed
We can expect the adoption rate of these applications to increase both as more users discover their utility, and as more such applications are created.
Another big concern is that many of the applications currently being created revolve around Google in some way. Not only has Google been the primary developer of many rich web applications, with products such as Google Maps, Google Desktop, Google Page Creator, Writely and of course, GMail, but many other developers have taken advantage of Google’s open API to create their own derivative applications (such as Frappr). What happens when Google decides to use the stored user data in new ways? Or what if Google, formerly seen as the benevolent hacker’s workshop, changes its tune and becomes more corporate and controlling like Microsoft? The concentration of power around one publicly-traded corporation should be alarming to any consumer. (I could repeat the same arguments about Yahoo, given attempt to compete in the same space as Google, but by acquisition — their purchases of del.icio.us, upcoming.org, and so on being prime examples of this strategy.)
What is the solution? As I pointed out already, I expect the adoption of such rich applications to increase, not decrease; not only because of their technological merits, but because they frequently build online communities that are appealing to users (and marketers, of course). However, I think that any user who values his or her privacy and finds the notion of data mining based on one’s personal correspondence to be uncomfortable would do well to continue using traditional desktop software to manage these.