by Greg Crandell
The year was 1998. Titanic was winning all the Oscars it could manage, Windows 98 had just come along to teach us all what a computer could REALLY do, and a little-known company called "Google" had just arrived with a funny-looking logo and a really simple site design: an image, a text-field, and two buttons.
Google went from clever idea to Internet juggernaut in a few short years. Searches were quick, easy, and surprisingly thorough. After that came things like Google news, Google sports and GMail. Everyone was thrilled, because suddenly the Internet made sense.
And then something strange happened. Google became the "big box chain" of the Web.
GMail was great, but what about all those documents you had to send out to your co-workers from your work addressed, piped through GMail? Simple: you either A) Use Google Documents to create and manage the files like you would with Microsoft Office (click here to read how "real Office" doesn't quite stand up), or B) Use Google Documents to save documents in their Office-counterpart format and send them as an attachment in an e-mail (or GMail, as it were).
And all those pictures you wanted to share online but couldn't? Now Picasa has found a way to store all those shots in a single site! And they let you attach those pictures to e-mail addresses and contact info.
And they know what you look like.
Yes, Picasa is using face recognition technology as a means of helping you organize information and keep your albums neat. The thought of your face being recognized by the world's information exchange hub - truly fascinating.
And then you have the Google toolbar. Firefox and Apple's Safari have cells that let you search Google built right in. How could it get any better?
Introducing Chrome, Google's own web browser.
It's a lot like Internet Explorer, most say. Reviews, like this one from the telegraph, have been positive. Controls are simple, it's pretty no-nonsense - so what makes it "Google"?
It's free, for one. Google loves to just give away some of the best software applications out there, so why not get a copy for yourself? Ah, but there's the rub. Google has been, and still is, under scrutiny for its retention of information and use of your search info. Those little ads that jump out at you while you're writing an e-mail to your cousin in Florida? The ones that advertise getaways to Kissimmee? That's no coincidence. They are looking at what you type, what you click, and what you spend time watching on YouTube (a company eaten by the great Google Dragon). And as sure as the Cubs missing out on the pennant, security issues were raised day one.
I'm certain Chrome is going to get its share of the market, but will it topple Internet Explorer, which is itself coming out with version 8 very soon? I can't be sure. But I can tell you this: Google is getting bigger by the minute, and now they want you to play with all THEIR toys in THEIR sandbox. Sure their toys are fun. But are they better than all the rest?
Is Google getting a little too big? Are they really the Super Store of the Internet? What can you NOT find on Google?
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