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Google: “We’re Not Doing a Good Job with Structured Data”

Written by Sarah Perez / February 2, 2009 7:32 AM / 9 Comments


During a talk at the New England Database Day conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Google’s Alon Halevy admitted that the search giant has “not been doing a good job” presenting the structured data found on the web to its users. By “structured data,” Halevy was referring to the databases of the “deep web” – those internet resources that sit behind forms and site-specific search boxes, unable to be indexed through passive means.

Google’s Deep Web Search

Halevy, who heads the “Deep Web” search initiative at Google, described the “Shallow Web” as containing about 5 million web pages while the “Deep Web” is estimated to be 500 times the size. This hidden web is currently being indexed in part by Google’s automated systems that submit queries to various databases, retrieving the content found for indexing. In addition to that aspect of the Deep Web – dubbed “vertical searching” – Halevy also referenced two other types of Deep Web Search: semantic search and product search.

Google wants to also be able to retrieve the data found in structured tables on the web, said Halevy, citing a table on a page listing the U.S. presidents as an example. There are 14 billion such tables on the web, and, after filtering, about 154 million of them are interesting enough to be worth indexing.

Can Google Dig into the Deep Web?

The question that remains is whether or not Google’s current search engine technology is going to be adept at doing all the different types of Deep Web indexing or if they will need to come up with something new. As of now, Google uses the Big Table database and MapReduce framework for everything search related, notes Alex Esterkin, Chief Architect at Infobright, Inc., a company delivering open source data warehousing solutions. During the talk, Halevy listed a number of analytical database application challenges that Google is currently dealing with: schema auto-complete, synonym discovery, creating entity lists, association between instances and aspects, and data level synonyms discovery. These challenges are addressed by Infobright’s technology, said Esterkin, but “Google will have to solve these problems the hard way.”

Also mentioned during the speech was how Google plans to organize “aspects” of search queries. The company wants to be able to separate exploratory queries (e.g., “Vietnam travel”) from ones where a user is in search of a particular fact (“Vietnam population”). The former query should deliver information about visa requirements, weather and tour packages, etc. In a way, this is like what the search service offered by Kosmix is doing. But Google wants to go further, said Halevy. “Kosmix will give you an ‘aspect,’ but it’s attached to an information source. In our case, all the aspects might be just Web search results, but we’d organize them differently.”

Yahoo Working on Similar Structured Data Retrieval

The challenges facing Google today are also being addressed by their nearest competitor in search, Yahoo. In December, Yahoo announced that they were taking their SearchMonkey technology in-house to automate the extraction of structured information from large classes of web sites. The results of that in-house extraction technique will allow Yahoo to augment their Yahoo Search results with key information returned alongside the URLs.

In this aspect of web search, it’s clear that no single company has yet to dominate. However, even if a non-Google company surges ahead, it may not be enough to get people to switch engines. Today, “Google” has become synonymous with web search, just like “Kleenex” is a tissue, “Band-Aid” is an adhesive bandage, and “Xerox” is a way to make photocopies. Once that psychological mark has been made into our collective psyches and the habit formed, people tend to stick with what they know, regardless of who does it better. That’s something that’s a bit troublesome – if better search technology for indexing the Deep Web comes into existence outside of Google, the world may not end up using it until such point Google either duplicates or acquires the invention.

Still, it’s far too soon to write Google off yet. They clearly have a lead when it comes to search and that came from hard work, incredibly smart people, and innovative technical achievements. No doubt they can figure out this Deep Web thing, too. (We hope).

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2009 Predictions and Recommendations for Web 2.0 and Social Networks

Christopher Rollyson

Volatility, Uncertainly and Opportunity—Move Crisply while Competitors Are in Disarray

Now that the Year in Review 2008 has summarized key trends, we are in excellent position for 2009 prognostications, so welcome to Part II. As all experienced executives know, risk and reward are inseparable twins, and periods of disruption elevate both, so you will have much more opportunity to produce uncommon value than normal.

This is a high-stakes year in which we can expect surprises. Web 2.0 and social networks can help because they increase flexibility and adaptiveness. Alas, those who succeed will have to challenge conventional thinking considerably, which is not a trivial exercise in normal times. The volatility that many businesses face will make it more difficult because many of their clients and/or employees will be distracted. It will also make it easier because some of them will perceive that extensive change is afoot, and Web 2.0 will blend in with the cacaphony. Disruption produces unusual changes in markets, and the people that perceive the new patterns and react appropriately emerge as new leaders.

2009 Predictions

These are too diverse to be ranked in any particular order. Please share your reactions and contribute those that I have missed.

  1. The global financial crisis will continue to add significant uncertainty in the global economy in 2009 and probably beyond. I have no scientific basis for this, but there are excellent experts of every flavor on the subject, so take your pick. I believe that we are off the map, and anyone who says that he’s sure of a certain outcome should be considered with a healthy skepticism.
    • All I can say is my friends, clients and sources in investment and commercial banking tell me it’s not over yet, and uncertainty is the only certainty until further notice. This has not yet been fully leeched.
    • Western governments, led the the U.S., are probably prolonging the pain because governments usually get bailouts wrong. However, voters don’t have the stomachs for hardship, so we are probably trading short-term “feel good” efforts for a prolonged adjustment period.
  2. Widespread social media success stories in 2009 in the most easily measurable areas such as talent management, business development, R&D and marketing.
    • 2008 saw a significant increase in enterprise executives’ experimentation with LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and enterprise (internal) social networks. These will begin to bear fruit in 2009, after which a “mad rush of adoption” will ensue.
    • People who delay adoption will pay dearly in terms of consulting fees, delayed staff training and retarded results.
  3. Internal social networks will largely disappoint. Similar to intranets, they will produce value, but few enterprises are viable long-term without seamlessly engaging the burgeoning external world of experts.
    In general, the larger and more disparate an organization’s audience
    is, the more value it can create, but culture must encourage emergent, cross-boundary connections, which is where many organizations fall down.

 

  • If you’re a CIO who’s banking heavily on your behind-the-firewall implementation, just be aware that you need to engage externally as well.
  • Do it fast because education takes longer than you think.
  • There are always more smart people outside than inside any organization.
  • Significant consolidation among white label social network vendors, so use your usual customary caution when signing up partners.
    • Due diligence and skill portability will help you to mitigate risks. Any vendor worth their salt will use standardized SOA-friendly architecture and feature sets. As I wrote last year, Web 2.0 is not your father’s software, so focus on people and process more than technology.
    • If your vendor hopeful imposes process on your people, run.
  • No extensive M&A among big branded sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter although there will probably be some. The concept of the social ecosystem holds that nodes on pervasive networks can add value individually. LinkedIn and Facebook have completely different social contexts. “Traditional” executives tend to view disruptions as “the new thing” that they want to put into a bucket (”let them all buy each other, so I only have to learn one!”). Wrong. This is the new human nervous system, and online social venues, like their offline counterparts, want specificity because they add more value that way. People hack together the networks to which they belong based on their goals and interests.
    • LinkedIn is very focused on the executive environment, and they will not buy Facebook or Twitter. They might buy a smaller company. They are focused on building an executive collaboration platform, and a large acquisition would threaten their focus. LinkedIn is in the initial part of its value curve, they have significant cash, and they’re profitable. Their VCs can smell big money down the road, so they won’t sell this year.
    • Twitter already turned down Facebook, and my conversations with them lead me to believe that they love their company; and its value is largely undiscovered as of yet. They will hold out as long as they can.
    • Facebook has staying power past 2009. They don’t need to buy anyone of import; they are gaining global market share at a fast clip. They already enable customers to build a large part of the Facebook experience, and they have significant room to innovate. Yes, there is a backlash in some quarters against their size. I don’t know Mark Zuckerberg personally, and I don’t have a feeling for his personal goals.
    • I was sad to see that Dow Jones sold out to NewsCorp and, as a long-time Wall Street Journal subscriber, I am even more dismayed now. This will prove a quintessential example of value destruction. The Financial Times currently fields a much better offering. The WSJ is beginning to look like MySpace! As for MySpace itself, I don’t have a firm bead on it but surmise that it has a higher probability of major M&A than the aforementioned: its growth has stalled, Facebook continues to gain, and Facebook uses more Web 2.0 processes, so I believe it will surpass MySpace in terms of global audience.
    • In being completely dominant, Google is the Wal-Mart of Web 2.0, and I don’t have much visibility into their plans, but I think they could make significant waves in 2009. They are very focused on applying search innovation to video, which is still in the initial stages of adoption, so YouTube is not going anywhere.
    • I am less familiar with Digg, Xing, Bebo, Cyworld. Of course, Orkut is part of the Googleverse.
  • Significant social media use by the Obama Administration. It has the knowledge, experience and support base to pursue fairly radical change. Moreover, the degree of change will be in synch with the economy: if there is a significant worsening, expect the government to engage people to do uncommon things.
    • Change.gov is the first phase in which supporters or any interested person is invited to contribute thoughts, stories and documents to the transition team. It aims to keep people engaged and to serve the government on a volunteer basis
    • The old way of doing things was to hand out form letters that you would mail to your representative. Using Web 2.0, people can organize almost instantly, and results are visible in real-time. Since people are increasingly online somewhere, the Administration will invite them from within their favorite venue (MySpace, Facebook…).
    • Obama has learned that volunteering provides people with a sense of meaning and importance. Many volunteers become evangelists.
  • Increasing citizen activism against companies and agencies, a disquieting prospect but one that I would not omit from your scenario planning (ask yourself, “How could people come together and magnify some of our blemishes?” more here). To whit:
    • In 2007, an electronic petition opposing pay-per-use road tolls in the UK reached 1.8 million signatories, stalling a major government initiative. Although this did not primarily employ social media, it is indicative of the phenomenon.
    • In Q4 2008, numerous citizen groups organized Facebook groups (25,000 signatures in a very short time) to oppose television and radio taxes, alarming the Swiss government. Citizens are organizing to stop paying obligatory taxes—and to abolish the agency that administers the tax system. Another citizen initiative recently launched on the Internet collected 60,000 signatures to oppose biometric passports. German links. French links.
    • In the most audacious case, Ahmed Maher is using Facebook to try to topple the government of Egypt. According to Wired’s Cairo Activists Use Facebook to Rattle Regime, activists have organized several large demonstrations and have a Facebook group of 70,000 that’s growing fast.
  • Executive employment will continue to feel pressure, and job searches will get increasingly difficult for many, especially those with “traditional” jobs that depend on Industrial Economy organization.
    • In tandem with this, there will be more opportunities for people who can “free-agent” themselves in some form.
    • In 2009, an increasing portion of executives will have success at using social networks to diminish their business development costs, and their lead will subsequently accelerate the leeching of enterprises’ best and brightest, many of whom could have more flexibility and better pay as independents. This is already manifest as displaced executives choose never to go back.
    • The enterprise will continue to unbundle. I have covered this extensively on the Transourcing website.
  • Enterprise clients will start asking for “strategy” to synchronize social media initiatives. Web 2.0 is following the classic adoption pattern: thus far, most enterprises have been using a skunk works approach to their social media initiatives, or they’ve been paying their agencies to learn while delivering services.
    • In the next phase, beginning in 2009, CMOs, CTOs and CIOs will sponsor enterprise level initiatives, which will kick off executive learning and begin enterprise development of social media native skills. After 1-2 years of this, social media will be spearheaded by VPs and directors.
    • Professional services firms (PwC, KPMG, Deloitte..) will begin scrambling to pull together advisory practices after several of their clients ask for strategy help. These firms’ high costs do not permit them to build significantly ahead of demand.
    • Marketing and ad agencies (Leo Burnett, Digitas…) will also be asked for strategy help, but they will be hampered by their desires to maintain the outsourced model; social media is not marketing, even though it will displace certain types of marketing.
    • Strategy houses (McKinsey, BCG, Booz Allen…) will also be confronted by clients asking for social media strategy; their issue will be that it is difficult to quantify, and the implementation piece is not in their comfort zone, reducing revenue per client.
    • Boutiques will emerge to develop seamless strategy and implementation for social networks. This is needed because Web 2.0 and social networks programs involve strategy, but implementation involves little technology when compared to Web 1.0. As I’ll discuss in an imminent article, it will involve much more interpersonal mentoring and program development.
  • Corporate spending on Enterprise 2.0 will be very conservative, and pureplay and white label vendors (and consultants) will need to have strong business cases.
    • CIOs have better things to spend money on, and they are usually reacting to business unit executives who are still getting their arms around the value of Web 2.0, social networks and social media.
    • Enterprise software vendors will release significant Web 2.0 bolt-on improvements to their platforms in 2009. IBM is arguably out in front with Lotus Connections, with Microsoft Sharepoint fielding a solid solution. SAP and Oracle will field more robust solutions this year.
  • The financial crunch will accelerate social network adoption among those focused on substance rather than flash; this is akin to the dotbomb from 2001-2004, no one wanted to do the Web as an end in itself anymore; it flushed out the fluffy offers (and well as some really good ones).
    • Social media can save money.. how much did it cost the Obama campaign in time and money to raise $500 million? Extremely little.
    • People like to get involved and contribute, when you can frame the activity as important and you provide the tools to facilitate meaningful action. Engagement raises profits and can decrease costs. Engaged customers, for example, tend to leave less often than apathetic customers.
    • Social media is usually about engaging volunteer contributors; if you get it right, you will get a lot of help for little cash outlay.
    • Social media presents many new possibilities for revenue, but to see them, look outside existing product silos. Focus on customer experience by engaging customers, not with your organization, but with each other. Customer-customer communication is excellent for learning about experience.
  • Microblogging will completely mainstream even though Twitter is still quite emergent and few solid business cases exist.
    • Twitter (also Plurk, Jaiku, Pownce {just bought by Six Apart and closed}, Kwippy, Tumblr) are unique for two reasons: they incorporate mobility seamlessly, and they chunk communications small; this leads to a great diversity of “usage context”
    • Note that Dell sold $1 million on Twitter in 2008, using it as a channel for existing business.
    • In many businesses, customers will begin expecting your organization to be on Twitter; this year it will rapidly cease to be a novelty.

    2009 Recommendations

    Web 2.0 will affect business and culture far more than Web 1.0 (the internet), which was about real-time information access and transactions via a standards-based network and interface. Web 2.0 enables real-time knowledge and relationships, so it will profoundly affect most organizations’ stakeholders (clients, customers, regulators, employees, directors, investors, the public…). It will change how all types of buying decisions are made.

    As an individual and/or an organization leader, you have the opportunity to adopt more quickly than your peers and increase your relevance to stakeholders as their Web 2.0 expectations of you increase. 2009 will be a year of significant adoption, and I have kept this list short, general and actionable. I have assumed that your organization has been experimenting with various aspects of Web 2.0, that some people have moderate experience. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more specific or advanced information or suggestions. Recommendations are ranked in importance, the most critical at the top.

    1. What: Audit your organization’s Web 2.0 ecosystem, and conduct your readiness assessment. Why: Do this to act with purpose, mature your efforts past experimentation and increase your returns on investment.
      • The ecosystem audit will tell you what stakeholders are doing, and in what venues. Moreover, a good one will tell you trends, not just numbers. In times of rapid adoption, knowing trends is critical, so you can predict the future. Here’s more about audits.
      • The readiness assessment will help you to understand how your value proposition and resources align with creating and maintaining online relationships. The audit has told you what stakeholders are doing, now you need to assess what you can do to engage them on an ongoing basis. Here’s more about readiness assessments.
    2. What: Select a top executive to lead your organization’s adoption of Web 2.0 and social networks. Why: Web 2.0 is changing how people interact, and your organizational competence will be affected considerably, so applying it to your career and business is very important.
      • This CxO should be someone with a track record for innovation and a commitment to leading discontinuous change. Should be philosophically in synch with the idea of emergent organization and cross-boundary collaboration.
      • S/He will coordinate your creation of strategy and programs (part-time). This includes formalizing your Web 2.0 policy, legal and security due diligence.
    3. What: Use an iterative portfolio approach to pursue social media initiatives in several areas of your business, and chunk investments small.
      Why: Both iteration and portfolio approaches help you to manage risk and increase returns.
    • Use the results of the audit and the readiness assessment to help you to select the stakeholders you want to engage.
    • Engage a critical mass of stakeholders about things that inspire or irritate them and that you can help them with.
    • All else equal, pilots should include several types of Web 2.0 venues and modes like blogs, big branded networks (Facebook, MySpace), microblogs (Twitter), video and audio.
    • As a general rule, extensive opportunity exists where you can use social media to cross boundaries, which usually impose high costs and prevent collaboration. One of the most interesting in 2009 will be encouraging alumni, employees and recruits to connect and collaborate according to their specific business interests. This can significantly reduce your organization’s business development, sales and talent acquisition costs. For more insight to this, see Alumni 2.0.
    • Don’t overlook pilots with multiple returns, like profile management programs, which can reduce your talent acquisition and business development costs. Here’s more on profile management.

     

  • What: Create a Web 2.0 community with numerous roles to enable employees flexibility.
    Why: You want to keep investments small and let the most motivated employees step forward.

    • Roles should include volunteers for pilots, mentors (resident bloggers, video producers and others), community builders (rapidly codify the knowledge you are gathering from pilots), some part-time more formal roles. Perhaps a full-time person to coordinate would make sense. Roles can be progressive and intermittent. Think of this as open source.
    • To stimulate involvement, the program must be meaningful, and it must be structured to minimize conflicts with other responsibilities.
  • What: Avoid the proclivity to treat Web 2.0 as a technology initiative. Why: Web 1.0 (the Internet) involved more of IT than does Web 2.0, and many people are conditioned to think that IT drives innovation; they fall in the tech trap, select tools first and impose process. This is old school and unnecessary because the tools are far more flexible than the last generation software with which many are still familiar.
    • People create the value when they get involved, and technology often gets in the way by making investments in tools that impose process on people and turn them off. Web 2.0 tools impose far less process on people.
    • More important than what brand you invest in is your focus on social network processes and how they add value to existing business processes. If you adopt smartly, you will be able to transfer assets and processes elsewhere while minimizing disruption. More likely is that some brands will disappear (Pownce closed its doors 15 December). When you focus your organization on mastering process and you distribute learning, you will be more flexible with the tools.
    • Focus on process and people, and incent people to gather and share knowledge and help each other. This will increase your flexibility with tools.
  • What: Manage consulting, marketing and technology partners with a portfolio strategy. Why: Maximize flexibility and minimize risk.
    • From the technology point of view, there are three main vendor flavors: enterprise bolt-on (i.e. Lotus Connections), pureplay white label vendors (SmallWorldLabs) and open (Facebook, LinkedIn). As a group, pureplays have the most diversity in terms of business models, and the most uncertainty. Enterprise bolt-ons’ biggest risk is that they lag significantly behind. More comparisons here.
    • Fight the urge to go with one. If you’re serious about getting business value, you need to be in the open cross-boundary networks. If you have a Lotus or Microsoft relationship, compare Connections and Sharepoint with some pureplays to address private social network needs. An excellent way to start could be with Yammer.
    • Be careful when working with consulting- and marketing-oriented partners who are accustomed to an outsourced model. Web 2.0 is not marketing; it is communicating to form relationships and collaborate online. It does have extensive marketing applications; make sure partners have demonstrated processes for mentoring because Web 2.0 will be a core capability for knowledge-based organizations, and you need to build your resident knowledge.
  • Parting Shots

    I hope you find these thoughts useful, and I encourage you to add your insights and reactions as comments. If you have additional questions about how to use Web 2.0, please feel free to contact me. I wish all the best to you in 2009.

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    Evolving Trends

    Wikipedia 3.0: The End of Google?

    In Uncategorized on June 26, 2006 at 5:18 am

    Author: Marc Fawzi

    License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0

    Announcements:

    Semantic Web Developers:

    Feb 5, ‘07: The following external reference concerns the use of rule-based inference engines and ontologies in implementing the Semantic Web + AI vision (aka Web 3.0):

    1. Description Logic Programs: Combining Logic Programs with Description Logic (note: there are better, simpler ways of achieving the same purpose.)

    Click here for more info and a list of related articles…

    Forward

    Two years after I published this article it has received over 200,000 hits and we now have several startups attempting to apply Semantic Web technology to Wikipedia and knowledge wikis in general, including Wikipedia founder’s own commercial startup as well as a startup that was recently purchased by Microsoft.

    Recently, after seeing how Wikipedia’s governance is so flawed, I decided to write about a way to decentralize and democratize Wikipedia.

    Versión española

    Article

    (Article was last updated at 10:15am EST, July 3, 2006)

    Wikipedia 3.0: The End of Google?

     

    The Semantic Web (or Web 3.0) promises to “organize the world’s information” in a dramatically more logical way than Google can ever achieve with their current engine design. This is specially true from the point of view of machine comprehension as opposed to human comprehension.The Semantic Web requires the use of a declarative ontological language like OWL to produce domain-specific ontologies that machines can use to reason about information and make new conclusions, not simply match keywords.

    However, the Semantic Web, which is still in a development phase where researchers are trying to define the best and most usable design models, would require the participation of thousands of knowledgeable people over time to produce those domain-specific ontologies necessary for its functioning.

    Machines (or machine-based reasoning, aka AI software or ‘info agents’) would then be able to use those laboriously –but not entirely manually– constructed ontologies to build a view (or formal model) of how the individual terms within the information relate to each other. Those relationships can be thought of as the axioms (assumed starting truths), which together with the rules governing the inference process both enable as well as constrain the interpretation (and well-formed use) of those terms by the info agents to reason new conclusions based on existing information, i.e. to think. In other words, theorems (formal deductive propositions that are provable based on the axioms and the rules of inference) may be generated by the software, thus allowing formal deductive reasoning at the machine level. And given that an ontology, as described here, is a statement of Logic Theory, two or more independent info agents processing the same domain-specific ontology will be able to collaborate and deduce an answer to a query, without being driven by the same software.

    Thus, and as stated, in the Semantic Web individual machine-based agents (or a collaborating group of agents) will be able to understand and use information by translating concepts and deducing new information rather than just matching keywords.

    Once machines can understand and use information, using a standard ontology language, the world will never be the same. It will be possible to have an info agent (or many info agents) among your virtual AI-enhanced workforce each having access to different domain specific comprehension space and all communicating with each other to build a collective consciousness.

    You’ll be able to ask your info agent or agents to find you the nearest restaurant that serves Italian cuisine, even if the restaurant nearest you advertises itself as a Pizza joint as opposed to an Italian restaurant. But that is just a very simple example of the deductive reasoning machines will be able to perform on information they have.

    Far more awesome implications can be seen when you consider that every area of human knowledge will be automatically within the comprehension space of your info agents. That is because each info agent can communicate with other info agents who are specialized in different domains of knowledge to produce a collective consciousness (using the Borg metaphor) that encompasses all human knowledge. The collective “mind” of those agents-as-the-Borg will be the Ultimate Answer Machine, easily displacing Google from this position, which it does not truly fulfill.

    The problem with the Semantic Web, besides that researchers are still debating which design and implementation of the ontology language model (and associated technologies) is the best and most usable, is that it would take thousands or tens of thousands of knowledgeable people many years to boil down human knowledge to domain specific ontologies.

    However, if we were at some point to take the Wikipedia community and give them the right tools and standards to work with (whether existing or to be developed in the future), which would make it possible for reasonably skilled individuals to help reduce human knowledge to domain-specific ontologies, then that time can be shortened to just a few years, and possibly to as little as two years.

    The emergence of a Wikipedia 3.0 (as in Web 3.0, aka Semantic Web) that is built on the Semantic Web model will herald the end of Google as the Ultimate Answer Machine. It will be replaced with “WikiMind” which will not be a mere search engine like Google is but a true Global Brain: a powerful pan-domain inference engine, with a vast set of ontologies (a la Wikipedia 3.0) covering all domains of human knowledge, that can reason and deduce answers instead of just throwing raw information at you using the outdated concept of a search engine.

    Notes

    After writing the original post I found out that a modified version of the Wikipedia application, known as “Semantic” MediaWiki has already been used to implement ontologies. The name that they’ve chosen is Ontoworld. I think WikiMind would have been a cooler name, but I like ontoworld, too, as in “it descended onto the world,” since that may be seen as a reference to the global mind a Semantic-Web-enabled version of Wikipedia could lead to.

    Google’s search engine technology, which provides almost all of their revenue, could be made obsolete in the near future. That is unless they have access to Ontoworld or some such pan-domain semantic knowledge repository such that they tap into their ontologies and add inference capability to Google search to build formal deductive intelligence into Google.

    But so can Ask.com and MSN and Yahoo…

    I would really love to see more competition in this arena, not to see Google or any one company establish a huge lead over others.

    The question, to rephrase in Churchillian terms, is wether the combination of the Semantic Web and Wikipedia signals the beginning of the end for Google or the end of the beginning. Obviously, with tens of billions of dollars at stake in investors’ money, I would think that it is the latter. No one wants to see Google fail. There’s too much vested interest. However, I do want to see somebody out maneuver them (which can be done in my opinion.)

    Clarification

    Please note that Ontoworld, which currently implements the ontologies, is based on the “Wikipedia” application (also known as MediaWiki), but it is not the same as Wikipedia.org.

    Likewise, I expect Wikipedia.org will use their volunteer workforce to reduce the sum of human knowledge that has been entered into their database to domain-specific ontologies for the Semantic Web (aka Web 3.0) Hence, “Wikipedia 3.0.”

    Response to Readers’ Comments

    The argument I’ve made here is that Wikipedia has the volunteer resources to produce the needed Semantic Web ontologies for the domains of knowledge that it currently covers, while Google does not have those volunteer resources, which will make it reliant on Wikipedia.

    Those ontologies together with all the information on the Web, can be accessed by Google and others but Wikipedia will be in charge of the ontologies for the large set of knowledge domains they currently cover, and that is where I see the power shift.

    Google and other companies do not have the resources in man power (i.e. the thousands of volunteers Wikipedia has) who would help create those ontologies for the large set of knowledge domains that Wikipedia covers. Wikipedia does, and is positioned to do that better and more effectively than anyone else. Its hard to see how Google would be able create the ontologies for all domains of human knowledge (which are continuously growing in size and number) given how much work that would require. Wikipedia can cover more ground faster with their massive, dedicated force of knowledgeable volunteers.

    I believe that the party that will control the creation of the ontologies (i.e. Wikipedia) for the largest number of domains of human knowledge, and not the organization that simply accesses those ontologies (i.e. Google), will have a competitive advantage.

    There are many knowledge domains that Wikipedia does not cover. Google will have the edge there but only if people and organizations that produce the information also produce the ontologies on their own, so that Google can access them from its future Semantic Web engine. My belief is that it would happen but very slowly, and that Wikipedia can have the ontologies done for all the domain of knowledge that it currently covers much faster, and then they would have leverage by the fact that they would be in charge of those ontologies (aka the basic layer for AI enablement.)

    It still remains unclear, of course, whether the combination of Wikipedia and the Semantic Web herald the beginning of the end for Google or the end of the beginning. As I said in the original part of the post, I believe that it is the latter, and the question I pose in the title of this post, in this context, is not more than rhetorical. However, I could be wrong in my judgment and Google could fall behind Wikipedia as the world’s ultimate answer machine.

    After all, Wikipedia makes “us” count. Google doesn’t. Wikipedia derives its power from “us.” Google derives its power from its technology and inflated stock price. Who would you count on to change the world?

    Response to Basic Questions Raised by the Readers

    Reader divotdave asked a few questions, which I thought to be very basic in nature (i.e. important.) I believe more people will be pondering about the same issues, so I’m to including here them with the replies.

    Question:
    How does it distinguish between good information and bad? How does it determine which parts of the sum of human knowledge to accept and which to reject?

    Reply:
    It wouldn’t have to distinguish between good vs bad information (not to be confused with well-formed vs badly formed) if it was to use a reliable source of information (with associated, reliable ontologies.) That is if the information or knowledge to be sought can be derived from Wikipedia 3.0 then it assumes that the information is reliable.

    However, with respect to connecting the dots when it comes to returning information or deducing answers from the sea of information that lies beyond Wikipedia then your question becomes very relevant. How would it distinguish good information from bad information so that it can produce good knowledge (aka comprehended information, aka new information produced through deductive reasoning based on exiting information.)

    Question:
    Who, or what as the case may be, will determine what information is irrelevant to me as the inquiring end user?

    Reply:
    That is a good question and one which would have to be answered by the researchers working on AI engines for Web 3.0

    There will be assumptions made as to what you are inquiring about. Just as when I saw your question I had to make assumption about what you really meant to ask me, AI engines would have to make an assumption, pretty much based on the same cognitive process humans use, which is the topic of a separate post, but which has been covered by many AI researchers.

    Question:
    Is this to say that ultimately some over-arching standard will emerge that all humanity will be forced (by lack of alternative information) to conform to?

    Reply:
    There is no need for one standard, except when it comes to the language the ontologies are written in (e.g OWL, OWL-DL, OWL Full etc.) Semantic Web researchers are trying to determine the best and most usable choice, taking into consideration human and machine performance in constructing –and exclusive in the latter case– interpreting those ontologies.

    Two or more info agents working with the same domain-specific ontology but having different software (different AI engines) can collaborate with each other.

    The only standard required is that of the ontology language and associated production tools.

    Addendum

    On AI and Natural Language Processing

    I believe that the first generation of AI that will be used by Web 3.0 (aka Semantic Web) will be based on relatively simple inference engines that will NOT attempt to perform natural language processing, where current approaches still face too many serious challenges. However, they will still have the formal deductive reasoning capabilities described earlier in this article, and users would interact with these systems through some query language.

    On the Debate about the Nature and Definition of AI

    The embedding of AI into cyberspace will be done at first with relatively simple inference engines (that use algorithms and heuristics) that work collaboratively in P2P fashion and use standardized ontologies. The massively parallel interactions between the hundreds of millions of AI Agents that will run within the millions of P2P AI Engines on users’ PCs will give rise to the very complex behavior that is the future global brain.

    Related:

    1. Web 3.0 Update
    2. All About Web 3.0 <– list of all Web 3.0 articles on this site
    3. P2P 3.0: The People’s Google
    4. Reality as a Service (RaaS): The Case for GWorld <– 3D Web + Semantic Web + AI
    5. For Great Justice, Take Off Every Digg
    6. Google vs Web 3.0
    7. People-Hosted “P2P” Version of Wikipedia
    8. Beyond Google: The Road to a P2P Economy


    Update on how the Wikipedia 3.0 vision is spreading:


    Update on how Google is co-opting the Wikipedia 3.0 vision:



    Web 3D Fans:

    Here is the original Web 3D + Semantic Web + AI article:

    Web 3D + Semantic Web + AI *

    The above mentioned Web 3D + Semantic Web + AI vision which preceded the Wikipedia 3.0 vision received much less attention because it was not presented in a controversial manner. This fact was noted as the biggest flaw of social bookmarking site digg which was used to promote this article.

    Web 3.0 Developers:

    Feb 5, ‘07: The following external reference concerns the use of rule-based inference engines and ontologies in implementing the Semantic Web + AI vision (aka Web 3.0):

    1. Description Logic Programs: Combining Logic Programs with Description Logic (note: there are better, simpler ways of achieving the same purpose.)

    Jan 7, ‘07: The following Evolving Trends post discusses the current state of semantic search engines and ways to improve the paradigm:

    1. Designing a Better Web 3.0 Search Engine

    June 27, ‘06: Semantic MediaWiki project, enabling the insertion of semantic annotations (or metadata) into the content:

    1. http://semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Semantic_MediaWiki (see note on Wikia below)

    Wikipedia’s Founder and Web 3.0

    (more…)

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    Evolving Trends

    Google Warming Up to the Wikipedia 3.0 vision?

    In Uncategorized on December 14, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    [source: slashdot.org]

    Google’s “Knol” Reinvents Wikipedia

    Posted by CmdrTaco on Friday December 14, @08:31AM
    from the only-a-matter-of-time dept.

     

    teslatug writes “Google appears to be reinventing Wikipedia with their new product that they call knol (not yet publicly available). In an attempt to gather human knowledge, Google will accept articles from users who will be credited with the article by name. If they want, they can allow ads to appear alongside the content and they will be getting a share of the profits if that’s the case. Other users will be allowed to rate, edit or comment on the articles. The content does not have to be exclusive to Google but no mention is made on any license for it. Is this a better model for free information gathering?”

    This article Wikipedia 3.0: The End of Google?  which gives you an idea why Google would want its own Wikipedia was on the Google Finance page for at least 3 months when anyone looked up the Google stock symbol, so Google employees, investors and executive must have seen it. 

    Is it a coincidence that Google is building its own Wikipedia now?

    The only problem is a flaw in Google’s thinking. People who author those articles on Wikipedia actually have brains. People with brains tend to have principles. Getting paid pennies to build the Google empire is rarely one of those principles.

    Related

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    Tech Biz  :  IT   

    Murdoch Calls Google, Yahoo Copyright Thieves — Is He Right?

    By David Kravets EmailApril 03, 2009 | 5:00:18 PMCategories: Intellectual Property  

    Murdoch_2 Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corp. and The Wall Street Journal, says Google and Yahoo are giant copyright scofflaws that steal the news.

    “The question is, should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyright … not steal, but take,” Murdoch says. “Not just them, but Yahoo.”

    But whether search-engine news aggregation is theft or a protected fair use under copyright law is unclear, even as Google and Yahoo profit tremendously from linking to news. So maybe Murdoch is right.

    Murdoch made his comments late Thursday during an address at the Cable Show, an industry event held in Washington. He seemingly was blaming the web, and search engines, for the news media’s ills.

    “People reading news for free on the web, that’s got to change,” he said.

    Real estate magnate Sam Zell made similar comments in 2007 when he took over the Tribune Company and ran it into bankruptcy.

    We suspect Zell and Murdoch are just blowing smoke. If they were not, perhaps they could demand Google and Yahoo remove their news content. The search engines would kindly oblige.

    Better yet, if Murdoch and Zell are so set on monetizing their web content, they should sue the search engines and claim copyright violations in a bid to get the engines to pay for the content.

    The outcome of such a lawsuit is far from clear.

    It’s unsettled whether search engines have a valid fair use claim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The news headlines are copied verbatim, as are some of the snippets that go along.

    Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that “There’s not a rock-solid ruling on the question.”

    Should the search engines pay up for the content? Tell us what you think.

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    Thoughts on Google Sites, IT department threat?

    Google released Sites today, a centralized repository for sharing information and collaborative workspaces. There’s been much commentary around the blogosphere on whether Sites is a threat to Microsoft’s SharePoint product, MiramarMike gives an excellent comparison over here.

    There’s been so much discussion post launch that I wasn’t going to comment. However a post over on RWW by Sarah Perez gave me some motivation to comment on her perspective. Sarah’s perspective is that, while Sites might be a reasonable product for Ma and Pa operations, it’s not suitable for enterprise, and in fact Google’s strategy for encouraging enterprise users to adopt their product is counter productive and somewhat sneaky.

    Sarah quotes Dave Girouard, who runs Google’s enterprise unit, as saying this about what his company is doing: “We’re wrestling over who should have ultimate authority of the technology people use in the workplace. There’s no right or wrong answer so we have to respect everyone’s view.”

    She then goes on to draw a stark conclusion from Dave’s words, saying:

    Let’s read between the lines of that last statement…Google doesn’t think IT should have the ultimate authority about the tools people use to do their jobs. There’s “power to the people,” and then there’s a total coup-d’etat. Google’s opting for the latter.

    I have to say I can’t agree with Sarah, Google is clearly empowering operational level employees within an enterprise. In the event that their IT department hasn’t the funding (although given the fact that GApps is free this is a non starter anyway) or the time resource, operational and team level personnel can deploy the broader GoogleApps products to make the most of their collaboration potential. The way I see it, if IT departments were doing their jobs (and some are) there would be no need to be having this discussion. They would be sufficiently user-centric to decide on the best product for their users needs, be it MS, Google or anything else.

    In all this discussion around circumventing, or not, corporate IT departments, people seem to have lost sight of the real issue here. Corporate IT’s role is to assess and implement solutions that provide the functionality to the users that those suers require. It isn’t to build empires or create silos. Any success Google has within an enterprise setting (and I’m not going to wade into the argument about whether or not Google apps is having enterprise level success) would seem to be to be a comment on the efficacy of the IT department itself.

    For too long CIOs have been technology centric on the one hand and compliance driven on the other. Between cuddling up to the big software vendors and spending time worried about the skins with regards Sarbanes Oxley compliance, they’ve lost site of the fact that their existing offering to the business are lacking.

    Rather than finding ways to block their users making individualised and decentralised decisions, they should be partnering with the business units to truly asses their requirements and the best solutions to fulfil their needs.

    Sarah quotes Joel Hruska of Ars Technica as saying “…IT administrators tend to fervently dislike the sudden appearance of unapproved applications, even if said software package promises world peace, actually delivers all those free iPods, and periodically spits gold doubloons out of the CD-ROM drive. Google’s approach seems predicated on the old adage that it’s always easier to get forgiveness than permission. One the one hand, Google Apps Team Edition could help facilitate group-level communication on projects, but the program could also engender a significant backlash from IT managers who aren’t at all thrilled at its sudden appearance. This is particularly true of companies with strict(er) IT policies, or companies already in the middle of deploying an alternative work collaboration system…Google seems to be betting that if it can build enough grassroots support for Google Apps, IT departments and corporations will have no choice but to embrace it as a provider. Such an approach may work beautifully in the consumer market, but there’s no guarantee corporations will be as flexible.”

    And then decides that:

    If anything, this strategy will drive enterprise IT even further from Google Apps, keeping the Apps program the sole province of the SOHO and small-medium business market.

    And herein lies the rub, if enterprise IT continues to be prescriptive and protective of incumbents, it will eventually start to erode the value of the organisation as younger, leaner, more agile and proactive organisations utilise whichever tools satisfy their needs.

    2 Responses to “Thoughts on Google Sites, IT department threat?”


    1. 1 Jim Donovan
      Ben – that is too simplistic and naive on so many levels. Yes IT depts may have challenges in responsiveness, but they have first responsibility on business IT integrity for many very sound reasons. The frequent shambles caused by Excel and Access user developments are legion, as were the skunk works super-micro apps of the 80s. Web-apps are no different.
    2. 2 Ben Kepes
      Jim – I accept that my post was a little heavy handed. However I have to say that it appears there is a real degree of empire building and turf protection going on within some corporate IT departments. Granted there are requirements on CIOs to ensure corporate safety, but I contend that many of their decisions are made for the wrong reasons.

      What I’m saying is that IT departments need to be involved and embrace new offerings (within parameters). I liken it to a CEO directive of “let’s be as creative as we can on how we support the day-to-day business activities” … They also need to know when a bottom up solution is acceptable, appropriate and most applicable.

    Leave a Reply

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    Lately, we’ve been discussing the concept of tech populism and the how enterprises are moving towards a more people-centric focus when it comes to their IT infrastructure. Although we support this movement of bringing social tools into the workspace, one could argue that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. For some, it’s a matter of introducing social or collaborative features into enterprise software; for others, like WorkLight, it’s about adapting existing consumer tools for the enterprise.

    In both of these scenarios, the IT department is still involved in the process of the introduction and deployment of the new capabilities. On the other hand, Google is trying a completely different approach: subvert the IT department altogether and appeal directly to the worker.

    Google’s Strategy in the Enterprise

    While this approach may work in the enterprise space in the short term, in the long run, they’re alienating the very people whose alliances they need in order to become a success. Today, with Google’s announcement of Google Sites, the blogosphere is already comparing the product to Sharepoint and trying to drive nails into Microsoft’s coffin. I’d argue that it’s far too soon to claim that Google is offering anything that really has a shot at making a dent in the enterprise world.

    As an online suite of applications, email, calendaring, IM, and even security and compliance with Postini’s help, Google Apps is off to a good start as being a suite that really has it together. For the small to medium size business, you could say that Google makes a strong offering as a more affordable alternative to Microsoft Servers and applications. However, it’s a big jump from offering tools to a mom-and-pop as compared with a global, Fortune 500 company.

    Google is actually going about marketing to the enterprise market in a pretty ingenious way – they’re not. Instead, they’re bypassing the IT department (who would, in all honesty, probably laugh at the thought) and marketing their suite on the sly directly to the employees themselves: “Are the tools provided by your IT department too unwieldy to use? Is IT to slow to respond to your needs? Then forget IT and use Google Apps instead!” This is definitely a good plan for Google in the short term, but it’s not one that is going to be good for them in the long run…especially when IT catches on to what their users are doing.

    Take the new Google Sites, for instance. Ben Worthen’s commented in today’s Wall Street Journal about the product:

    “Setting up sites like this has traditionally required help from the information-technology department. Google boasts in its press release that workers can set up a site ‘without having to burden IT for support.’ We love that phrase: It’s a bit like showing a teenager how to sneak out of the house and calling it a way to go out without burdening parents by letting them know. It also speaks volumes about Google’s strategy for breaking into businesses. The company is intentionally bypassing tech departments, which might object to Google hosting their business’s sensitive information. Instead, the company is appealing directly to the average worker, who doesn’t want to have to wait months for IT to have the time and money for their project. So while it will probably fill IT pros with visions of sensitive corporate data flowing out of their businesses, Google’s business model isn’t dependent on winning techies over.”

    A previous WSJ article also reported Dave Girouard, who runs Google’s enterprise unit, as saying this about what his company is doing: “We’re wrestling over who should have ultimate authority of the technology people use in the workplace. There’s no right or wrong answer so we have to respect everyone’s view.”

    Let’s read between the lines of that last statement…Google doesn’t think IT should have the ultimate authority about the tools people use to do their jobs. There’s “power to the people,” (tech populism) and then there’s a total coup-d’etat. Google’s opting for the latter.

    Network World agrees: “By killing the admin function, Google is trying to change the culture of software usage – the power structure, if you will. Taken to extremes, such a structure means that no longer will IT be the law enforcement officers of policy.”

    CIO Fear #1: Functionality

    A concern for Google Apps is the integration capabilities it offers. Alastair Mitchell, CEO at online collaboration and project management outfit Huddle.net doesn’t feel Google is ready for business yet. “Google Sites may be badged as a business tool, but the fact is that it isn’t properly integrated with any of Google’s other apps. Worryingly, it seems that Google took a good product like JotSpot and stripped out most of powerful functionality. Now it’s just a pretty wiki,” claims Mitchell.

    A pretty wiki? OUCH! But Mitchell does have a point about integration. Microsoft’s solutions are tightly integrated with each other, Google’s, as of yet, are not.  Count Joe Graves, CIO of Stratus Technologies, a $200 million-per-year computer maker, among the doubters. Graves, a fan of both his company’s Google Enterprise Search appliance and Salesforce.com thinks Google is a “just a sharp company,” but he’s standardized on Microsoft Office and plans to stay that way. “Google Apps would save us some money, but probably create some headaches that would surpass money savings,” said Graves in an interview. “It’s not clear with Google Apps that we’d have the same interoperability that we do with Microsoft Office. I took a look at Google Apps and wasn’t really impressed with it. It doesn’t seem like a comprehensive package.”

    CIO Fear #2: Security

    Enterprise CIOs do have a justifiable reason to fear Google’s encroachment on their territory…and it’s not just about control. Although users may see IT as gatekeepers preventing them from being able to do their jobs, turning that control over to Google instead may not be a better solution.

    An article in SearchCIO-Midmarket quotes Chenxi Wang, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc, as saying this about Google Apps “[Users] don’t want to go through the IT department to get approval, because it’s burdensome. On the flip side, the minus side is from a corporate standpoint, you have less control. I think this has its place for collaboration scenarios whereby the content that is being collaborated is not that sensitive or the organization is not a highly regulated industry, for example. Employees storing and sharing documents, spreadsheets and the like will be doing that on Google’s servers, which could present a compliance problem in some industries. IM is included, which still makes some executives wary. And sensitive business information could be shared with the wrong people inside the business.”

    Wary indeed:

    “It’s not for us,” said David Driggers, IT asset manager and deployment desktop systems team leader at Alabama Gas Corp. in Birmingham, Ala. Driggers said he worries about how Google’s Web-based applications would square in terms of compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. “Do you have real control over [email]?” he asked. “Where is the mail hosted? We have ours here and we control it.”

    Even Mark Harrison, of Abraham Harrison LLC, a test case for the Google Apps product has concerns. “It would be comforting to have an SLA that covered the entire suite,” he says. (The Google Apps Premier Edition suite contains an availability guarantee only for its Gmail portion – 99.9 percent uptime -and offers no commitment for the other components.) In the year that he has used it, downtime has been rare. “We’ve never been crippled by an outage,” Harrison says. Should one occur, the company would feel the impact, as they are now entirely dependent on the suite.

    CIO Fear #3: The Google TOS

    Another big fear is the scary Google TOS. Joshua Greenbaum writes on ZDNet about how Google defines content and what they say they do with it.

    “First, let’s clarify what content is. Here’s the wording from the Google Terms of Service page: ‘data files, written text, computer software, music, audio files or other sounds, photographs, videos or other images).’

    Then, let’s clarify what Google says you have given it the right to do with your content, even though it generously lets you keep your copyright: (the typos are courtesy Google’s legal department, which forgot to use a word processor with a spell-checker.)

    11.1 ….. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

    Did you catch that last line? The one about displaying your content in order to promote Google’s Services? Which of your business’s content would you want used in this way?

    Then there’s the part about how Google can make your content available for syndicated services — i.e. spam and other forms of advertising. Again, what content do you think you’d like shared in this way?

    11.2 You agree that this licence includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

    Don’t forget the cute little provision about termination of services, which goes like this:

    4.3 …. As part of this continuing innovation, you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you.

    And here’s the clincher: Google can also nuke your data when it wants to, with no recourse to the user:

    4.4 You acknowledge and agree that if Google disables access to your account, you may be prevented from accessing the Services, your account details or any files or other content which is contained in your account.

    CIO Fear #4: True ROI

    When you’re looking at the enterprise marketplace, you can’t really take the cost savings into the picture. The cost savings of moving to Google Docs just isn’t as substantial as it is for a small company. Although the the $50/year price of Premier Edition is more affordable, enterprises with more than a few thousand employees are already buying Microsoft licensing in bulk for as little as $100 per license. Moving to Google Apps is a dramatic decrease in functionality for them, and one that isn’t worth the cost.

    Even with the addition of Google Sites, Google isn’t offering Sharepoint-like functionality. For those that don’t know, “Sharepoint” isn’t just online collaboration and document sharing. It’s a suite of products and technologies that offer functionality and access to all data across all applications, even line-of-business applications.

    An IT admin commenter on ZDNet posts: “From within Outlook you can instantly pull up a customer, get a dozen looks on their activity or prior orders, find direct links to people closer to the products with email, phone or IM access immediately from tags in the documents and answer any question the customer has, period. Can you do that with Google apps? I don’t believe so, but you can collaborate. big whoop. You can setup a network share and collaborate just as easily with what you already have and not investing in Google apps for that matter, if you want very limited functionality. MOSS blows Google apps away and does NOT cost more over the long run and provides much richer environment, many more tools to collaborate with, easily interface our BI data to all users with complete and great administrative controls, which Google lacks even for simply document sharing(wheee), a managed code runtime and services that allow your end users to all have an Office GUI, not just an office tool, to look at any data on the network, at any time, in any way they need to…I repeat, smart companies are looking beyond initial cost to cost and ROI over minimum 5 years. That is where Google starts to cost A LOT more…”

    Google Shrugs Shoulders

    So what?, they say.  We “give administrators the control to do that if that’s what they decide,” says Google Senior Product Marketing Manager Jeremy Milo said. “The easiest way to do it would be to disable all the applications.”

    He’s referring to the administrative functions of the suite that allow CIOs to control which employees can use which applications in the suite. In order for a CIO or IT director to gain control of the suite, they must first sign up for Team Edition. Once inside, there is an administrative login that connects the CIO with Google. With that, the CIO is given an option to either create a CNAME record or upload an HTML file provided by Google to the company’s domain. Both options prove that the CIO has control over the domain. A third option is to update the domain’s MX record. Exercising any of those options essentially disables Team Edition for the domain and shifts everything to Google Apps Standard Edition, Google’s free version of its Web-based application suite for businesses. Once that happens, companies can use Gmail as an email client and CIOs can take control of the applications. (source: SearchCIO-midmarket) 

    So they only way to control employee access is to sign up for the program? If that wasn’t such genius, I might actually call it…well, evil.

    So Who’s Using Google Apps in the Enterprise?

    Google is proud to be offering their suite to “several” enterprise customers including GE, Procter & Gamble, Loreal, and Prudential. Touts Google Apps product manager Matt Glotzbach, the company has picked up 500,000 customers for Apps since it launched in February 2007 and is adding 20,000 users every day. We’ve passed 500,000 organizations using Google Apps, and we’re adding 2,000 to 3,000 more a day,” says Glotzbach. “The vast majority have been small- and medium-sized companies, plus educational institutions, but the pace and interest from big companies is picking up.”

    But even those figures barely register a dent in Microsoft’s Office armor. Microsoft says they have more than 500 million Office users. Some 62% of U.S. businesses use Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail software, compared with less than 1% for corporate webmail like Google’s, says Tom Austin, an analyst at researcher Gartner.

    And those big enterprises they have on board? Even on Google’s very own Google Apps web site, the truth is told, if anyone can take a minute from doing the happy Google dance to notice. They currently list 12 companies using Google Apps, one of which is Google itself. Reading through the quotes I see this:

    “GE is interested in evaluating Google Apps for the easy access it provides to a suite of web applications, and the way these applications can help people work together.”

    “L’Oreal R & D has decided to test Google Apps in order to optimize collaboration between its researchers.”

    “Interested,” “evaluating,” and “testing” are not words that equal an enterprise partnership.

    Oh and Capgemini, the IT services and business consultancy, listed there? They deploy Google Apps to enterprises as one of their services. Their first deployment went successfully in November of 2007. It was to themselves.

    The IT Backlash Is Yet To Come

    Even though IT is warming up to more consumer-friendly applications, Google’s methodology for getting into the enterprise has a good chance to completely backfire on them.

    According to Google Apps senior product manager Rajen Sheth, “Google Apps has been, by definition, an IT project, and now we want to let people use it without IT involvement.”  He goes on to suggest that there shouldn’t be any concern about finding uplanned and unapproved implementations of Google Apps on corporate networks because ” the IT department always has the option to sign up for the Standard Edition for free if they want to provide control over this. This is a solid, happy medium.”

    But Joel Hruska of Ars Technica writes on his personal blog:

    “[there’s] one problem with that: IT administrators tend to fervently dislike the sudden appearance of unapproved applications, even if said software package promises world peace, actually delivers all those free iPods, and periodically spits gold doubloons out of the CD-ROM drive. Google’s approach seems predicated on the old adage that it’s always easier to get forgiveness than permission. One the one hand, Google Apps Team Edition could help facilitate group-level communication on projects, but the program could also engender a significant backlash from IT managers who aren’t at all thrilled at its sudden appearance. This is particularly true of companies with strict(er) IT policies, or companies already in the middle of deploying an alternative work collaboration system.

    Google claims that the purpose of Team Edition is to allow users to “share documents and calendars securely without burdening IT for support,” are more likely to be greeted by raised eyebrows from the IT department. In the right (or wrong) circumstances, the unapproved presence and use of Google Apps Team Edition could, in fact, increase the burden on IT support staff. Google seems to be betting that if it can build enough grassroots support for Google Apps, IT departments and corporations will have no choice but to embrace it as a provider. Such an approach may work beautifully in the consumer market, but there’s no guarantee corporations will be as flexible.”

    If anything, this strategy will drive enterprise IT even further from Google Apps, keeping the Apps program the sole province of the SOHO and small-medium business market.

    Author Disclosure: I’m currently a writer for five different blogs, one of which is Microsoft property, Channel 10, but I am not a Microsoft employee. These remarks are solely my opinion alone, but it’s likely they’re influenced by my previous experience as a MCSE-certified systems administrator!

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