If this week has shown us anything, it’s that, if you haven’t already, in the not too distant future we’re all going to have a pick a side – Google, Microsoft or Yahoo. In fact, Squash is tipping that this is going to make 2006 a seminal year in the history of the Internet.
Watch over the rest of this year how Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will systematically attempt to lock you into their universe. What we’re going to see is these three big players start to integrate their services together with subtle, and not so subtle, lock-in mechanisms.
The move this week to tie Email to IM via Google Chat is an obvious example. If you use GMail, you probably do all your searching with Google. Google can keep forcing you to search with them by indexing more and more of your world, like instant messaging conversations. Google Desktop is another mechanism for Google to keep your business all locked up. Now Google has announced that they will index all your computers and keep that index on their servers so you can retrieve files and information regardless of where you’re at. If you buy into this idea, and Google starts indexing your entire life and stowing it away somewhere in their GoogleGrid, tell me how the hell, you’re ever going to kick the Google habit and switch search providers.
Another service it appears Google is set to offer is domain management, according to the Googling Google domain, which found a piece of code in the GMail source which refers to “Manage this domain”. It can’t be far away. Microsoft already has this with its Windows Live Custom Domain management. I tried it out today and were it not for the fact that I’m so in love with GMail and the pitiful amount of storage each account comes with, I would have been very tempted to shift all of our company mail accounts to this system. When Google allows me to manage my domains with them, and assuming we can keep out muti-gig maiboxes, I’ll be there in a flash.
If you still don’t believe GMY are hell-bent on locking you in, read this CNET post about how Yahoo will potentially offer its users all manner of rewards if they commit to making Yahoo Search their primary search tool. The rewards start with ad-free email and extend to things like free music downloads.
All of this, of course, is a blessing and a curse, just as bundling has been in the telco sector in recent years. At least, initially you’re going to get all manner of free services and rewards to lock you into them, which is going to be great for all users. However, the danger is when someone owns your online existence, what if they start to abuse that position once they realise your stuck to them with superglue? Already, I’m at the point where it would be a world of pain for me to give up GMail – my email archive is just too valuable a thing for me to give up. What if Google suddenly decides to charge me for the data they’re holding or starts taking too many liberties with my privacy.
It might be a good idea for all users to set themselves up GMail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail accounts and have emails forwarded to all three. At least, that gives you a base of information that is transportable between the big three.