One of things that came out of the Google Analyst briefing presentation was a project Google is working on called Lighthouse.
This is what we were able to glean:
With infinite storage, we can house all user files, including: emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc).
We already have efforts in this direction in terms of GDrive, GDS, Lighthouse, but all of them face bandwidth and storage constraints today.
Another important implication of this theme is that storing 100% of a user’s data makes each piece of data more valuable because it can be access across applications. For example: a user’s Orkut profile has more value when it’s accessible from Gmail (as addressbook), Lighthouse (as access list), etc.
Richard McManus speculated that it might be a ” a next-generation file search solution that ‘shines a light’ inside documents on your desktop”. Shii asked: “Could Lighthouse be a privacy-enabled bookmarks system, like Yahoo My Web 2?”
Having thought about this for a couple of days, I think it’s highly likely that Lighthouse is Google’s Online File Management system.
Every file system needs a file management system to organise and set up a file retrieval system and GDrive will be no different. In fact, the challenges that Google faces in building a file management system for an online drive are enormous.
It’s also critical. I’ve mentioned before that I have been favouring Writely over Zoho Writer simply because I felt it had a superior file management system (Zoho has improved their system lately but I still prefer Writely). We’re talking about a couple of dozen word processing files here, imagine how much complex and challenging it gets when you’re talking about storing ALL of your files on an online drive and what’s more making that your “Golden Copy”.
Problems have already been noted with Google Desktop Search (GDS) which breaks when you move files around on your local drive. Google has an enormous amount of work to do in trying to replicate files with a user’s local machine and that’s even without tackling the issue of file sharing. A key advantage of an online file system is the ease of being able to share documents for collaboration and what not, but that opens up a can full of worms in terms of replication issues, copyright issues, privacy issues. (This is likely what Google is talking about in terms of Orkut profiles being used as access control lists in Lighthouse).
While the challenges are enormous, the rewards for making this all work are enormous. If you control the online file management system, surely you also control what online application is used to manipulate a file when online. If you click on an a Word file in your GDrive, ‘Lighthouse’ if this is what it is, will surely launch Writely, if you click on an email GMail will open it up, launch an image and the online version of Picasa kicks into action, etc, etc. Kent Newsome asked why Google would bother with Writely. If you consider Writely in conjunction with my Lighthouse theory then you start to see how Google might successfully lock you into their ecosystem and therefore it’s important that they can provide the whole picture. This is looking even more monopolistic than Microsoft has ever been!
Google Lighthouse (again, assuming I’m right about it) just might be the most important Google application of all.
(If you haven’t read my Google/Writely Online/Offline post, it might be worth reading as background as to where Google’s general strategy could be heading)