Is Google becoming AOL 2.0?

Posted on 08/28/2011 in misc

I was initially a big fan of Google+, and I still think it is a more privacy friendly social networking platform than Facebook. However, Google's insistence on real names in the service is concerning. I've always used my real name online, but I certainly understand that for many people, there are very good reasons to not do that. Abuse victims, people that follow any sort of out-of-the-mainstream lifestyle, and corporate or government officials with a need to whistleblow all have very legitimate reasons to maintain a shield between their online identity and their real identity.

I've got 7 years of email archives in Gmail. I have dozens of documents in GDocs. I've been using GReader since 2006 or so. I have years of photos in Picasa. And like everybody else on the planet, Google is my default search engine. Of course, all these services are used cash free by me. Google makes it very convenient to use their services, mainly because they work so damn well. In fact, with the introduction of the black Google toolbar on their services, it is apparent that Google is essentially building the nex-gen AOL. AOL was, in its heyday, a totally walled garden. The wall around Google will be more like a white picket fence. However, I was never a fan of the the AOL approach, and I'm starting to question why Google doing essentially the same thing is any better. At the end of the day, AOL and Google have exactly the same goal, sell as much advertising as possible by keeping the users (the product) on the site as long as possible. And the reality is that Google knows far more about its users than AOL ever did. Google may be executing the strategy 1000% better, but is that any reason to accept it this time if we didn't when AOL tried it?

Back in the AOL heyday, all my email went through ODonnellweb, a server I pay for and thus have more control over. When I wanted to share photos I added a photo sharing application to my web server. When I wrote a document I used a word processor on my computer. I'm not anti-cloud, but I'm thinking I may want to distribute my life across several clouds. Like maybe move my email off of Gmail, use DuckDuck Go to search,use Zoho Docs instead of GDocs, and leave my photos at Picasa.

What do you think? Am I onto something here, or am I just being paranoid?

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