There’s a lot that I could say about this, and my initial reaction was actually wrong. It seemed to me that Google was going off and inventing its own blog-publishing protocol, pulling the same NIH crap that it did with its non-standard Event Publisher API (using random values that don’t map directly to the international icalendar standard.
But, no, it turns out that GData is actually just Atom “plus some extensions for handling queries”, but branded as a proprietary Google format (kind of ironic, given the long and pained open development of Atom).
The important thing that started to dawn on me was this part of the announcement:
- Authentication is fully documented for both Installed Applications and Web Apps
- Your GData code should be easily reusable across other GData API apps, such as Calendar
So just as Yahoo had done with Flickr (inspiring a fairly wide backlash), Blogger is going to be fully absorbed into the Google Auth-borg. This continued amalgamation of services behind the Google Account Authentication has consequences beyond the momentary outcry over Google’s supposed steamrolling of companies.
Business is business and competition is a threat to any member of an ecosystem, which is why you’ve got to keep innovating, adapting and bettering to survive. But it’s different when it comes to setting protocols and standards and the seamless moving of data in and out of disparate systems. When those protocols are closed or locked up or can be sealed off at any time, the competitive environment becomes very different.
The problem that I see is Google’s ability to shut out third party services once you’ve imported yourself into the proverbial gLife. No doubt there are feeds and the aforementioned GData APIs but it’s not an open system; Google decides which ports it wants to open and for whom. Think you’ll ever be able to cross-post calendar items from 30boxes to your Google Calendar? Only if Narendra strikes a deal on your behalf — even though it’s your data. Think you’ll ever be able to share your Picasa Albums with your Flickr account? Don’t bet on it. Or — or — how about sharing your Google search history with your Yahoo account? Or merging your buddy list between Orkut and Flickr? Not a chance.
In simplest terms, with the state we’re in with centralized authentication in web applications, it’s like waiting for Microsoft and Apple to strike a deal enabling you to copy and paste from Appleworks to Word. And on top of that, you’d need to have to had created an account in both apps to even boot them up. So from a “normal person perspective”, this is a situation that you’d never want to have to worry about.
But that’s essentially where we’re at.
To put it in greater perspective: Web2.0 should have been the “great wide opening” — that is, where you could be in utter control of your data and move it in and out of services at your whim, just as you can with your money, in and out of banks depending on the quality and diversity of services they offer. And indeed, they’ve got to compete just to keep your business — if you leave, you won’t be stuck with a bunch of expiring pre-loaded debit cards.
But there’s a new trend, seen in Google’s spreading account authentication that foretells of the inevitable Passport-like lock-in that sunk Microsoft the first go ’round. You see, Google’s Account Authentication API makes it easy for you to add more and more of Google services by simply using your Gmail credentials. For Google, this leads to huge network effects, because they can essentially merge behavior data from across its entire network of services to build out a better picture of you — leading to a kind of competitive advantage that no one else can touch.
The problem though, both for you and for independent developers, is that you can’t pick and choose who or what Google works with. They’ll make themselves just open enough to be above reproach but not quite open enough to allow third parties to compete with them on their home turf (man, it’d be nice if there were a “Reply by Skype” link in Gmail — oops, Gtalk only!).
And this is how Google will build a better user mousetrap by leveraging its superior cross-product integration that its authentication system affords them.