Web services security guru Mark O’Neill writes about how Google have literally taken over the browsing experience for mobile-phone web users:
‘I tried to bookmark the page but couldn’t, since what was seeing was not the Vordel website, it was how Google had rendered the Vordel website. In fact, there was no way to leave Google, since each link was being rendered through Google. I’d entered the “GoogleNet”. ‘
Proxying the web like this isn’t the most original idea in the world, but as with most things at Google, it’s extremely well executed.
However, this is a serious matter for four groups of people:
1. the public – how do we know that Google isn’t going to mess around with the sites we’re viewing? Actually, the public won’t be too worried about this. The public actually trusts Google quite a lot. Google’s value is largely based on his strong relationship with the consumer.
2. website owners – how do we know that Google isn’t going to screw things up our website if we don’t pay some future Google Tax? This will be an issue, because there is so much about Google’s plans that the US corporate world just doesn’t know. Eventually Google will have to deliver a return to its investors, and it isn’t clear how it will do this. Everyone is going to have a concern at the back of their mind that they will be the ones to get hit.
3. mobile phone operators. Mobile phone operators (particularly Vodafone) have spent a lot of money trying to ‘own’ the mobile Internet. Now Google comes along, and is beginning to take over the whole thing.
4. mobile phone manufacturers. The reason Google is getting away with this is that the browsing and rendering software on mobile phones is of such poor quality, and that there aren’t any useful standards in place for mobile browsing. What happened here? How did the manufacturers screw up so bad?
Well done to Google for taking a serious problem and coming up with a decent solution to it. But it makes me think that the issue isn’t Google’s cleverness or aggression; it’s the mobile industry’s general carelessness and lack of understanding of their own technology and their own marketplace.
Disclosure: I provide advisory services to a telecomms company and a consumer electronics company, but not regarding the issues covered above.