My daughter is taking a New Media Research studio class at NYU where (somewhat to my dismay), she's learning about using RSS and Delicious. I'm dismayed because I would have taught her about these things for free, but you know college students. Parents are good for tuition, not for tutoring. Or maybe I'm just jealous that I can't take the course.
At any rate, this week's assignment is a doozy--A Week Without Google. That's right, no Google Search or Google Alerts, no Gmail or Google Talk, no Google Video, no Google Docs or Google Calendar, no Google Maps or Google Earth, no Google News, no Google Groups, no Youtube (!!), no Blogger, no Picasa, no Google Checkout, no iGoogle, no Google Translate, no Google Chrome, and if you have a G1 phone, you are not allowed to use Google services with it--talk and text only.
For my daughter and her friends, the hardest thing to do without is YouTube, which has replaced channel surfing on cable as their favorite time-waster. For me, I would go insane without Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs and Google maps.
The assigment is interesting because it vividly illustrates how dependent many of us have become on Google. It also raises the question of whether or not this is a good thing, especially in the wake of last week's malware scare.
In a post on Google Monculture and the Cloud, Kas Thomas wonders:
How would users of Google applications be affected by problems with the main search engine? Google offers over 70 services of various kinds. Does anyone even know what all the dependencies are?
There are dangers in relying too much on any one service or company. Monopolies breed customer abuse and we're certainly handing ourselves over to Google in ways that, should they choose, could do some serious damage. We also know that online, monoliths invite the attention of hackers who want to do maximum damage with minimal work (one of the reasons I like my Mac--fewer viruses to worry about). And even with no malicious intent, reliance on a single company means that if something goes wrong, it impacts every interdependent aspect of your work.
This leaves a big question in my mind--are we too dependent on Google? Although it's wonderful to have so many services working together so seamlessly, are their downsides to all Google all the time that I'm not considering as I should? What do you think?
Could you go a week without Google? Do you think it's a good or a bad thing to be so reliant on one company? What should we be considering in all of this?