Ajax Microsoft and Google

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/01/2005

A point about the Ajax revolution that I don’t see being pointed out is the extreme irony of Google mainstreaming a feature of the MSXML parser and forcing alternative browsers such as FireFox, Safari and Opera to support it. Google has in essence used Microsoft’s own weapon against them, in order to do what Netscape failed to do: turn the Web browser into an alternative computing platform. It is in the early stages, but could very well be poetic justice.

I know Ajax-like methods have been around forever, and nothing really new was invented. But the point is that by developers the world over developing Ajax-like applications, a platform is defined. So, what Google is in essence doing is turning the browser back into an alternative development platform with its own API. Once this is done, it’s only a small matter to detach the platform from the underlying overhead of another OS and expensive, beefy hardware, and have the coveted, long-awaited virtually free PC.

It harkens back to the days where the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) was going to be put in hardware, eliminating the need for the host PC, and turning Java into that alternative computing platform. Another irony is that the junior scripting language invented by Netscape, JavaScript, (and not Java) is one of the key pieces in the next chapter of the alternative computing platform story. Basically, all you need is a device with a good implementation of the document object model (DOM) as defined by the W3C, and a good implementation of JavaScript. So, Netscape has its revenge.

With the new breed of $230 PCs that are coming out now in India, and eventually world-wide, even the minimal price of XP embedded starts to sound expensive. And Google has proven to be experts at providing free services, offsetting the cost with advertising. So, what do you think it’s going to be able to do with a PC that is $230 to start? So, this leads to the same speculation as everyone else. The time is right for an alternative computing platform that is just too cheap and too slick for even the most hardcore PC fans to ignore. And it can be bolstered by the incredible brand-identity of Google. It even has the perfect name: the Google IT (nice triple entendre) or perhaps the GooglePod. With their book-scanning project, I would expect them to take a page from Apple’s playbook, and virtually give them out to schools, and this time not as a high tech novelty, but actually in place of text books.`

Maybe I’m giving Google too much credit, but they have to look for something to spend all their new capital on, and a way to translate their early success in search into something with a more solid foundation. I still remember like yesterday how quickly favor turned away from AltaVista and towards Google. Fortunes can turn on a dime. So, the #1 priority I imagine would be how to generate higher levels of sustainable revenue. And like many media companies, they have to be thinking about end-to-end delivery from content creation (movie studios) to the pipeline (cable companies) to the delivery device (PCs & TVs). Knocking Microsoft out of the picture as an assumed required component would be a first step, and every time I think about the Ajax craze, and what it’s built on, I wonder whether I’m seeing better Kung Fu, or just a happy accident.