Google’s Domination

Google, perhaps more than any other site, has become a utility in our lives. This has endeared it to advertisers and created a powerful marketing medium. Even as the world awaits its IPO, estimates are that Google’s revenues will rise more than 2.5 times to USD 750 million this year, with a gross profit margin of 30%. Writes NYTImes:

The shift to the supremacy of search engines indicates how swiftly business realities can change in Internet commerce. Giant portals have long tried to fence in Web surfers and keep them pacified. Google is exploding that strategy by taking advantage of the basic strength of the Internet: the ability to go instantly from one place to any other at no cost beyond the basic connection.

Google’s newfound power as arbiter of much of the world’s digital information, meanwhile, is posing concerns about privacy and fairness, not only from competitors but also from social policy experts and even librarians. Some worry that the company may have become too central in an age when so much vital information is available online.

“They’re the traffic cop at the main intersection of the information society,” said Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “They have an awesome responsibility.”

Google handles about 200 million searches a day. What is amazing is the size of its computing infrastructure: “The company stopped giving updates on the size of its computing resources in 2001. But several people with knowledge of the system said it consists of more than 54,000 servers designed by Google engineers from basic components. It contains about 100,000 processors and 261,000 disks, these people said, making it what many consider the largest computing system in the world.”

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Wired magazine has a collection of articles on the WiFi revolution, equating its impact to the PC and the Web browser.

What makes the new standard so alluring? Wi-Fi is cheap, powerful, and, most important, it works. A box the size of a paperback, and costing no more than dinner for two, magically distributes broadband Internet to an area the size of a football field. A card no larger than a matchbook receives it. The next laptop you buy will probably have Wi-Fi built in. Wires may soon be for power alone.

But the appeal goes deeper. Wi-Fi represents a fundamentally different approach to the airwaves that could lead to a new era of wireless policy. Like other open spectrum technologies rising in its wake, Wi-Fi is a way to use the handful of frequencies set aside for unrestricted consumer use. That’s true of the old CB radio, too, but unlike the trucker channels Wi-Fi is digital and smart enough to avoid congestion. After 100 years of regulations that assumed serious wireless technologies were fragile and in need of protection by monopolies on exclusive frequencies (making spectrum the most valuable commodity of the information age), Wi-Fi is fully capable of protecting itself. It has turned the airwaves into a commons without tragedy, and turned the economics of wireless on its head.

The next four WiFi challenges: making it work everywhere, unwiring the living room, using WiFi to cross the last mile and converging with the cell phone.