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Google’s release of its Gmail Video service is noteworthy for several reasons. It is integrated into the Gmail console, adding voice and video services to the realtime console that is being built out around XMPP. It is remarkably easy to use; Dan Farber just called to test the service and I popped the window out and continued chatting with him while returning to this post. Several alerts on Yammer and Friendfeed’s realtime IM competed briefly in other chat windows. Oh, and Google just added about a quarter of its version of Silverlight to my MacBook Air. Call it Silverlite.

If I hadn’t already installed the new service yesterday to get an advanced look, Farber’s call this morning would have prompted me to download and install a 2MB plugin. The code works with Intel Macs and Vista or XP, and so far only on Firefox and Safari (with some install issues) on the Mac. So by installing the plugin, I’ve basically added a significant part of Google’s multimedia services to this machine. It’s not Flash either. It’s cross-platform, it’s RIA code, it’s not Flash. Am I making my point?

[Note: Flash is used along with proprietary code. More as Google clarifies.]

Couple this with all the new doodads Gmail has added in recent weeks via Gmail Labs: tools to float the IM panel on the opposite side of the Gmail window, widgets to integrate Google Calendar and Docs, and drag and drop functionality to rearrange all these modules on the page. The calendar object is particularly useful, because not only does it display coming events for multiple calendars in a simple scrolling interface, but it lets you add events from within Gmail. In effect, it roundtrips the experience in a way that promotes more and more usage. It’s lock-in by choice, and it threatens Microsoft at its very core.

The 2MB plugin is perhaps even more insidious. Who knows what services it adds that the growing grid of Gmail tools can access. What if Gmail Labs offers a video annotation service, or a podcast recording module, or a collaborative screen sharing capability, or a micromessaging console, or a group meeting organizer/live blogging console, or… These are enterprise apps, popping up on demand or as upsells to what is rapidly becoming a serious Office competitor. And what part of the 2MB can run on Android? This last one will drive Apple nuts, and likely force Silverlight onto the iPhone to boot.

This is Cloud Office, folks, and all you need is a reasonably new machine. It’s also iterative deployment, where 3G delivers a realtime, intelligent caching media fabric that disrupts terrestrial radio, cable television, and the Hollywood studio system. With the 2MB down payment, Google can continue to add code multiplexed with content, streaming additional upgrades and services along with alerts, conversations, and appointment requests. Advertising will morph from selling a product to being part of the product.

By blurring the boundary between Ajax and RIA, Google has found a way to grow into the Mesh that Microsoft is close to delivering from IT outward. In many ways, this strategy is supportive of the new Microsoft as much as it is disruptive of the old. Just as Microsoft can’t be stopped from executing on its cloud strategy in the enterprise, neither can Google from its base in the user cloud. Where the two platforms meet in the middle looks a lot like a hybrid of iTunes and Office.

  • Gmail video lands; What if it was a Gear? on Dion Almaer's Blog

    […] is from Steve Gillmor as he compares video chat with Silverlite […]

  • Eff it


    F#ck Google.

    • William Phipps

      Grow up.

    • Michael

      Ballmer, is that you?

      • Television Voyeur

        lol nice one. But honestly Siverlight doesn’t seem to be stacking too well against Flash – I have to digg my hands deeper into it sometime.

      • Rahul

        ROFL : Epic response :D

  • teraom

    I thought you were talking of dumb microsoft silver light. They claim it is good.
    Gmail Catching up with ichat??

  • Ryan

    How do you move the Gtalk panel to the right side of the Gmail window?! Would LOVE to know

    • Ryan

      Found it… the labs navigation / browsing is really poor…. but very useful tool!

  • Eli

    It works fine for me in Safari on a Mac.

    • Steve Gillmor

      It didn’t when I installed the plug in yesterday, and the installation defaulted to launching Safari, which is not the default browser. I reinstalled the plugin today and it seems to support Safari normally in addition to Firefox.

  • Andrew Mager

    Hey tell Gillmor to put some clothes on!

    • matt

      LOL, I thought the same thing… the picture totally makes me think on “Dateline – To Catch a Predator”

  • TOol

    Ugh. you’re such a M$ tool. I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Google does video, ok yea cool. Silverlite? I don’t get it. Force Silverlight onto the iPhone? We’d see you in drag before that happens. And Google’s goal is to grow into… Mesh???

    Total random post.

  • CBass

    How can you compare this to Silverlight or Flash? This is just a browser plugin that does one thing for one site. This is not a RIA platform. It’s a neat feature, but you’re seriously going overboard with the extrapolation.

    • Raul Riera

      Totally agree, people seem to hate Flash but then agai they would have the web crippled if they didnt have it.

  • Will Google Launch a Flash Competitor? | Online Marketer .com

    […] an extremely insightful post on it here, Gilmore guesses that Google has just made the first step towards creating a Flash and Silverlight […]

  • davidjmcclelland

    When I right click on gTalk (with plugin installed) I see the Flash Menu.

  • kg

    “It’s cross-platform, it’s RIA code, it’s not Flash.” What the hell is “RIA code” and since when is RIA mutually exclusive with Flash?

  • Colin

    i would agree with the notes above. this has nothing to do with what silverlight is all about. it’s just a helper app. more crap to slow down the computer.

  • lolller

    that screen shot looks like a still frame from to catch a predator.

  • Tom Riddle

    Right click on the video — You’ll see that it *is* Flash.
    They may not be using Flash for the entire video functionality — but the front end *is* Flash.

    Clearly, you haven’t done your research, and have hastily posted a bigoted article in your flurry of excitement.

    • Steve Gillmor

      Agreed. In my excitement I mispoke. Thanks for your clarification, which I am waiting on Google for confirmation. The plugin does not load the usual capture permission associated with the Flash code, so it may not be used for video capture but only display as you suggest.

      Bigoted? Perhaps you speak in a flurry of your own excitement.

    • JD

      Chill the beans man

  • Income Tax India FAQ

    Oh its not the microsoft silverlight :-) It should be fun, i would love to see google apps with integrated docs and mail (drop down of docs etc)..

  • Andrew

    “By blurring the boundary between Ajax and RIA, Google has found a way to grow into the Mesh that Microsoft is close to delivering from IT outward.”

    OK well I just ran this an it is Flash on a Mac so I don’t get what silverlight or mesh has to do with any of this.

  • gabriele

    saying that it’s anything like Silverlight it’s a bold statement.
    it’s just another way for google to install cookies on your pc/mac. this time it’s a flash cookie which is harder for people to remove.

  • Ummm

    This is less like Silverlight and more like Gears. The plugin is really adding non-visual JS apis to allow HTML pages to configure settings and detect hardware. The video is done by Flash, or could be done by the HTML5 tag in the future.

    Gillmor makes the mistake of viewing Google’s efforts through the lens of Flash or Silverlight, which are monolithic plugins that run outside the OpenWeb, in a sense, outside the browser rendering engine/HTML/DOM.

    Google instead, is taking the small is beautiful Unix approach. They are gradually seeding lots of tiny APIs into the browser that hook more and more into native services, and relying on traditional OpenWeb programming model (HTML/DOM/CSS/JS) to glue these APIs together into more complex applications.

    In short: Google = OpenWeb, Flash/Silverlight = proprietary. The only downside of the current videochat is that it wasn’t provided as part of a Gears update, but instead a separate plugin. That may be rectified in the future.

  • Bob

    “By blurring the boundary between confusion and understanding, Steve Gillmor has found a way to grow into the troll that Rob Enderle is close to unleashing upon IT outward.”

    j/k. Enderle is a first class douche, while you just seem a little bit lost.

    pro-tip: Stop trying to cram buzzwords into your stories, particularly when those buzzwords have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  • Bob

    Ummm said:
    > In short: Google = OpenWeb, Flash/Silverlight = proprietary.

    I’d love to hear how Google’s gmail video plugin is not proprietary.
    Maybe next you could explain how Google Earth plugin is not proprietary too. Or maybe how Google’s Lively chat plugin is not proprietary?

    You can try to retort with some “Yes but Google opened this or that”, but how is that different from Adobe opening a number of items of their own?

    Also, be aware that both Flash and Silverlight can be extensively scripted from the browser’s javascript environment, which means they can be fully considered as a set of APIs into the browser that hook into native services.

    Be careful where you’re aiming that kool-aid man, you’re going to spill it.

    • Ummm

      First of all, I stated that if Gmail’s plugin is rolled into Gears, then my statements will hold. (Gears is open-spec and open-source) Secondly, like I said, Google’s approach is to leverage the browser. Flash and Silverlight’s approach is to replace the HTML renderer with essentially a foreign object. Regardless of the fact that you can script these via the plugin object, the rendering engines of these two do not cooperate with browser. They use foreign and opaque layout mechanisms, styling is done completely differently, event systems are completely different, security models are different. To create a hybrid AJAX application mixing HTML and Silverlight/Flash is alot more of a pain to sticking with the existing OpenWeb toolchain.

      Moreover, with Flash, the “native APIs” provided can only be accessed if exported through ExternalInterface, which means you have to create a custom SWF to do this. Moreover, most of these APIs are highly coupled to the rendering engine. It’s an architectural difference, that Google Gears tends to provide small, useful, utility APIs that do not require setting up a monolithic SWF runtime in order to access.

      There’s no koolaid drinking here, it’s the reality that small is beautiful and elegant, and that Flash and Silverlight are more like Java, in that they try to supplant the browser based development model. Maybe you prefer Windows. I prefer Unix.

      • TOol

        Seriously – that’s the kool-aid talking. You’re whole argument is PC vs. Mac, desktop apps vs. browser apps, AJAX vs. RIAs, and boxers vs. briefs.

        “Better” is relative.

      • Matthew Fabb

        Still, if Google doesn’t open source this plugin (I can find no mention of them doing so) then you are still left with a new proprietary video plugin. Which on top of that still apparently needs the Flash Player for it to work.

        If you want better integration with the browser in plugins, then say so but that’s a completely different issue from open source versus closed source.

  • steven mandzik

    Yes, now I get to see how weird everyone looks on the other end. Used to be just my skype friends would see my bed hair, now the world will see…

  • Bookmarks for November 12th 2008

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  • tonyd

    What is this nonsense that Mr. Gillmor has written this time and furthermore, why does Techcruch still continue to entertain these nonsensical diatribes. For a blog that is read by over a million people to publish something that barely could be described as writing is beyond me. Are you trying to prove that “blogging” and “real journalism” are in fact two different mediums, that blogs are not real sources of information and insight? Or is this just a joke to publish some ramblings that we all get a kick out of?

    This post sounds like it was written by a stoned high school senior, reaching for some deep meaning he thinks he discovered in the banal, not realizing he only makes himself sound like an idiot in the meantime.

    But lets look through this post. It lacks even the most basic of elements of good writing: a thesis. After reading through it, I *think* the thesis is that Googles new video chat surreptitiously installs a program that will be the basis for a proprietary Google web platform. I say I think this is the case, because I really cant tell what the hell this article is about. It starts off as a little story about his use of the video service with some unrelated garbage about yammer and FriendFeed, then delves into the download required to use it and how this relates to Googles other products. Then at the end, it just degrades into a rant on 3G, Hollywoood, and grid computing (seriously, save the drugs until after you have proofread the article, not while you are writing it). There is no structure or proper thought at all in this article.

    Furthermore, if this is the thesis, as other commenters have pointed out, Gillmor has just missed the boat completely. Google is not trying to release a new platform to compete with Microsoft or Adobe, they are trying to get more technologies out in the wild so others can build on them, so that they may index that content, so that they may sell ads against it. If they were trying to build a new proprietary platform, they would not be building Chrome, with a high performance javascript VM, to replace the functions of Flash in the browser in an open fashion, nor would they be supporting Android to free the phone from the carriers (again so they can sell ads without the carrier). So please, think before you write, or at the least, think before you post.

  • Francine hardaway

    Commenters, you are not helping me. I am trying to learn how all these services relate/compete/complete each other, and when all you do is post ad hominem slurs about Steve Gillmor you do not help me truly learn anything. This is a conversation too nasty to participate in.

  • Andrew Chen

    Rather than a Trojan horse to compete on Microsoft’s turf, isn’t it much more likely this is just an outgrowth of a set of Googlers 20% time? Specifically, it is much more likely a team of engineers thought it would be cool to add in video chat to GChat, and the execs approved the project. That is pretty much how a large percentage of Google features come to fruition. With the exception of Android and Chrome, a large percentage of Google’s internally created products are just out-growths of Googlers’ time without a clear strategic purpose.

    Furthermore, this feature is not likely to be greatly adopted by the masses. Webcam chat user numbers are minuscule when compared to other online communication methods (IM, commenting, twitter, email). The low adoption rate is probably known to the creators of this feature and would likely rule out its use as a Trojan horse for delivering other “insidious” multimedia features.

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