The Realtime Real Estate Crisis

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Cast your unborn baby in bronze

It can be illuminating to compare the strategies of the major cloud platform vendors. Instead of matching currently exposed features, let’s imagine what each major player could do to tack away from competitor strengths and toward their own. For example, Google.

Unlike Amazon Web Services or Microsoft’s forthcoming Azure cloud, Google’s overall application architecture is firewalled off from direct developer access. Yes, AppEngine can be addressed directly, as can the Google APIs. But to date there is no easy way to engage with Gmail Labs unless you are a Google engineer with 20% of your time on your hands. If you’re a Salesforce, you can invest in API connectors and leverage your own cloud. Or you can add gadgets from your iGoogle toolchest.

But harness the viral power of the social media wave and its central driver — the realtime experience? Google shuts you out as a power user developer, and in the process cedes the ball to smaller players. Take the central console experience as embodied by the Gmail/GReader/GApps container. IM feeds and services from FriendFeed, Twitter, TwitterSpy,, the open sourced Jaiku, and Leo Laporte’s XMPP engine (to name just the most visible) overwhelm the screen real estate. Yet there are limited tools to orchestrate these streams before they hit the IM stream.

Then there’s the lack of intelligence in managing these multiple windows. Each reboot of FireFox mandates popping out the same set of windows and then dragging and resizing them into position. FireFox 3 added auto-recovery of tabs and their contents, but a FriendFeed realtime Gtalk IM pop-out when recovered has to be closed and reopened. No smarts, no access to user configuration, no continued disruption.

Combining access to screen coordinates and routing of information to IM windows would likely result in an explosion of third party developers and aggregator tools. But what would happen to Google Reader in that scenario. Already we’re seeing growth in FriendFeed rooms as a workaround for GReader’s relatively locked down UI. Reports of the official release of the API notwithstanding, even then we still wouldn’t have access to the larger Gmail container to integrate the Google services under user control.

By contrast, Live Mesh and eventually Azure may well offer console control on a device by device basis. It’s not that Google has a less expansive architecture, it’s that Google doesn’t appear interested in opening the platform up at the user level. Part of the reason may be the complexity of integrating the various teams across the company, but more likely the company hasn’t seen a compelling reason for opening up more granular access to its crown jewels, namely its advertising services.

Think about it. If we could interactively configure our screens to reflect our interests, publish them out via a social graph to our natural affinity and peer groups, and then test content and information flow against advertising models until we find the best mix…. The growth would be explosive, the stickiness fly-paper strength, the incentive for third parties to build and market to power users an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Console real estate is the coin of the realm in the realtime wars. We see the early battles being played out at the rich client interface level, with Twhirl and TweetDeck the most obvious examples. A level down at the routing layer, FriendFeed is way ahead of the social media pack, with a similar business model clash holding back Facebook and Twitter from leveraging their market clout.

In retrospect the real estate crash was easily predicted, but not acted on until too late. Google has been somewhat responsive to critiques of its realtime strategy, most recently offering promises of improving Feedburner latency when pressed. It remains to be seen if the company will be more transparent about its application framework. At its simplest, the question is: will Google open up its console? Final answer?

  • t

    Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t know where it’s going. I just hope to find it somewhere along the way. Like an improv conversation. An improversation.

  • freejose

    At its simplest, the question is: will Google open up its console? Final answer?

    Yes and soon is my guess.

  • jsiz

    I beginning to think the joke has been on me all along. Come on Michael–Gillmor is really just a program made as a practical joke to randomly generate insanity by combining buzzwords. I’ve been had! Bravo.


    Excellent analysis. You mentioned Tweetdeck and Twhirl being client apps that will, essentially, sell their screen real estate. That scenario should make it plain, as you point out, that Google will guard their screen real estate against all comers.

  • John Daley

    t – LOL. Sometimes I write things that seem to make sense but really don’t because sentences have little relation to one another. Sometimes I try to make a point and nothing comes across. Sometimes I consistently get these results. Sometimes.

  • itchy

    words words words.

  • Brian

    “harness the viral power of the social media wave and its central driver ”

    Visualize this image. Now, try to draw it.


  • Honeycut

    “Plain English (sometimes referred to more broadly as plain language) is a communication style that focuses on considering the audience’s needs when writing. It recommends avoiding unnecessary words and avoiding jargon, technical terms, and long and ambiguous sentences.”

  • Kevin

    Once again, I have no clear idea what Steve is trying to say here and I’ve been robbed of 3 minutes of my life in the process… Its not even cute.

    Arrington, quit cutting Gilmore a pass that you would NEVER tolerate from a “non celebrity” blogger.

    I’m now officially finished with TechCrunchIT…


    • Alberto

      It’s my turn to lose 3 minutes replying to this comment.

      Isn’t it clear by now that we need the Gmails of the world to open access to their infrastructure for their next innovation wave? If not, please spend 3 more minutes re-reading the post

      • Joshua Emmons

        Wow. You’re a slow typist.

  • Steve Bomber

    What are you blathering about again Gillmor? Jesus your articles are unreadable.

  • gilltots

    I think this article really speaks volumes in terms of the wave of the cloud and the effect that it can have on those who are willing to not only embrace it, but go along for the cloud ride up in the sky. What many people don’t realize is that Steve Gillmor leverages not just the end of an era of computing, but also the beginning of a new kind of social construct wrapped in sprinkles and served cold, to children. Whenever he writes an article, people go to the google console that hasn’t been opened up to search for meaning among the comparisons of unrelated things, but they leave the container back at their toolchest, finding the box empty but simultaneously full…of shit.

    Seriously man, what are you blathering on about??

  • Lisa Marfa


  • Chris

    Phew! I’m glad I’m not the only one who drifted off into la-la land trying to read this. A big fat WTF is in order.

    Could we actually be the morons and Gillmor is actually saying something? Is that possible? No? No. OK. I didn’t think so. Phew again!

  • Chris

    One more thing….

    Steve, you’re fired… again.

  • WTF

    Another great explication of enterprise software, Steve. Bravo! Oh, wait, my bad — this post, like all of your others, has absolutely nothing to do with enterprise software. Perhaps you could change the “Enterprise” tab at the top of the site to read “Pretentious Rambling About Twitter.”

  • Gillmore Translator

    It’s okay everyone, I speak Gillmorese!

    Paragraph #1: Steve is introducing the topic that he’s going to drop in the next paragraph. He thought it would be cool to talk about cloud vendor strategies. He’s setting you up now to expect a linear discussion of the differences these vendors have. You’re hooked, so, its off to the races….

    Paragraph #2: Nosedive! Steve wants to talk about Google now. He’s trying to say that Google is not open in its cloud framework, that all of its potential power is inwardly focused. Alas, its more fun to NOT say that directly and keep ya guessin’! Time for a new direction in the article, so Steve starts a new paragraph

    Paragraph #3: So little time, so many crazy-ass concepts to cram into a small blogpost! Steve is using what psychologists call “word salad” to list the names of many vendors. The one linear insight that manages to struggle to the surface is the echo of the Google concept he didn’t touch in Paragraph #2, which is that it is not open… Yes, he already said that.

    Paragraph #4: Firefox 3 is a browser that Steve uses. Enjoy some random facts about it.

    Paragraph #5: This is a complex, deep paragraph. NOT! Gotcha! Steve is creating a techno koan. Don’t worry, there is no wrong answer. By using words he used in other paragraphs, you might be fooled into thinking there is a developing argument here. Just keep movin’… Its a test.

    Paragraph #6: Google is closed. Same idea as in its prior mentions. No new development of theme. He knows you’re not reading this far, so its not critical now.

    Paragraph #7: This is a classic Gillmore paragraph. If you tried to whiteboard it, your head would explode. There is literally no way you can make sense of it because its not meant to be read. It feels good to write though, so that’s what’s happening here. The clue is when he poses the hypothetical… you know he’s gone.

    Paragraph #8 and #9: Steve will want to end by introducing new terms and concepts that only existed at the headline level. That’s critical to obscuring the communication to the reader. These paragraphs are not important, except for the skimming reader who might be looking for the conclusion… Gotcha again! There isn’t one!

    • phobox

      LOL aaaahh now I got it! LOL

    • Luke

      Thanks, someone had to make sense of the babble.

  • Steve Gillmor

    The last two comments betray the actual electrical activity of brain waves. Moving in the right direction, folx.

    • jsiz

      You seriously read these comments and don’t get depressed? You should know TC has intelligent readers. Maybe you are developing a point here Mr. Gillmor, but nobody in your audience understands it. Perhaps you could help us?

    • Pete

      Oh sir, it’s that brevity and wit of yours that keeps us coming back.

  • Julian

    I made a word cloud to see what this article ist about:

  • DMC

    I think I just felt a blood clot come loose.

  • j

    I am dumber for having read this ..

  • Thomas Whitney

    Ok Julian. The word cloud was HILARIOUS. Seems the article is about…..Google. I think.

    Regardless, it would be great to have a central platform to work my social networking and media. PLEASE DESIGN THIS!

    But, one minor suggestion….

    Make digital security your highest priority or one of the highest priorities. I don’t want my personal information leaking out at the seams. Make it seemless.

    Need ideas about how to go with this? Well, I hear is going to possibly start blogging on this. So, perhaps adding that feed would be beneficial.

    I just want my platform and I want it tight!

  • scott

    What you need is a Web 2.0 implementation of OpenDoc/Cyberdog. Google *is* working on this and it *will* be open. It’s called Android. On mobile devices you will be presented Android components as a stack of cards. On netbooks you will be presented those same components integrated into grid-like layouts and persisted as compound documents. The user will be in charge of assembling and personalizing these loosely coupled components.

  • Perry

    What a horrible article…I have no idea what the author is trying to say.

    • Olaf

      I think it’s pretty clear. Or do you like to be forced to re-configure your screen over and over again, finding the right way to receive and publish content in an efficent way?

  • ?

    A purple opening rests beneath the dreary chamber. Your senses are energetic and viciously contesting the awkward habit of exposing the truth. If only there were truth. The basic laws of spacial matter would only suggest the natural tendency to acknowledge the presence of something so righteous. How is this venture into an abstract passion subject to extreme scrutiny when the truly legitimate purpose of evaluation is discarded with earnest doubt? My judgment is reluctantly manipulated to gradually wrap such torment with potentially graceful cause.

  • Shane O'Goman

    I thought this article was about Real Estate. I think I understand the title. I am pretty sure I have a high IQ… and after reading the comments I have come to the conclusion that this article was either a joke or it is gibberish. I really think the problem is the analogy in the title isn’t really used correctly and then, like the many others point out, a real struggle with coherency. But it certainly was a fun ride!

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