Google’s “web accelerator” has caused quite a stir in the online community. The beta product is supposed to increase download speeds by caching pages at the client and server level, much like some ISP’s similar products do.
Unlike most new Google services, I have not heard a lot of good things about the web accelerator. You would expect people to be raving, as they usually do, but instead the app is being blamed for breaking other applications and having suspect security. Most notable among the security issues are people saying they have been seeing login pages for other website customers (which likely has something to do with the server caching).
What I find most interesting, however, is the speculation regarding what Google’s real intentions are with this accelerator.
One of the theories suggests that Google is using the web accelerator as a leveraging tool, essentially using your computer to assist with distribution of their data. That could be a side effect of the process, but unless you actually give the app permission to act as a server, I cannot see how Google (or anyone else, for that matter) would be able to access the pages cached on your hard drive. I have also heard the generally everyday tin-foil hat suggestions, such as Google is using the accelerator as de-facto spyware, and is going to index the contents of hard drives.
I have my own theory on what Google is up to, so hear you go.
I think it is no coincidence that Google released the beta of the web accelerator around the same time they announced they are getting into the banner business. One of the issues with cost per impression advertising is the ad buyer has to take some leap of faith regarding who is actually seeing their ads. While tracking cookies help, people are deleting those in droves. Advertisers need new assurances – enter Google.
By caching a user’s pages, Google can develop a pretty darn good profile of the user’s surfing habits, including where they go, what they do, and even where they are (IP addressing). Get several million users covered, and you have a heck of a database for targeting ads. And this wouldn’t just work on banners. Google could use this data, along with PPC activity information, to determine what contextual ads are most effective on a user. More targeted (and potentially clickable) ads then hit that user’s browser.
It looks to me like Google is just following the money. Some of the money is already in their hands, but success is fleeting. I think they are just taking logical next steps in the advertising arena – to upend competition, before it upends them.
No sooner did the Google Accelerator get started, then Google put on the decelerator. Downloads of the product have been stopped for the time being, citing saturation for Google’s beta test. Hmm.