Google Finally Realizes It Needs To Be The Web Platform

from the took-'em-long-enough dept

Way back in 2004, we started asking when Google was going to become "the web platform," finally opening up its infrastructure to build out new and useful applications. It seemed obvious at the time that the next real battle was going to be in that space, but time and time again, Google has missed opportunities to do so, opening up a window of opportunity for other players. Surprisingly, the closest to realizing the vision has been Amazon.com with its Amazon Web Services offerings -- which was something no one would have expected back in 2004. Back then, the questions were more about Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. Microsoft, however, can't seem to get past its desktop software DNA (though, it talks a good game) and Yahoo! (typical Yahoo!) has bits and pieces here and there but can't seem to pull together a comprehensive web platform strategy. For a brief period of time, it looked like Facebook might become a true web platform, but it's been too focused on locking apps in rather than enabling outbound efforts.

So, now, finally, nearly four years later, Google has come to its senses and announced its entrance into the web platform space with its aptly named AppEngine offering. In many ways, it's similar to Amazon's offering (which is a good thing!), though much more integrated, which could prove to be either a problem or a benefit depending on what you want to do. Amazon allows for a much more a la carte setup, which could appeal to many, while you have to really embrace Google to enjoy the benefits of its setup. A big open question is pricing. A huge part of the appeal to Amazon's Web Services platform is that it's crazy cheap. You really have to be working it quite hard to build up any sort of significant charges. Google hasn't released info on pricing yet, offering AppEngine up for free to the first 10,000 developers (who appear to have snapped up all the open slots in less than two hours). That free service has some limitations: initially 500 MBs of storage and enough bandwidth to serve approximately 5 million pages per month. There's some suggestion that the final service will always be free up to that level, with charges starting if you go beyond that. If so, that could certainly appeal to people who just want to try some stuff out for free.

While this may seem like something that will only appeal to serious techheads, this could be a really big deal. A lot is going to depend on how well AppEngine really works, and how open it really turns out to be. However, if it really does provide another super cheap (or even free at low levels) full service, highly scalable platform for all different kinds of applications, things could start to get very interesting pretty quickly. Between this and Amazon's Web Services, the very concept of developing online applications may finally start to change in significant ways for the better. The easier it is to develop and deploy highly scalable web applications, the more innovative and creative solutions we're going to start to see.

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  1. identicon
    Noah Callaway, 8 Apr 2008 @ 9:51am

    Good Move

    This is a good move by Google. They have greatly simplified the process of getting a web app up and running. This is *not* the same as GoDaddy hosting, or x10, or any of the other common LAMP hosting services out there.

    First, their decision to support "only" Python is somewhat misleading. If you watch the video they repeatedly state that Python is the "first" supported language. I'm guessing they'll get to work on bringing in other languages...

    Second, this is not the standard GoDaddy hosting account. Most "normal" hosting accounts give you a machine (or a virtual machine, or space on a machine, etc). Often they'll set up the LAMP stack for you. However, you are on your own in terms of the rest of the configuration and scalability.

    Google's offering takes all the configuration issues away. You have to play within their API's (since you cannot see the underlying machine), but writing a web app has been simplified to "download SDK; write code." This is the normal paradigm developers usually fall into.

    As well, your applications are suddenly scalable (in theory, just as scalable as Google, GMail, etc). Of course they put up a artificial limit, since Google doesn't want to burn all of it's resources on a single web-app. But those limits *are* artificial.

    You could argue that the limits put in place by GoDaddy (or any other) hosting plans are also artificial. But the hard limits (the absolute scalability of those other services) can't come close to Google. They just don't hold a candle.

    So if you write the next youtube, you'll be able to scale your app simply and easily.

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