Is Google Apps Engine bad for you and the internet?
Friday, August 29, 2008
According to Richard Stallman
, it is. This is what he answered when someone asked him what the future of the web may look like in 5 to 10 years (Technology Review, August 2008, p. 39):
No one can see the future, because it depends on you. But I see a danger in the Web today: doing your computing on servers running software you can't change or study, and entrusting your data to U.S. companies required to give it to Big Brother without even a search warrant. Don't risk this practice.
There is nothing insightful in his answer, and it's not surprising he's promoting Open Source. Nevertheless, is seems to be a close-minded statement coming from a computing pioneer (is he a pioneer?). There are some web applications that grow from a couple of users at launch time to millions of users in a matter of months (or days?). The hardware requirements to support this kind of growth is an impediment to many: in these cases, no money == failure.
The web doesn't wait for you; if there is no VC money or a sustainable revenue/profit generator model the idea just dies and someone else ends up copying it. True enough, some of these small shops have no business calling themselves, well, businesses; however, lack of money shouldn't stop them from trying. A large number of these innovative web companies will have to make use of server farms like Google's: it's too expensive to scale along with your users. Most important, it's too expensive to grow fast enough.
It's his opinion, but I, on the other hand, think that the opening of server farms to the public is a good idea. Are all the rules and regulation perfect? No. But we may be able to figure them out when the time comes. Do we get these things right all the time? No. But just because it's difficult, we can't just sit idle waiting for everything to be perfect.