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Web 2.0 and the end of distrust?

Today I’ve been confronted with two different yet somewhat similar sites: ajaxWrite aims at being a fully usable replacement for “desktop-based” word processing applications like (oh well…) MS Word or OpenOffice.org‘s writer module. As the name implies, ajaxWrite makes strong use of AJAX technology, thus being browser-based, allowing its users to access, write, handle their documents all over the world and from every place where there is just a computer and a web browser. box.net, on the other side, provides you with 1 GB of data storage for free so you can store your data on-line, again available from everywhere regardless of which machine you’re sitting in front of, or which system you are running – just launch your favorite browser, and you’re done. There’s a vast bunch of services like that growing all over the “virtual place” at least after Google introduced their GoogleMail service providing both vast amounts of server-side storage capacity (so you never ever have to delete your mail again or even download it to your local computer) and an intriguing user interface allowing for easy, intuitive handling of e-mail conversation even within a web browser and even while most webmail systems up to then used to be clumsy and everything but usable.

Sometimes I wonder where all this is heading for. Basically, I really enjoy most of the applications that make up what marketing people sometimes tend to call the “Web 2.0 environment”. I like them because they’re usable and accessible even by people who are less into technology and computers, because they’re adjusting our focus a little again, away from computers and “the internet” being just an expensive toy or another opportunity for spending money while doing (virtual) shopping, towards a network of technologies and systems enabling us to get some work done, systems to be used as tools for some specific task rather than just being there for the sake of being there. But, there’s some major drawback about it, especially while talking about the Google* services or even something like box.net. The question is: Who do you trust? You know that, for example, Google is using censorship technologies in China to make its search engine ready for the special political demands in that country. Maybe, in the days of “war on terror” and global surveillance, there are better ideas than giving all your data away to some online storage or service company who pretent to take care of them for you. Do you really want to store 1 gigabyte of your most intimate data on some server where you don’t really know who’s operating it and who’s the small company providing you a free account on its machines? Do you want to keep all your e-mail conversation, automatically “sorted” by senders / recipients / threads, within a server-side environment of a company known for its censorship activities? Do you really want to use some free yet proprietary tool for encrypting data transfer to your friends while you know nothing about the servers and the environment used for that encryption and transmission?

I certainly don’t. There always has been too much blind trust and faith into benefits that come with modern technologies (of course besides those who usually are about to criticise everything no matter whether or not they actually have a clue of what it is about), and probably, with Web 2.0 and those technologies being even more accessible, it might attract even more people free of any distrust, merrily giving all their data to Google et al, slowly making privacy a thing of the past. That’s when we all welcome Google’Zon and EPIC. What a brave new world…

28. März 2006

Filed under:

english , net , surveillance