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May 21, 2011

How Google Docs Killed GDrive

"In The Plex", Steven Levy's recently launched book about Google, has an interesting story about GDrive, an online storage service developed by Google. People first found about GDrive from a leaked Google document, back in 2006. GDrive (or Platypus) turned out to be a service used by Google employees that offered many impressive features: syncing files, viewing files on the Web, shared spaces for collaborating on a document, offline access, local IO speeds. But Google wanted to launch GDrive for everyone.

At the time [2008], Google was about to launch a project it had been developing for more than a year, a free cloud-based storage service called GDrive. But Sundar [Pichai] had concluded that it was an artifact of the style of computing that Google was about to usher out the door. He went to Bradley Horowitz, the executive in charge of the project, and said, "I don't think we need GDrive anymore." Horowitz asked why not. "Files are so 1990," said Pichai. "I don't think we need files anymore."

Horowitz was stunned. "Not need files anymore?"

"Think about it," said Pichai. "You just want to get information into the cloud. When people use our Google Docs, there are no more files. You just start editing in the cloud, and there's never a file."

When Pichai first proposed this concept to Google's top executives at a GPS—no files!—the reaction was, he says, "skeptical." [Linus] Upson had another characterization: "It was a withering assault." But eventually they won people over by a logical argument—that it could be done, that it was the cloudlike thing to do, that it was the Google thing to do. That was the end of GDrive: shuttered as a relic of antiquated thinking even before Google released it. The engineers working on it went to the Chrome team.

In 2009, Google Docs started to store PDF files and one year later you could store any type of file in Google Docs. The service still doesn't offer a way to sync files. Even if GDrive was never released, Google Docs inherits most of its features. The main difference is that you no longer have to worry about file formats because you can open and edit documents in Google Docs.

{ Thanks, Kristian. }

25 comments:

  1. "Files are so 1990". Great story.

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  2. Wow, that no files guy shouldn't get his contract renewed. Files will always be a part of computing.

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  3. My observation is that the "average user" deals with tasks in an application-centric way, not file-centric. IE they'll go to Word, then File > Open rather than navigate to the file and go Open With > Word.

    I on the other hand would love a file sync with Google. But I agree with it not being the Google way to do things. Google is all about doing things in the browser, not syncing things to the local device for manipulating

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  4. I want the GDrive please.

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  5. For everyone that wants Gdrive, it already exists. its called Dropbox.

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  6. The author has clearly not been keeping an eye on who Google has been hiring in the past year and a half. The idea that Google will not be offering cloud storage for PCs is ludicrous at this point.

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  7. For those of us living in the present, there is oxygencloud.com for secure and easy sync access to shared files from Mac, pc, iPhone, iPad, android

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  8. I'd still love to access my documents as files on my local computer. Not all files are cloud editable but still need to be accessible on all of my computers.

    Yeah, but as mentioned before. There are alternatives.. which brings document fragmentation.. which brings.....

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  9. wow, one more thing to dislike Indians, as if there was any where less to

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  10. Stupid stupid man. I want GDrive. he should be fire. "And there's never a file" Huh? Then what is that list on Google Docs, it's a list of files FFS. This man actually changed history quite a bit, for the worse. If GDrive had succeeded we wouldn't have ended up with the fracture of content, Eg Google Music, Google Docs, etc, they would have all be stored in GDrive and everything would have been more interchangeable.

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  11. And then Dropbox went on to great success.

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  12. Boys and girls who use their home router that comes.with storage can have data acessible in the home.network and via any internet connected device thru the web ip:mac

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  13. There is also Google Storage now, I have been using it as an online storage drive :)

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  14. Way too late for Google. There's BOX.NET, Dropbox and hundreds of others. Also Google Docs just sucks. Conversation is still terrible. Try to import a real Word 2010 document with background, etc. looks like it was created in Notepad.

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    1. Google Docs is the only which lets multiple users edit the same document at the same time and if you're a little bit smart you'll realize that this is the solution for that share-doc-via-email chaos, where multiple edits have to be merged in the end and there is always some data loss.
      A real Word 2010 document? Office is nothing but an expensive peace of sh*t as any other Microsoft product, which follow no open standard abusing of its dominance in the market. Office uses closed standards and protocols making competition almost impossible: it isn't dominant because it's better, it's dominant because it's dominant, and there will never be any competitor capable of developing a fully compatible alternative. That "virtual" monopoly explains the absurd price of a stupid single license of a suite of programs that is not that complex and has one of the most confusing user interface I've ever seen before.
      Google Docs misses lots of features, including some essential ones. But for doing most tasks it's more than enough, and it's free, with no ads, with the best collaborative tools I've ever seem before.

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  15. I guess each company has its share of morons. I never got used to Google Docs because it's so inconvenient and clumsy. On the other hand DropBox is amazingly useful, simple and non-invasive. You can say Google Docs is pretty much a failure. And DropBox is a smashing success.

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  16. Not so fast. Docs more than about 3 pages are hard to edit, and PDF files still don't render very well.

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  17. Seems lame to me. People want to sync picture folders. Pictures are files. Documents are files. It's nice to see your stuff in one single hierarchical structure (the filetree).

    I'm surprised they haven't bought dropbox yet.

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  18. I've been using SyncDocs for about a month now, and it's obviated the need for the fabled G-Drive; it creates a local folder called My Google Docs, and anything you put in it syncs automatically, keeping folder structures intact.

    I agree that Google Docs needs some smoothing out; I especially hate that you can't simply highlight and copy/paste, etc. in a Google Doc. Otherwise though, as a teacher I use Docs, Sites, Blogger, Calendar, Gmail, and Picasa constantly, so I don't want to diss Mama G too much.

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  19. Saw this story a month ago: http://blogoscoped.com/forum/178720.html

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  20. Try to live just a few hours without an internet connection and you will see why Google Docs just sucks. I love my HDD, my CD-DVD writer, my USB stick and so on...

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  21. I like your style of writing. I don’t agree with all the points but overall it was a good read.

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  22. look into live mesh numbers and you'll see how wrong is "files are so 1990".

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  23. Wow people, why can't anyone see the dream. No statues are created for critics as it's too easy to shoot things down and takes genius to build upon a dream. Pichai was thinking outside the box. Fire him! Ha! They paid him 50 million to stay!
    Sure, we still need information loosely termed 'files' somewhere, but Pichai realized we don't have to limit ourselves to thinking that way. The cloud concept is here to stay in some form but your local storage drive may not be here much longer.

    For those tired of reading the critics, try these links.

    http://goo.gl/EKF38

    http://goo.gl/MJIxj

    Pichai joined Google in 2004 where he leads the product management and innovation efforts for a suite of Google's client software products, including Google Chrome and Chrome OS.[3]
    On November 19, 2009, Pichai gave a demonstration of Chrome OS[4] On May 20, 2010 he open-sourced the new video codec VP8 and introduced the new video format WebM to the public.[5]
    Many Companies have tried to woo Sundar including Twitter, Inc, but Google reportedly awarded him $50 million to keep him from leaving Google.[6]

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  24. And then...TADA! http://drive.google.com

    Funny how that worked out.

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