An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

Send your tips to

December 5, 2007

Open with...

Last month, the online storage service added an obvious feature: integration with other services that edit your data. They called this OpenBox. "Traditionally with desktop software, all of your local applications had access to the same set of files and data on your computer. The web changed this paradigm because each unique application stores information on its own servers."

You might say that didn't have a choice: they didn't offer services for editing documents, photos or videos and it was convenient to open that data to application that were able to make it more useful. Google lets you store files in different services and doesn't offer a unified view for your files yet, but there's already some integration between services that store files and services that edit them.

While some Google services have APIs that let you access your files from other applications (Picasa Web Albums, Spreadsheets), it would still be better to select a list of third-party apps and add them as options in the interface. Maybe you want to open your documents from Gmail in Zoho Writer or edit your photos from Picasa Web Albums in Picnik.

The screenshot below shows the same document in (where you can open it with two third-party services) and in Windows XP (where you can open it in at least three applications).

Today Flickr added the option to edit your photos using Picnik, but Flickr made that choice on behalf of their users. "The Picnik/Flickr collaboration works similarly to other 3rd party services who've built additional tools on top of the Flickr API: You'll need to pass through the step of giving the Picnik service permission to edit and save your photos… It’s a little bit like you're installing Picnik on your Flickr account, but with nothing to download."

The same way you collect Google gadgets, Facebook apps, mapplets, you could also add actions for different apps and make them more powerful.

The interoperability of online operating systems


  1. I do not agree. I do not think that Google should add more options to its services to open their data with 3rd party apps. Why should Google be obligated to do that? To further the interests of its competitors? It does not have this obligation. Instead, it makes perfect business sense for it to only provide the option to open/edit with its own services.

    I think what you are describing would only happen in an ideal world in which companies do not need to make any profit... because otherwise, such a move would be ludicrous.

  2. Google, of course, isn't obligated to do anything ... but it *should* do it because it would be better for its users. If you ignore the needs of your users just to trap them into your services, you'll eventually lose them. Google knows this.

    I'm actually surprised that it's taking so long for online services to do this ... it seems so obvious.

  3. Well, Google already has a vision of a connected, online operating system that it is helping to fruition by slowly integrating its multitude of excellent services.

    By providing options and access to 3rd party alternatives, this ecosystem of connected Google services is lost and information becomes fragmented once more. Thus, it is actually in the best interest of users that Google acts in the way it does so that its users' information actually becomes useful. Truly.

    What sense does it make for Google to offer to allow its users to work with their data in 3rd party apps if those 3rd party apps do not reciprocate and allow the data to, in turn, be sent back to Google's apps? If such a vision were to even be credible and an option, you would need a 2-way street. Otherwise, it does not make sense and will be akin to advertising 3rd party apps in lieu of Google's apps.

  4. > Instead, it makes perfect business sense for
    > it to only provide the option to open/edit
    > with its own services.

    Unless they get legal problems for becoming a monopoly, I guess!