Google App Engine

OK, I’m obviously not the go-to guy to discover the import of some web-based technology or concept. I’m just not that smart.

Case in point: Yahoo Pipes.

When it first came out, I thought it was pretty cool. Built some pipes, mulled about the potential there…

And then pretty much forgot about it.

As did – for the most part – Yahoo.

That said, I can’t help but think that Google’s App Engine is a game-changer of sorts.

Again, I could be waaaaaaay off base, but App Engine’s got a lot going for it:

  • This is not a new concept – Amazon has been doing the same for some time with its various offerings (Amazon’s Web Services [AWS]). Amazon’s an 800 lb. gorilla, not a small startup. So this matters. And they’ve gotten some significant traction with it – also key. When an outage is news, well, that’s a nice problem to have to some degree. It means you (AWS) matter.
  • It’s all-inclusive. Amazon has storage, DB and computing offerings, but Google just puts it all out there. Just a handful of APIs to learn. Amazon should learn from this brilliant move.
  • It’s Google. They have a track record with APIs and all things web. I didn’t get too excited about (actually, a little confused) by Amazon’s offering. Huh? A seller of products getting into hosting/software development? I’d feel the same way about a Microsoft version of web services, simply because that’s not its forte. Google’s forte is the internet, servers, scaling, info delivery (search, AdWords, whatever). Google’s just giving us access to the goody bag. (Yes, it’ll benefit, granted.)
  • The price is right: Zero bucks (American dollars). In the future, it will be possible to increase storage/bandwidth – for a price – but the base offering is spoze to be free.

I’m still fuzzy on the concept of how to include this into an existing site – i.e. how to us the App Engine to populate a search result on – but, overall, the APIs look fairly straightforward.

I’ll probably never find the time to actually play with the products – work is just too all-consuming – but, hey, I might.

I just spent about 60 off-work hours over the past few weeks working with another, much older Google offering – Google Maps. It was a big stealth project I did for work for reasons that have nothing to do with Google Maps. That was just a fun bonus.

In the course of this project I learned a lot (and gave myself a refresher course in using Perl to screen scrape – been a few years). It was way more than just hacking Google Maps – although that was the most challenging part, simply because it was fairly new. So I have fresh appreciation for Google API offerings.

So – without using them yet myself – melikes the Google App Engine. This could change life for a lot of small companies; and the big companies (who can afford to pony up the money for the storage and CPU cycles) can leverage Google to data mine in a way no dedicated company server/cluster can.

In the little I’ve read about the App Engine (it was formally announced only about 24 hours ago), the one thing I have not read is anyone discussing privacy.

If I store stuff in the Google cloud, can/will Google read it/index it? If Google does index – to optimize my searches of my own data – will that index become part of Google’s search index??? On purpose or on accident?

And so on.

Lots of questions, but – for the most part – very impressive. And very interesting.

Now I wish I had taken the time to learn Python – the only language currently supported. My guess is that Perl is next – possibly Ruby. PHP? (I’d love the latter, but my guess is the security and Unicode issues might tank it.)

Update: As expected, Dave Winer loves this app, and he tosses out this nugget:

I’m really pissed at Microsoft. Why? They wasted billions on Vista when they should have been virtualizing Windows and making their developers’ investments apply to the net. I know it sounds outlandish, but it really isn’t.

Everyone else is wondering what the hell Microscrewed will do in response to this (latest in a string of…) Google development, but Winer gets it right – they (MS) should have been leading the charge on this type of activity.

Even if MS rolls out something tomorrow, well: 1) Won’t be as good as Google’s; 2) It’ll be playing “catch up” in a propaganda sense. MS would be the third (last? Potentially Yahoo remaining) major to do so.

Embarrassing waste of talent and riches.