Top Google posts of 2008

Well, 2008 was a banner year for all things Google. The company handily staved off the competition, not only in search advertising (where it consistently outranked Yahoo and Microsoft), but also in the search engine realm itself (Cuil anyone?). Plus, 2008 was the year that Google tipped its hand in terms of the mobile search market. Not only did it launch the Android OS via the Open Handset Alliance, but it saw its first fruits, the HTC/T-Mobile G1 phone. And it quickly launched its own Web-savvy browser, Chrome (together with a lite mobile version designed just for Android). Plus, Google did all that while keeping such varied businesses as YouTube, Google Apps and afloat through an unprecedented economic crisis. Picking the top stories was difficult. The 15 listed here are just those the Google Subnet community felt inclined to comment on:

1. Google Chrome: Is there anything under the hood?

Google's launch of Chrome was far and away the biggest Google story of the year, and it certainly had the Google Subnet community talking: "We want to hear from YOU! Have you had a chance to take Chrome for a test drive? Does it live up to all the browser buzz and hype? Should Microsoft or Mozilla be worried? Thomas A. Powell of the Network World Lab Alliance, has released his review of Google's new browser here. Check it out and let us know what YOU think."

Read the full story.

2. The G1 vs. the iPhone

A close second to the Chrome announcement was that of the first Google phone, the HTC/T-Mobile G1: "While both the new G1 from Google and T-Mobile and the Apple iPhone have their pluses, the biggest game-changer is the G1's opennness. It comes down to who has the most choices, both for applications, personalization and network service. And in the end, that winner will probably be an Android-based phone (be that the G1 or not)."

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3. Google hedges its bets with new browser

More on Chrome, and the strategy behind it: "Fast on the heels of its announcement that Gears works with Apple's Safari browser and the launch of Microsoft's IE 8 with its new privacy feature, Google offered Chrome, its open-source entrant into the crowded browser marketplace. But Chrome isn't just another browser. It's Google's attempt at controlling the Web apps marketplace. Google may be on its way to owning the cloud via Google Apps, but before it can be truly successful, it has to own the client. And that's where Chrome comes in."

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4. Gmail feature prevents drunken e-mailing

Google went all out to improve Gmail and the rest of the Apps suite. But this new feature got the most buzz (no pun intended): "We've all heard the warnings against drinking and dialing, where people make calls late at night that, in their impaired state, seem perfectly reasonable--only to wake up the next morning regretting every single word they said. But drinking and e-mailing? Maybe it's a bigger problem than we realize. And if so, Google is here to help. The company just launched a new Labs feature, cleverly called "Mail Goggles," that when activated, prevents impaired users from sending e-mail. At last. No more drinking and e-mailing."

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5. Google patent puts the squeeze on mobile carriers

With the launch of Android, Google's looking to change the entire mobile phone landscape, and that certainly got people talking: "Surprise T-Mobile and any other carrier looking to support phones based on Google's new Android operating system. All those new customers you thought you were getting won't actually be yours alone. You'll have to share them--on a minute by minute basis--with all the other carriers out there, severely limiting the payback you expected on all your 3G network investments. You and the networks you run will quickly become commoditized, while application providers (like Google) get better service, more customers and rake in all the dough. At least that's the future envisioned by Google, as outlined in a recently posted patent application."

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6. Is Google Microsoft's white whale?

Just a quick take on the heated competition between Google and Microsoft: "Microsoft is beginning to look a bit desperate in its hunt for searchmarket share. Speaking at a dinner at the Churchill Club in Silicon Valley, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company is willing to lose "5 to 10 percent of total operating income" for 5 years to win in online search, a market where Microsoft plays a distant third at best."

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7. Google seeks Android security help

So far so good in terms of Android security--perhaps this is one reason why: "In another sign that Google's approach to Android will be more open and transparent than that of other phone OS makers (think Apple and its iPhone) Google's Android security team reached out to the security public at large for help in securing the nascent OS."

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8. Google finally updates Android SDK

Perhaps the biggest sore spot for Google this year (besides the spate of Apps outages, see No. 9) was its lack of transparency on Android prior to its launch. Still, Google was able to appease most developers eventually: "After much waiting and wondering, Android developers finally got a real response to their gripes about the mobile phone OS's lack of direction: Google released an Android SDK beta update to all developers, not just a chosen few, along with a timeline for future releases. Google says it expects to launch the first Android 1.0-compatible SDK in the third or fourth quarter of this year."

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9. Admins rethink move to Google Apps

With three outages in a month, Google had its hands full keeping Apps up and running, not a good sign for its enteprise aspirations: "As this IDG News story points out pretty starkly, the recent outages experienced by both free and paying customers of Google Apps have forced many administrators--who were originally big cheerleaders for the cloud-based services--to rethink their strategy. Just as Google was on the cusp of becoming an enterprise alternative, it dropped the ball, and that rightly has them worried. The biggest problem is that when problems hit, Gmail and Google Apps users have no other option but to sit tight and wait."

Read the full story.

10. Cuil bashing continues

Cuil, a competing search engine launched by former Googlers, appeared with great fanfare, and great criticism. So far, Google's reign as top search engine remains unchallenged: "Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words--and then sometimes it isn't, as Blogoscoped's Philipp Lenssen points out pretty vividly. Using Cuil to search on some famous people--like Bill Clinton and Boris Becker--can lead to some amusing results."

Read the full story. Also see Google Watcher Garett Kopczynski's popular take: Cuil is cold.

11. Google pushes private Internet ownership

Throughout the year, Google continued to explore ways to get more users on the Internet (and clicking ads). This was one that sparked some interest: "Google's Public Policy Blog features an interesting posting: What if consumers--not carriers--owned the last mile fiber connection to their homes? An experiment in Ottawa, Canada, is set to find out."

Read the full story.

12. Android just another mobile phone OS?

Prior to the release of Android and the G1, rumors abounded as to exactly how the OS would be rolled out and modified. Here's just one take: "Vamien McKalin on the Android Guys site posts a legitimate question: How truly open will Google's Android OS be? In the wake of last week's SDK flap, the answer may be "not very." "

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13. Google tricks or treats

In the spirit of Halloween, we examined Google's dual nature and got lots of input: "When it comes to Google, sometimes it's hard to tell the tricks from the treats. Its mantra is "Do No Evil," and many of its initiatives seem just too good to be true, like its current plan to stem the tide of AIDS and SARS. On the other hand, it's constantly being attacked for making a profit by doing end runs around pesky obstacles like privacy and copyright. Is Google the nice neighbor who hands out full-size candybars at Halloween, or is it more like the psycho who hides razor blades in apples? You be the judge."

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14. Google tries yet another way to monetize YouTube

Throughout the year, Google kept trying ways to make money off of YouTube. At the time, this seemed most likely to help it recoup its investment: "Google is still experimenting with ways to make money off of YouTube. So far, the company has tried text ads, pre-roll ads, and leveraging its Video ID content monitoring to spur more ad buys. Now it's taking a different tack--making YouTube a launching pad for e-commerce. The company announced that it is adding click-to-buy links to several YouTube videos that let users purchase anything from songs to movies to video games. And the move looks far more promising than its previous ad-focused strategies."

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15. Cloud computing's dark side examined

Google Subnet's first week seemed like a good time for a big picture look at cloud computing: "As more enterprises begin to seriously consider moving applications to the cloud, ala Google Apps or Amazon EC2, it's time to get past the hype and take a critical eye to the downsides."

Read the full story.

What do you think were the biggest Google stories of 2008? Join the discussion and let us know.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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