September 02, 2011

Living In the Browser Is No Myth. It's Possible.

Wrapping up my second full week at Google, I'm still very new here - walking a delicate balance of learning from those already here, while also delivering value on my own. There have been few surprises, given how closely I've worked with the company before joining in an official role, but on a technical level, it's interesting to see how truly cloud-centric the company is. Obviously, being a company who believes strongly that you should never bet against the Internet, and whose many Web services help users migrate away from desktop applications, this makes complete sense. But I honestly live in Chrome, all day.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post on how you can clearly separate your work and personal social media personalities, through smart separation of Web browsers and TweetDeck (now part of Twitter). At the time, I told you how I used Safari for personal activity, primarily due to my bookmarks, which also synched with my iPhone, and how I used Firefox for work stuff. Flash forward two years later, and the story is much the same, but I'm using two separate builds of Chrome to do both, and rarely exiting the Web.

For all activity, I use the standard Chrome Web browser, and securely login to my account and those places on the internal network I should have access. In parallel, I run the Canary build of Chrome for Mac OS X, and maintain my personal account there. This means I don't have to get confused about running multiple accounts simultaneously in a single browser, and still see everything I need to. After all, it'd be a mistake to post content intended for a work audience on a publicly facing destination like Google+, and I want to remove the opportunity for such an error.

Aside from separating the two personalities, work and personal, practically everything I need to do is on the Web. Gmail is my launching point for communication with colleagues, including Google Talk for instant chats. Google Calendar tracks others schedules and my own. Google Docs is where all of us collaborate on projects. Think this is a big company secret I'm leaking? Well, it's not. Google uses its own products, and it makes sense.

Early in 2010, I talked about how I could see living in a cloud-centric world when I got my first MacBook Air, dramatically reducing the hard drive space available from my prior model. When I got the option to choose a laptop upon joining here, I again opted for the device with the smaller disk size, instead of a bigger, bulkier, MacBook Pro or its equivalent, as I knew I wouldn't need the bits.

While living in the cloud may not be for everyone yet, the trend toward Web-based applications, faster broadband and expanding WiFi availability, coupled with ever more capable smartphones, makes the opportunity to live in the browser real for more and more folks. It's come to the point where having Microsoft Office applications and Adobe Photoshop available feels like a crutch, or a stopgap as we migrate into the Web. It's the realization, for the most part, of the vision shared by Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy years ago, where the network is the computer, and your profile is portable. Just prove you're you, and get to your data from anywhere.