I've been trolling around the behemoth known as Google for the last few days exploring the very nooks and crannies that make them what they are. I got a gmail account a few years ago thanks to a good friend who sent me an invite. I now use that address for all my academically related items. I started blogging a year and a half ago just to see what all the stuff was about, and have enjoyed the creativity that it affords me. I recently started probing around and have discovered a slate of features that make me both excited and a little cautious:
Google Calendar is a very nice feature that will send me an SMS message when I have an appointment listed on their service.
Google Reader is an RSS aggregator that is surprisingly easy to use, and lets me keep all my usual haunts (at least those with RSS functionality) in one place.
Google Earth is a wonderful way to kill time while zooming in and out on your favorite vacation spots. People have actually plotted points of interest here that include (among others): airplanes photographed in flight, cruise ships docked in multiple places simultaneously, and people doing ordinary things outside.
Google also has a docs and spreadsheet feature that they basically bought outright from Writely. The concept is cool, but the funcionality of it has me thinking a lot about the need for, and future of, group based software.
On a larger scale, with all this free stuff, what is in it for Google? The old adage of nothing is truly free reverberates with me much more than usual on this. Yes, the basic structure of the Internet was built on getting free stuff (browsers, video clips, music, etc . . .) but from a business sense, what is the bigger picture here?
I would love to hear some other viewpoints on this.