Archives for November 2009

Live-blogging the Google Chrome OS event

I’m sitting in a room at Google waiting to hear more about Google Chrome OS. You can watch the webcast along with me if you like.

For starters, here’s what Google announced about Chrome OS back in July. At that time, Google called out “speed, simplicity and security” as the key ideas behind Chrome OS. Google released Chrome a little over a year ago with a novel idea–a comic book to describe the features and design decisions behind Chrome.

Looks like Danny Sullivan is live blogging too.

Google OS just noticed that the source code for Chrome OS is available. (Maybe they’ll call the open version “Chromium OS”?)

Sundar Pichai (a Vice President of Product Management at Google) is talking about the progress of Google Chrome over the last year, and the progress of HTML5 as well. Pichai notes some large-scale trends:
– Netbooks are becoming more popular.
– Hundreds of millions of users are living in the cloud. [Yup, I went Microsoft-free as a challenge and I haven’t looked back. I do almost everything I need to do in a browser.]
– Innovation in computing devices. For example, phones are getting smarter and more capable–more like mini-computers.

MG Siegler is live-blogging over on TechCrunch.

Every application in Chrome OS is a web application. Sundar Pichai repeated this for emphasis. That means “don’t expect to be able to run .exe files.” 🙂

Pichai emphasizes that Speed, Simplicity, and Security are the pillars of Chrome OS:
– Speed: the goal is that boot and execution is blazingly fast. The OS currently boots in 7 seconds.
– Simplicity: the browser is the front-end. If you can run a browser, you should be able to use Chrome OS.
– Security: no code is installed on the system, so detecting malicious processes is easier.

Demo time! 7 seconds to boot. Ooh, they’ve been running the demo on a Chrome OS machine. 🙂 The UI is still in flux (final machines might not appear for a year).

Chrome OS looks very much like Chrome. There’s an extra pinned tab on the left-hand side to open web applications. When you open up a web application, up pops a “mole” (because it comes from underground) that’s a persistent small window. These “moles” are expected to be called “panels” in the external release. The panels persist as you move between tabs and can be minimized down to the bottom right or they can be closed.

You can also have different windows or workspaces, so you could have a set of tabs for some work and a set of tabs for blog post and switch between them easily. You can drag and drop tabs just like with Chrome.

You can plug in a phone and browse pictures or video files. Then from there you could upload stuff to the web. They showed Flash working. Everything is web-based, e.g. they took a Excel file and loaded it into SkyDrive and viewed it using a Microsoft web app for viewing Excel files.

I want this OS, like now. Matt Papakipos, an engineering director at Google, just announced that they’re releasing the Chrome OS. They’re also releasing a bunch of design docs, not just code. Everything is flash-memory-based–no hard drive.

Matt Papakipos is talking about verified boot. It looks like the Chrome OS team is working hard to verify that code is secure via cryptographic signatures. If you get typical malware, you just reboot–seven seconds later, you’re clean again. Chrome OS does a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that from the firmware upwards, everything is secure and has the latest patches. The application security model changes in Chrome OS. Instead of running with the privileges of “you” (e.g. administrator capabilities). Under Chrome OS, web applications can’t change your underlying hardware settings, so things are safely sandboxed (chroot, namespaces, stack protection, toolchain). The root partitiion in file system is read-only, including the Chrome executable, which is unusual.

User data is encrypted on a Chrome OS machine. If you lose your laptop, the attacker gets nothing of value. Aside: what will people call these machines? Netbook? Chromebook? Webbook? Webtop? Chrometop? I don’t know what people will decide to call these machines. I like “chromebook.” 🙂 User data and settings are synced to the cloud. So if you have a wifi network you’ve configured, that data is stored in the cloud. If you dunk your “Chromebook” in a pool or lose it, it sounds like you can pick a new one off the shelf, log in, and it will be as if you never lose your machine.

You can’t download Chrome OS and be guaranteed it will work on a random machine. Target time is end of next year. Google will work to ensure that these machines will be a good experience (good keyboard, resolution). They want compelling devices.

Google is going to be good open-source citizens and contribute code upstream (e.g. to Linux, Ubuntu, Moblin). [I’ve seen this with Chrome and it’s worked well.]

We’re watching this video which is on the Google Chrome channel on YouTube:

Okay, it looks like Google has released a ton of Chromium OS videos on the Chrome channel on YouTube.

Question: How much will it cost?
Answer: You’ll hear that from our partners. Expect prices in the range of what people expect for computer products today.

Question: What are machine you running?
Answer: Sundar Pichai says that the demo was running on an off-the-shelf EEE PC.

Question: Standards?
Answer: MattP: Google is going to be a good citizen on pushing web standards forward, but standards take a while to be finalized. They want e.g. HTML5 to run in multiple browsers.

Questions: Drivers and hardware?
Answer: We’re looking for high-quality components with open-source drivers wherever possible.

Question: Applications?
Answer: Use case is web only. Again, don’t expect to run .exe files on a “Chromebook.” Web-based applications (e.g. photo-editing) can do most of what you want. If you’re a lawyer and editing Word files all day, this wouldn’t be your preferred machine. Sundar mentions that this might be your “backup” machine in that you might want a “primary” machine that can run Windows or Mac apps, but your Chrome machine might actually be your “primary” machine in terms of the time you spend.

Question: Compatibility between Chrome and Chrome OS?
Answer: Everything that works in Chrome works in Chrome OS. Things like Native Client are an important of this story.

Question: Will it run different browsers?
Answer: “Chrome is the OS.” End-to-end is/will be open-source. If someone wanted to make a similar OS with a different browser, they can. But don’t expect e.g. Opera to run under Chrome OS.

Questions: Is this netbook-only?
Answer: Initially focused on netbook-type form factors because they want a compelling experience. Can go bigger later, but for 2010 focusing on netbook.

Questions: Call out hardware partners?
Answer: Probably in the middle of next year?

Question: Size of the code base?
Answer: It’s open, so people can check it out themselves. They want to simplify things, so they don’t want a huge code base.

Question: Any offline access?
Answer: Primarily intended for wifi connectivity. If you use HTML5 you could in theory do offline. You could plug in media and run (say) a Flash game off of the media too. [For example, I played Machinarium, which is a Flash-based game, offline on a plane with my vanilla Ubuntu machine on a recent trip.]

Questions: Wide-band or other unusual networking?
Answer: Mainly focused on 802.11n.

Question: Can it be run in a virtual machine?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Can Android apps run?
Answer: No, only web apps.

Question (Mike Arrington): No plans for native executables?
Answer: Current plan is to only support web apps.
Arrington: That’s exactly what Steve Jobs said, and he changed his stance within a year.
Sundar Pichai: But even the

Question: Native Client implies an Intel processor. Do you plan to support ARM? < - [Smart question from InfoWorld.] Answer: (Pichai) we want to work with a wide variety of possible partners. MattP seemed to indicate interest in ARM. Question: timeframe for non-netbooks? Answer: Focused on netbook for 2010. Question: Business model? Answer: Just people using the web more can be really good for Google. Every app is the same web app (seemed to imply no additional ads). The OS is free/open-source, so you could always strip out ads. But the demo didn't show any ads. [This question reminded me of the people who claimed that Android would be a mobile phone OS that would show ads everywhere. That clearly didn't happen.] Question: Reliability? e.g. Gmail down for two hours stalls me. [My answer: Cloud-based services are still more reliable than client-based solutions ]

Sergey Brin just showed up.

Question: storage devices?
Answer: Anything that identifies itself as storage should work. They’re taking a new approach to printing (Chrome OS will be able to print) but will share details later.

Question from Niall Kennedy: With Chrome, the release was a stake in the ground and about inviting the community in to help out. This event seems similar?
Answer: Exactly. Officially supported hardware will take a while, but the community can come and join in.

Question: Is this a “War of the Clouds”?
Answer from Sergey: We focus on user needs rather than obsess about strategy. There’s a real user need to use computers easily. You could buy a bunch of netbooks, but managing the software would be unwieldy. If your machine is “stateless” then they’re much easier to use.

State of the Index, November 2009

Last week I was in Las Vegas for PubCon, a conference for publishers, and I wanted to share the slides from my main presentation:

When I get a chance, I’ll also re-create the talk on video and share the video with you, but in the mean time Lisa Barone did a nice live write-up and coverage of the Q&A.

It’s always nice to see SEOs and webmasters that I’ve gotten to know from search conferences. For example, one night featured the traditional SEO Werewolf game, except with blackhats as the werewolves and whitehats as the villagers. Somehow in the middle of that party, we decided that if someone submitted a spam site during my site review session, I could shave Evan Fishkin’s head.

Sure enough, someone submitted a spammy site for review, and you can view the resulting haircut in this image gallery. Afterwards, I asked if anyone else wanted their head shaved, and Nelson James volunteered. I shaved hair while people asked questions, and it was a lot of fun:

PubCon haircuts!

Thanks to Brian Ussery for taking these pictures. 🙂

Expect Caffeine after the holidays

Back in August we mentioned a developer preview of Caffeine, which is new technology that improves our indexing infrastructure. The feedback on Caffeine has been very positive, so we’re ready to move from the developer preview to the next stage of the roll out: going live with Caffeine at one data center. This means that a small percentage of Google’s users will benefit from the technology behind Caffeine in their regular searches.

I know that webmasters can get anxious around this time of year, so I wanted to reassure site owners that the full Caffeine roll out will happen after the holidays. Caffeine will go live at one data center so that we can continue to collect data and improve the technology, but I don’t expect Caffeine to go live at additional data centers until after the holidays are over. Most searchers wouldn’t immediately notice any changes with Caffeine, but going slowly not only gives us time to collect feedback and improve, but will also minimize the stress on webmasters during the holidays.

Thanks for all the positive feedback that people have given on Caffeine. If you still want to give us feedback on Caffeine, see the original Google Caffeine post for how to do that.