Is Google God?

It’s a kind of creepy proposition, and for a Christian, one with profound [and eternal] implications that need to be taken seriously. Is the Internet displacing our worship? The question merits attention.

In the words of Alan Cohen, the Vice President of an emerging Wi-Fi hotspot provider:

If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too.

Read the full article by New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman here.

R.I.P., Tellme Extensions

For a few years (an eternity in Internet time), a telecom company called Tellme hosted a free service called Extensions. By calling 1-800-555-TELL, you could access one of thousands of voice sites published by people. Anybody who was willing to learn VoiceXML could set up one of these voice services. They recognized the caller’s speech without training, and could read information using either a pre-recorded voice or TTS.

Alas, Extensions are no more. Although both 1-800-555-TELL and Tellme Studio still exist, there’s no way for the average developer to publicize their work. This has resulted in a lot of useful hotlines, games, and even audio blogs shutting down.

Tellme doesn’t disclose the magic numbers of call volume and service fees that would allow these people to publish again, but rumor has it that the company doesn’t respond to inquiries that estimate less than one million* calls per month. That excludes your humble blogger.

Rest in peace, Tellme Extensions. I’m hoping some web hosting provider takes over for you and offers VoiceXML hosting for the masses at affordable prices – there’s a void that needs to be filled.

* LINK TENDING 1/11 – Removed dead link.

Subpoena Searcher

If you’re one of the American consumers that the RIAA has “declared war on,” you may want to visit this site by EFF. It will look up your name and see if it’s the target of a subpoena under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

I don’t condone peer-to-peer file trading, and I don’t practice it. But I feel that if a company is going to try and collect millions of dollars from people for being music fans, they should have a right to know that they’re being spied on.

Just another example of the ridiculousness of corporate abuse of copyright law.

(Link via Wired.)

The Future of Applications

Today, most people are used to two forms of software programs – programs that run on the computer in front of you, and client-server programs, that also run on the computer in front of you, but talk to another program (usually) running on another computer.

Recent advances in many varied technologies, including XML, greater availability of Internet bandwidth, and the ever-increasing supply of quality open-source software from places like SourceForge and the Mozilla Foundation are slowly causing a profound change in the assumptions of software design.

The software of tomorrow will most likely be based on the combined effort of code running on many different machines. This is not like the grid computing architecture I blogged about on July 13th. The difference is that rather than many computers doing the same calculation on a large collection of data, each computer in distributed software applications provides a specific function that integrates into the larger application.

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Internet Explorer is Doomed

Thanks to a blog link (I’m really sorry, but I don’t remember which one), I stumbled on Firebird, the newest web browser from the good folks at the Mozilla Foundation.

For those who don’t know, Mozilla is the open-source spinoff of Netscape, the company that built the web browser that reshaped the World Wide Web. From a 1994 press release:

Mosaic Communications’ network navigator achieves its dramatic performance improvements through new capabilities such as:

  • Continuous document streaming, enabling users to interact with documents while they are still being downloaded rather than waiting for the entire document to load.
  • Multiple, simultaneous network accesses, allowing several documents or images to be downloaded simultaneously.
  • Native support for the JPEG image format.

If you’re scratching your head, just take my word for it – this is stuff you take for granted today.

After Netscape’s market share began to decline due to the aggressive (and illegal) promotion of Internet Explorer, Netscape released its browser as open-source software. Initially, the code was slow, unreliable, and not very innovative, minimizing its ability to compete with Internet Explorer.

Firebird is different. It’s fast, easy to install, and feature-packed. The keyboard shortcuts allow me to navigate most web pages without even touching my mouse. This is really cool.

There’s also a little search box that lets you search Google or any other service with a compatible Sherlock plugin. (Yes, that’s Apple Sherlock.) The address box is flexible, too. By setting up special keywords in bookmarks, you can do the “smart keywords” that most browsers have in a non-proprietary way. And if you type text into the address bar, it does a Google I’m Feeling Lucky search. For example, typing “Waileia” as of the date this entry was written will take you straight to my site,

I have faith in Firebird. So much, that I’m blogging this entry in it. I think before too long, IE is going to go the same route as Briefcase. Never heard of it? My point exactly.