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Google Desktop Search Tool Rumored & Software Principles Released

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The New York Times is reporting that Google plans to release a desktop search tool in the near future. The rumor comes on the heels of a new "Software Principles" page the company posted yesterday.

Google already has a desktop presence in the form of its long-standing Google Toolbar and the Google Deskbar search applet released last year. But a full-blown desktop searching application is seen by some as a move Microsoft might make to lock-in users. The Google project appears designed to counter this threat, according to the report.

Among the major search engines, AltaVista offered its AltaVista Discovery desktop search tool back in 1998, but it was never widely used. More recently, Lycos introduced a desktop search tool in March.

Coincidental with the rumor -- or perhaps not -- Google released a new Software Principles page yesterday. It's a call to the software industry to be more transparent and clear with users about what exactly their applications will do.

Among the principles, Google suggests that software should

  • Not trick people into installing it
  • Provide clear disclosure of its functions
  • Be easy to remove
  • Be clear in responsibility for when it changes default behaviors
  • Be upfront about personal data and other information gathered
  • Not be bundled with other software that doesn't follow principles of good behavior

Why add these principles? Google said it couldn't comment because of the current "quiet" period surrounding its impending IPO. However, there are several reasons why the new proposals may be offered.

For one, Google has been increasingly targeted by software that may change the listings users see when they use the service, such as removing Google's own listings and inserting different ones -- even though the page still looks like it is from Google. I know this from the email complaints I personally receive.

Similarly, I hear complaints about those unhappy that software may have changed their home page from being Google or changed Google from being their search provider.

For another, Google recently embarked on its first significant software bundling deal that I can recall, to have its toolbar as an installation option for those using the Real Player. It could be that more of these are planned, and that Google wants to pressure bundling partners to keep things clean, lest Google's reputation be hurt.

Finally, should the rumor of a Google Desktop search prove real, an entire new wave of concern about privacy might emerge as Google goes into this new area. Similar concerns over privacy and the Google Toolbar, which I found largely unfounded, were raised last year.

To head off a repeat, the new principles may be a way for Google to declare its intention to do no harm to users or their computers.

In other news, the Google Gmail email system that sparked amazement by offering 1 gigabyte of storage space in April appears to have increased that amount by 1,000 times to 1 terabyte, for some users.

Aaron Schwartz and Dave Winer are just to reporting this has happened to them. Checking my own Gmail account, I don't see this happening. Gmail still tells me that I have 1000 MB of space in total, with 17 percent of it currently used. Personally, I suspect a bug.

Google's move came after Lycos recently offered 1 GB of space to its email users and Yahoo declared it would greatly increase the free space offered to those using its email service.


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