My new piece in Slate is a commentary on the Blogger/Google deal, but it's probably better seen as the latest installment in a near-decade-long quest that I've been on (at FEED, in various talks I've given, and in my first book) to demonstrate the ways in which the Web still doesn't measure up to Vannevar Bush's original vision of the Memex. Here's the gist:
Up to now, Google's services have revolved entirely around organizing and packaging the Web so that you can better find information--whether in the form of its flagship search tool, or the Google News service, or its online shopping experiment, Froogle. But Google has not yet ventured into managing the information and surfing history of individual users. If Google went in this direction with the Blogger acquisition, it would hearken back to one of the seminal documents of the computing age: Vannevar Bush's 1946 " As We May Think " essay, which envisioned a new tool to augment human memory.... In one crucial respect, Bush's vision differed from today's Web: He placed great importance on the trails created as the user moved through information space, assuming that a record of those trails would be of great use in amplifying the signal of human memory... I've now spent the past eight years exploring the Web practically every day, and over that time I've probably stumbled across thousands of documents that were worth preserving, yet the tools I have for organizing that history are minimal at best. Bookmarks are helpful if you're tracking a dozen sites, but beyond useless if you're managing 10,000. If Google can organize the entire Web with such efficacy, imagine what it could do with a much smaller subset of documents.
Props to the always insightful Matt Webb for making the first Google/Memex connection shortly after the deal was announced.
Updated: March 7, 10:50 AM: Ted Weinstein's post in response to this article made me realize that I should have been clearer about one thing: I don't think that this should be Google's default strategy for everyone using their service. That would raise legitimate privacy concerns and be wildly resource intensive on their end. It should be an opt-in product, and maybe even one you have to pay for.