I just installed the rather lovely Google Blogger Web Comments extension into Firefox. What the extension does is tell me if there are blog posts about any particularly web page I am visiting, using Google’s Blog Search utility. A little icon appears in the bottom right of the browse status bar when there are Blogger posts about the page I’m viewing.
In the process of installing this nifty little tool, I also had to tell Firefox to allow pop-ups from Google, in order for the install to complete.
What’s interesting about this process is that by installing this extension I have actually helped Google do two profoundly evil things. Firstly I had to change my pop-up preferences to allow pop-ups from google.com. Secondly I installed a piece of software that tells Google exactly what pages I am visiting. Potentially, Google will know more about my web use than my system administrator does.
And the really interesting thing is how undeliberate this is. I’m pretty sure no-one at Google sat down and said “OK, chaps, here’s your challenge – write a tool that forces people to accept our pop-ups and indexes every web page they visit.” Because I’m sure someone would have said “nooooo, that would be evil.” Because web innovation is now reaching so far down into the innards of people’s browers and even their computers (and it started with cookies, remember – I mean, how evil are they?) that everyone ends up doing something evil at some point.
And the really really interesting thing is how ready I am to give Google all this stuff for the benefit of one little piece of mildly interesting functionality. Just think what I’d give them if they offered me something really useful – like a single sign-on? Or VOIP that works? Or municipal Wi-Fi? Or….