Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is Google Sites WalMartising website hosting?

I'm now reading David Bosshart's Cheap, an ominous book about our culture's drive to get the prices ever lower, at whatever cost. One of the major powers behind this trend is the huge WalMart, which is founded on the idea of continuously squeezing the costs.

Incidentally, I have just switched my homepage from a classic hosting provider to Google Sites (using Apps for Domains), and the irony struck. For my needs, Google Sites is more than sufficient. Configuration is easy, it's reliable, secure, allows add-on applications, and it's the cheapest of all: free!

I don't have the statistics to back it up, but I think that as more people realise this, and as Sites's capabilities grow, more people will realise the benefits of using it, likely driving some hosting companies out of business.

Does this make Google the WalMart kind of evil? Not in my opinion, and here's what makes it different:
  1. WalMart drives prices in part by down by using extremely cheap labor, and nobody suspects Google of that. If low-budget hosting is the next buggy whip industry, too bad.
  2. The cost of hosting has got down significantly due to Moore's law. The hosting providers has tried to adapt by offering beefier packages for the same price, but I honestly don't need that for my homepage. So, yes, the cost per small website is probably somewhere indistinguishable from free.
  3. All the providers rely on severe overprovisioning to get the price of a package to be so much lower than that of the actual hardware. Google should be doing it too, but at its scale overprovisioning should work so much better.
  4. Google really wins on quality here. Yes, there are limitations, and of course I cannot match the capabilities of a fully manually configured website, but I value other things now, like not having to patch to new versions because of newly discovered security holes, integration with Google Analytics and so on. And if I really need custom apps, there's AppEngine.
Maybe Google is actually doing a good things, delivering some of the providers from slowly agonizing over slowly eroding prices and margins. Hey guys, there's still lots of money to be made on the Internet!

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