Google I/O is the first event for web developers that Google has run. It happens later this week on 28/29 May and Google is expecting 2,500 people to attend. The I/O stands for "Innovation/Open" (i/o is also a programmer term input/output).
Recently I spoke with Tom Stocky, a Director of Product Management at Google, to discuss Google's sudden interest in web developers.
Google and the Browser
Stocky told me that we're at an "inflection point for web app development" and that Google is all about "driving usage of the Internet". He said that the Web is now the defacto platform for application development.
But more than that, Google intends to make that client (the browser) more powerful. They also want to make the cloud (the Internet) more accessible.
Furthermore, Stocky sees the browser as being a key part of the Mobile Web going forward.
Google and RIAs
I asked what Google thinks of RIA (rich internet applications) that are run outside the browser. In particular I mentioned that Microsoft and Adobe are both pushing apps outside the browser, using their RIA platforms. Stocky replied that typically companies sell the underlying proprietary platform and then try to get developers to build on top of that (he didn't specifically mention them, but he's obviously referring to MS and Adobe). However, he said, Google's mission is to build on top of the open web platform.
Stocky said that Google not only aims to build on the open Web platform, but actively improve it. He referred to recent Google releases like Google App Engine (a developer tool that enables you to run your web applications on Google's infrastructure) and Google Gears (a browser plug-in which enables people to use web apps while offline).
Why the Sudden Interest in Developers?
I asked Stocky why has Google decided that now is the right time to get web developers behind them? I didn't mention it, but I'm sure it's no coincidence that Google's outreach to developers has happened at about the same time that tech blogs like ReadWriteWeb have gotten access to Google PR and product teams. In other words, up till this year developers and bloggers alike have been subject to a Steve Jobs-like veil of secrecy over the inner workings of Google.
Stocky told me that it's been an evolutionary thing. 2-3 years ago, he said, Google had just a couple of APIs. So there wasn't much to engage developers with at that time. Now in 2008 they have 40+ APIs and Google has "realised the benefits of investing in the open web platform". He also admitted that one of those benefits is that it enhances Google's revenue.
So web developers (and bloggers) are getting a more open, remixable Google in 2008. That's great to see - and we can only wish that a certain Cupertino-based company follows that precedent!
Web Developers, Web Developers, Web Developers!
I did my best to entice a Steve Ballmer-like chant of "Web Developers, Web Developers, Web Developers" out of Tom Stocky, but the best he would give me was: "Google is native to the Web" :-)
What do you think of the new open(ish) Google? And let us know in the comments if you're attending Google I/O and if so what do you expect to get out of it.
Related: ReadWriteTalk did a podcast with Tom Stocky in April.