Home Will Google Use Chrome to Index Password Protected Web?

Will Google Use Chrome to Index Password Protected Web?

It’s now over a month since Google released its open source web browser, Chrome. An interesting theory we heard recently is that Google will use Chrome to index the password protected Web – a.k.a. the ‘dark web’.

Right now the Chrome Terms of Service (TOS) prevents Google from indexing private data. But when you consider that Chrome was initially presented as a browser for applications, instead of just web pages, this theory begins to make more sense.

Most web apps are password-protected and so there’s no way for a normal search engine to index the data – even data that’s generalized and doesn’t identify individual users. But with a full-fledged browser to complement its search engine, Google now theoretically has the means to index this previously inaccessible data.

So is Google planning to use Chrome in the future to index password protected data on the Web? This needn’t be a sinister question to ask, because the Web has evolved into something that is not easily indexed. Neil McAllister wrote a great article back in July entitled Is the Web still the Web? (via Slashdot), that delved into this subject. Neil wrote:

“Is it still the Web if it’s not really hypertext? Is it still the Web if you can’t navigate directly to specific content? Is it still the Web if the content can’t be indexed and searched? Is it still the Web if you can only view the application on certain clients or devices? Is it still the Web if you can’t view source?”

As he also pointed out, RIA Flash and Silverlight content can now be searched – see our own writeup of this in July.

So the next step is to be able to search and index web applications that rely on user-generated content. Chrome is the perfect vehicle to do that. There would have to be a change in the TOS to allow it, because indexing private data is of course still a no-no among search engines – especially the market leader Google. And there would be a big privacy issue with indexing your personal browsing history. But what if Google could convince users of the value of indexing web app data without identifying the individual user…

What do you think of this theory – too far out? Remember that Chrome has already become by most accounts the 4th leading browser, after IE, Firefox and Safari. It’s already usurped Opera and it’s only 1 month old, still in beta and there’s no Mac version. In ReadWriteWeb’s stats for September, Chrome was used by 6.3% of our readers – not bad when you consider we have a higher proportion of Mac users than mainstream sites.

When Chrome is 2nd or 3rd in the browser market, then it may be in a position to start implementing some grand plans – like indexing password protected data. Let us know if this is too crazy, or you can forsee a socially acceptable use case for this scenario.

Update:Chris Messina notes that Flock already does this:

“Flock already DOES index every page you visit with Lucene and keeps the data in an offline cache. I could imagine that if I were to want to use Flock on another computer, I wouldn’t want to limit my search result to only what I visited on THAT machine — I’d want to pull from my entire browsing history.

We simply need protections to enable this kind of circumstance to be offered safely — or at least with minimized risk.”

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