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Why Google Has Become Microsoft's Evil Twin

(I should also add a correction. In my last post I implied Buzz had crashed my Gmail account, a complaint I also heard from another Buzz user. But I was able to access it from another machine later, so the problem was probably local. Also: There is no truth to the rumor that Google Buzz is being sued for trademark violations by Buzz Lightyear. But I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo Buzz made a stink.)

The fact is, the more you use Google, the more you put yourself at risk. Not that Google is worse at security than other high-tech companies (Chinese hacks notwithstanding). It's because every service you sign up for is built around your Gmail address. And since Google has effectively made that public via your Google Profile's URL and Google Buzz, all that's left is your password. Once a hacker guesses or social engineers you out of that, Game Over.

It's a single point of weakness that could come back to bite people in a huge way (remember, the Chinese hacked some Gmail accounts). My Google contact said they had some things in the works to beef up Gmail authentication and make it a tougher nut to crack, but couldn't discuss anything specific.

[UPDATE: According to Search Engine Watch, Google may end up splitting Buzz off from Gmail. Stay tuned for further developments.]

I was chatting with my fellow InfoWorld blogger Christina Tynan-Wood this morning, and she brought up what I thought was a highly cogent point. More and more, Google is starting to resemble Microsoft. She wasn't talking about its sudden introduction of me-too products (Google Buzz, hello?), or its insatiable appetite for new markets to conquer, or its growing tendency to buy innovative technology companies instead of creating its own stuff.

Her point is that Google is becoming increasingly insular. It's like the world ends at the edge of the Googleplex, and beyond that ... there be monsters. Just like folks on the Redmond campus started to be like back in the early '90s.

"This is how it started with Microsoft. First they were fun and it was okay. They lived in their own little geek world and it was funny how they just didn't get how those of us who live out here don't have quite the same issues. Later -- and Google isn't there yet but having seen where this leads, I worry -- MS got almost belligerent in their insular attitude and completely lost touch. That's when everyone got mad at them."

She said this as someone who has great affection for Google, both its people and its products. "It's like they spend all their time inside Google. They really need to get out more," she sighed.

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