So I like Google, and I’m always interested when they come out with something new and cool. Hence, I jumped on the Google Web Accelerator bandwagon.

Then as a service to all of you I asked my OTA what his thoughts were on the matter:

On Google Web Accelerator: Google Blogoscoped has a good introduction to GWA.

One of my questions has been: Why is Google doing this? It takes a lot of bandwidth and storage space to run a proxy server for everyone on internet (granted, they aren’t at that point yet.). TechDirt has an excellent theory that makes a lot of sense: Google uses your surfing as their spider.

Right now, a search engine works by using an automated program, called a spider, to “crawl” the internet. As it goes, it collects information about each website it comes to. It ranks that website for different individual search terms using several factors, the two most prevalent being #1 other people linking to it and the #2 the content of the site. This spider tries to emulate a random surfer that starts at a random starting point and goes for a while and then eventually gets bored and stops.

It would, of course, be ideal if Google had real people, instead of computers, surfing randomly. With Google Web Accelerator, they have that. As you go to websites, they can index that site. They know how you got there, so they know what search terms are relevant for that site. They know that it is a popular site if a lot of their users are going there. It would be a very nice increase in the accuracy of their search results.

However, it has been having some problems. People are being logged into forums under other usernames (This is because everything is run through a proxy. The forum software sees the multiple users as a single user. When you log in to your account, it logs in for everyone.) and it is deleting emails by pre fetching (One of the ways that GWA speeds up your surfing is by looking at the links on the page that you are on and choosing the ones it thinks you might click on and then starting to download them even before you click on them. You know in your webmail how you have those little delete links? Well GWA was prefetching those too and in the process deleting your emails.).

Of course, why do you need an accelerator with a broadband connection? (GWA is only recommended for use with broadband.) Broadband is pretty snappy.

Google has stopped offering downloads of GWA because “We have currently reached our maximum capacity of users and are actively working to increase the number of users we can support.” Google Blogoscoped thinks that “This may or may not be a polite way of saying there were too many bug reports being thrown at them, and that they now need time to check them.”

There are always privacy concerns with this kind of thing.

I have an intense interest in all things Google, but I don’t have the knack for the kind of research Hans knocks out. This is some great stuff. The only issue I’d take up with him, and this is strictly opinion, is about the need for a web accelerator. I like the idea of speeding up anything that can be sped up, and you can never surf the web too fast!

For a long time a major criticism against Google has been their nebulous and ambiguous privacy policies and practices. It looks like the GWA just brings more of the same.

Hans finishes up with his official recommendation:

I have not been happy with GWA. If anything it has slowed down my surfing not sped it up. It has made some pages inaccessible. It still has some bugs. It has privacy concerns. I uninstalled it. I would suggest that you don’t install it, or if you have, uninstall it. The risk/problems to rewards ratio is just too high.”

So I sadly uninstalled it. I wanted it to be a good thing, but I managed to put aside my pie-in-the-sky ideals and do the right thing.