user-avatar
Today is Thursday
October 19, 2017

Tag: basics

December 30, 2015

Let us not ignore GoogleWebLight, another walled garden in the name of faster web content

by viggy — Categories: internet, social — Tags: , , , Leave a comment

Free Basics is evil but let us not ignore GoogleWebLight. It is a new firewall to the internet, one which centralizes the entry to the internet, tries to capture all the data with user privacy completely sacrificed. All this with a sugar coating of fast access to web content.
On the evil side of the digital world, now there are two gaints competing against each other on who can raise to the supreme position of ‘read-everything, know-all’ gaint. The end goal is very simple, understanding the user very personally for successful targeted advertisement. The battle that netizens/hacktivists are fighting against Free Basics from Facebook to protect NetNeutrality has received lot of attention and clearly we will find its results in due course. The battle is intense with Facebook having put gone full force to the extent that it even started attacking the NetNeutrality supporters directly in its full page print media ads about Free Basics.

However, the other gaint has been playing the more silent battle and winning quiet remarkably. Seriously, in terms of capturing the market and looking at the long term goals, Facebook can easily learn some major lessons from Google. Let us look at how an average internet user browses internet in India. There are lot of studies which show that smartphones are the basic device with which majority of internet users in India browse internet. This market is completely captured by the Android Operating System controlled by Google. In this, Chrome and the default Android Browser seem to the major browser that the user uses to browse, again both of which are controlled by Google.

Now since this was not enough, Google has added the feature in Chrome which redirects user to its own site, GoogleWebLight if it detects that the user has a slow internet and then loads the webpage within GoogleWebLight. This it suggests is to improve the speed with which the site is loaded. It naturally tries to remove the Javascript and CSS, may be some heavy images. Whether the site loads faster, maybe debatable, the fact that now Google is now redirecting all the users to its own site, instead of sending the user directly to the site which the user clicked seems completely against privacy of the user, breaks the internet as all the hyperlinks are now modified to redirect user to GoogleWebLight and also kind of acts like a firewall to the internet.

There is no doubt that large section of internet users in India are using internet through a slow connection. Hence there is need for a solution which helps to load the content faster and also such that their data usage is limited. But is redirecting the user to some other site such that the site which user intended to visit is embedded in the new site is definitely not the best design, infact it seems to be a very bad design. One simpler suggestion could just have been using a Chrome browser addons which disables loading of certain type of web elements when loading a site on the browser. Another way could have been developing a standard which encourages website developers to also have a site for slow internet users.

From the perspective of a website developer, GoogleWebLight is evil because now I have no idea how my website will be shown to the user. It seems you can add a meta tag to disable loading of the site through GoogleWebLight but then Chrome shows a warning to the user that ‘This page is slow to load’ or something to that effect. Definitely not something which I want my user to see while waiting for my page to load.

Overall, it is important for us to be careful on how GoogleWebLight evolves and as hacktivists, we need to come up with better ways to ensure that people with slow internet connection get better experience browsing internet.