Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Google's Ajax Libary hosting, the New Web Tracker

A little while ago, I noticed that Google started hosting the most common JavaScript libraries on their CDN. The project is called AJAX Libraries API , and it allows websites to reference these libaries instead of hosting the files themselves. Using a CDN to host your static files isn't anything new, and it provides some nice side effects.
  • Less bandwidth
  • Less space (every little bit helps)
  • Global caching
    • If everyone uses the same file it is more likely they already have the file cached from another site.
  • Faster download
    • Clients get the file from the server closer to them
    • Different servers mean more asynchronous downloads
For more info check out the YSlow page.

At first this sounded great, Google was providing a nice service for free, and everyone benefits. But then I was thinking, what does Google get out of this? With a big company there is always something, even Google.

Then it hit me. How does Google Analytics work? If you don't know, it is pretty simple. All you need to do is insert a small little JavaScript snippet at the bottom of the pages you want to track, and that is it. How is Google analytics different then the new Google Ajax API? Not much, the major difference is that Analytics has a tracking code and the AJAX API doesn't. But that isn't a big deal for Google to get around, they can easily link all views back to the originatly server. So the tracking code isn't needed unless you want to link that back to a user, so that they can view the results.

AJAX API, isn't the only project where they could easily gather information. They also have Google Chart API where they will generate charts for you on the file to display on your website. The big one that most people see everyday is the Google Maps API which allow you to embed google maps onto any website.

If you combine the information they get from all the people visiting thier website, with the information they gather from Google Analytics and all of these free tools that they give away, it is really amazing how much data they have, and how easy it would be to track people.

I'm not a paranoid person, and I could care less if Google wanted to track me, but I can see how some people might be concerned. If they could only use all of this information to track down all of the bad people out there. I don't know if Osama bin laden even has power in his cave, no less internet access, but if he did, watch out. Google's Coming!

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