If you have not read Google's corporate mission then here it goes - 'Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.'. The way they had set out to doing this was to initially offer a very powerful search engine that made the world's information available at everyones fingertips. Now they were making money by guessing people's preferences based on the content they search for and by showing them relevant advertisements and acting as a shrewd marketing agent. Well they didn't stop there.
The marketing agent, that is Google, had to share the cut with the data provider who was providing the content to the people. What if there was a way to not share the cut with the provider of the content? Yes there is a simple way - if you become the provider of the content. This is what Google tried to do next and is still in the process of trying.
Google Groups, GMail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Maps, Orkut, Blogger, are all attempts by Google to become THE place to keep your content if you indeed want to store content publicly. The deal they offered to the public was that they would store everybody's content for free.
The Google Offer looks very attractive at first glance. Wouldn't it be good to be able to publish all your data, and retain ownership, all for free. Well it is not quite all for free. You are effectively offering your mind for sale to Google in return for the free server access. Google gets a unique insight into the preferences of people in the Googlesphere in return for the server access. Google sells this insight to companies who want to buy this insight and sell products to these customers accordingly.
Obviously Google is making more money than it is spending on the servers and on associated costs. So by free market principles the price of access to your mind has to go up or you should be able to buy free server access at cheaper rates. But you cannot buy free server space cheaper than free of money-cost so the price of access to your minds has to go up.
Another interesting and related factor is the growth of Technology, Free Knowledge and Open Information which is revolutionizing the domain. With this revolution, the role of a middleman that Google is playing will weaken unless Google adapts to the changing trend and repositions themselves with different value propositions.
What the above two hypotheses would lead to is that, cheaper and cheaper access to better and better technologies would put the webizen in a position where he can become his own data owner as well as data provider, thereby putting himself in a position where he can sell access to his mind at a higher price.
This does not mean that everybody is going to be owning and keeping their own data. It means that big corporates, not just Google, are going to lose control over the data that they have been getting used to controlling. A simple example is the advent of strong APIs in current social networking systems and very high levels of interoperability between server access providers. This would lead to a larger number of smaller server access providers who share the access to smaller sets of data from the current state of small number of large providers with large data sets.
It is interesting to remember that it all started with individual ownership and has moved to the large corporate ownerships of data seen today. The above progression is towards individual ownership but it might not get there. But the point is that the attempts by big providers like Google to become the data stores of the world might not be that easy as we move into the future.
Finally as an extension to the hypotheses, the increased prices of access to human minds would interestingly bring down the actual costs of accessing them by the end companies, because of the increased competition between smaller players, who sell this access to companies who access them to sell products. This should reflect in cheaper prices for products sold via the web to people who sell access to their minds.
OK. I am interested in buying a Ferrari. Is Fiat listening :-)