Sunday, September 25, 2011

Google Drive Is Coming. For Real This Time

 

About a month ago, some additions to the code in Chromium (the open source browser behind Chrome) suggested that the long-fabled “GDrive” may be on the verge of actually launching. A week later, user-facing proof started appearing. Then earlier today, sharp-eyed social media consultant, Johannes Wigand, spotted something interesting during a presentation at a Google-sponsored event: something that sure looks a lot like Google Drive.
And it is.
Over the past month, we’ve been able to dig up more information about Google Drive. First of all, it is very real. And it is being used internally at Google. Of course, it was also real back in 2007 and 2008 before it was eventually killed. But talking to employees back then who saw and used the service all agreed that it was pretty wonky and not ready for prime time. This new version is expected to be much better.
As you can see in Wigand’s picture (above, with important elements circled by me), Google Drive on the web will essentially be Google Docs rebranded. This shouldn’t be a big surprise since Google has been positioning Docs as a sort of Google Drive since early 2010. The difference is that Google specifically didn’t want to call it that at the time. Now they do.
And it makes a lot more sense. Few people are using Google Docs for online storage beyond the files they use in Docs. Most still probably don’t even realize they can. Something as simple as changing the name to Google Drive should help with that. There will also be a new “My Google Drive” area for various folders in Google Drive. There will be other Drive-specific tools as well.
The service, which was previously used internally at Google under the codename “Platypus”, was killed off in 2008. But code found in Chromium recently suggested that it may be making a comeback. Specifically, there was a note to add the non-existant (to the public) drive.google.com domain to a secure list in the browser’s code. Today brings another clue.
We’ve just been tipped about some language inside of Google Docs which also points to Google Drive. Apparently, when some users go to delete a document in the recently-updated UI, they’re getting a message that the “items have been removed from your Google Drive”. There you go.
At the time of my initial story last week, Google would only officially say that “The team is always testing out new features, but we don’t have any details to share at this time.” But others I’ve spoken with suggested there is definitely something here.
Google updated Google Docs in early 2010 to make it a bit more like a “Google Drive” by allowing users to upload any file. But the concept has never taken off because it’s clunky. My thinking is that Google is re-working this idea (probably using the exact same backend functionality — hence, the Google Docs message) to be a product more in line with the popular Dropbox or Box.net. And if that’s the case, I also assume that Android and Chrome (and especially Chrome OS) integration are key.

This was also true back in the day with GDrive, but again, the service (codenamed: Platypus) was said to be very buggy. Now it is said to work well. If you have a document on your computer that you want to move to another one, you simply drag and drop it into this new Google Drive sync app. Or, of course, you can use the web.

We haven’t heard the timetable for the Google Drive roll-out, but we imagine it will be fairly soon. Again, Google is using this internally right now and has been for some time. One thing that Google may be waiting for is Ice Cream Sandwich, the new version of Android due next month. There may be some built-in Google Drive component to it (though that’s just me speculating). And it seems that it will be at least a part of Chrome, and more importantly, Chrome OS.
Expect Google Drive to reside at drive.google.com (not live yet). It’s not clear how docs.google.com (the current home of Docs) will be used — perhaps as the home of the word processor app or maybe it will just redirect. Also not clear is how Google will allocate storage for this service, but presumably it will be the same as they currently do for Docs/Gmail/etc. You get a certain (ever-increasing) amount for free, and if you need more, you can buy it.
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