15 years of Google Docs, and where might the next 15 years take us

Fifteen years ago, if you were writing a document, it was probably in Microsoft Word. As part of the company’s very successful Office suite, Word is the de facto choice for drafting text, whether you are a writer, office worker, student or teacher…you know this.

but October 11, 2006, Google Official launch of Google Docs and Spreadsheets In the beta version. Like everything at Google, Docs and Sheets are cloud-based applications that allow you to collaborate with others in real time. It’s easy to forget now, but this is completely different from the way most people handled documents at the time.

Fifteen years ago, I was in a different profession that required me to deal with a large number of spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations that could be accessed on a shared network drive. Submitting them to others for editing and annotation is a challenging process.Make sure you have Newest The version of the document usually contains six digits representing the last modified date, with the first letter indicating who checked it, and messy notes at the end until you find something puzzling such as “April_Report_051504_NI_final_final_reallyfinal.doc”.

15 years later, I wrote this story in a Google Doc shared with the editor; they can make any number of changes to the finished part of the draft because I have been typing here and will not lose anything. Collaborative work is much better than before, and Google Docs is an important part of it-but it’s not always easy to get here.

Sam Schillace, creator of Google Docs, said that it was originally an “experiment of a hacking attack.” In the interview edge year 2013. Eight years ago, he created a tool called Writely, which is a web-based text editing platform. Google acquired this company in March 2006. According to Schillace, only one month later, 90% of the company’s employees are using Writely. “When we went to Google, Writely was quickly adopted internally,” he said. Just seven months later, Google officially released Docs and Sheets at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Like most Google products at the time, it was a free beta release.

TechCrunch / Google

Unsurprisingly, it is not exactly the same as the Office provided by Microsoft. Relatively speaking, the text editor is very simple. But more importantly, Google Docs only works if you have an active internet connection. Although good broadband is quite common in workplaces and universities, it is far from easy to find when you venture into the world. If you want to find some work while traveling, such as on an airplane, then Google Docs is a good choice.

Google soon realized that it needed to figure out a way to sync documents to a computer for offline access. In May 2007, on its first “Global Developer Day”, the company Introducing Google Gears. Gears is an open source project and browser extension for Mac, Windows and Linux that can help network applications work without an Internet connection. Although the project is intended to be used by any developer, it makes perfect sense to use it for Google Docs.

Unfortunately, it is not the most stable tool. At the end of 2009, Google Stop development on Gears Supports the use of functions provided by HTML 5. But even if Google continues to support applications that use Gears, the technological transformation may not benefit the company’s adoption of Docs and its broader suite of applications in enterprises and educational institutions.

Around this time, Google is trying various ways to promote collaboration and communication-Docs is just one of the success stories.But there were also failures, the most notable of which was Is Google Wave — An ambitious combination of instant messaging, e-mail, documents, multimedia, etc. It was so hyped by the tech media that Google Wave invitations are being sold on eBay. But interest fell rapidly, largely because it was more of a finished product than most of Google’s “beta” releases.

Google Wave 2009

Google/Engadget

Google did not explain well what problem this new tool is designed to solve, the company Unplugged in 2010, Only a year later. But many of the things Google tried in Wave eventually survived elsewhere. In fact, when Google ended Wave development, the company added a chat function to Google Docs, allowing people who opened the same file to discuss what they were doing next to the content itself.

However, Google Docs has clearly surpassed the early struggles. In the past ten years or so, Google’s attention to products has been somewhat unexpected, and it is gradually iterating and improving at a steady rate. This is a sign of a product that Google seems to truly believe in. This is the same way the company treats Android, Chrome (browser and operating system), Drive, photos, and of course search and Gmail.

As Internet access becomes more common, the fact that Docs (like most Google products) works best online is no longer an obstacle. Don’t worry that saving documents takes a while to get used to, but now we take it for granted-if your browser crashes, whatever you are working on should be waiting for you in the cloud.

The biggest recognition of Google’s cloud-first strategy may be in 2010, when Microsoft took the first step to bring Office applications online. However, for a long time, Google’s application suite is more suitable for cloud computing. For example, until the end of 2013, you could not allow multiple people to work on the same Office document, which was built into Google Docs from the beginning. Apple also followed in the footsteps of Google and launched its iWork application in 2013, and finally achieved synchronous collaboration.

Although Office still dominates the workplace, it can be said that Google has made Microsoft a real competitor for the first time in years. Google has some big customers, such as Salesforce, Whirlpool, Twitter and Spotify. Google’s apps, coupled with cheap Chromebooks and its education platform, make the company a force in the K-12 field and higher education.

As for the next 15 years, it is almost certain that collaboration and remote work will continue to be very important. This was clear before COVID-19, and the notion that everyone needed to go to the office was basically broken in the past 18 months. To understand the direction of collaborative work, consider Microsoft’s open source Fluid framework. Fluid was first released in May 2019 and aims to remove barriers between different file formats and make it easy to extract content from various sources. Microsoft describes it as a way to share atomic components of data across multiple files-so if you update a spreadsheet in one document, you can link to that content in another file and it will automatically reflect these Change.

Dropbox has not yet proposed its own document “atomic component”, but its Paper application works in a similar way. They are as collaborative as Google Docs, but they support a wide range of content plugins, so you can embed YouTube videos, Google Calendar elements, Figma documents, to-do lists, Trello lists, and even the entire Google Docs.

Since its first release, Microsoft has been developing Fluid deliberately and has taken some small steps. Earlier this year, the company announced that some Fluid components will run on its communications platform Teams. I think moving content from strict platforms such as Google Docs or Microsoft Office to all other places where we work will be another important step forward.

This has already happened to some extent. For many years, Dropbox has been supporting the creation, sharing and editing of Microsoft Office documents within its own applications and websites, and later it also added similar support for Google Docs. Apps like Slack have a lot of integration with things like Google Drive and Trello, although it’s not clear at this time their scope and importance to the Slack workflow. (I usually just delete the link to the Google document I need to edit.)

Ironically, as the barrier between content and file types disappears and more and more people work in virtual spaces such as Teams and Slack, Google’s vision for Wave seems quite prescient. The concept of a project or team space that contains all the important elements, whether it is written documents, spreadsheets, images, videos, or any other type of content, seems to be our way forward. However, although Google (and other industries) is turning to models that remind us of the models Wave tried, there is still a missing part of Google’s strategy.

That part is messaging, which is a problem that Google has been trying to solve, about as long as Google has existed. As exhaustive Ars Technica, Google has never been able to insist on developing a coherent messaging plan for consumers or businesses. At some point, Google Chat (formerly known as Hangouts) could have become a strong competitor to Slack and a network that connects everything that people work on, but because Slack has consolidated its dominance over the past five years, the company missed the opportunity. Although Google Workspace has a large user base, it has not made progress in messaging-this is what brings the modern workplace together.

That said, Google’s smart canvas (Announced at this year’s I/O) May be its own version of Fluid, which is a way to unify different forms of content and communication in one place. From what we have seen so far, Smart Canvas has various “building blocks”, you can pull them all into a canvas-for example, the Meet call next to Google Doc is used for note-taking and to-do list. Because it assigns projects to team members. It is only available to Google Workspace customers on a limited basis, but it is definitely worth a look to see how it develops.

No one can really tell what other cultural workplace changes will happen in the next 15 years, such as the changes brought about by COVID-19. And these changes may drive the most significant changes in products that are suitable for work.

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