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Why the Twitter hack hurts Google Apps

The world learned a lot about Twitter this week. The most important takeaway: the company doesn't use the best passwords. 

A hacker broke into a Twitter's employees email account in May. From there he was able to access the company's Google Apps account where Twitter shares notes, spreadsheets and financial data within the company. This week, the information started making its way online. 

A leak that size has the potential to derail Twitter's future partnerships, business plans and financial future.

But it's also a setback for Google Apps.

Twitter cofounder Biz Stone wrote on the company's blog that while the docs were "not ready for prime time... they're certainly not revealing some big, secret plan for taking over the world."

And nothing too surprising has come out so far.

Within the documents rested information about when Twitter expected to make money (this quarter), the company's forecasted revenue ($140 million by 2010), and its user growth (1 billion users by 2013).

But the entire episode is proving to be bad PR for Google Apps. Individuals have happily been appreciating the free services of Google Apps allowing them to read, edit and share documents in the cloud. But that ease of use also means that it's easier for other people to get your information from any computer anywhere. And this episode is enough to give companies pause before placing sensitive documents online to share with employees.

On the Twitter blog today, Stone was adamant that Google Apps were not to blame for the security breach: "This attack had nothing to do with any vulnerability in Google Apps which we continue to use."

But his next line gets to the crux of the problem: "This is more about Twitter being in enough of a spotlight that folks who work here can become targets."

What company does not have rivals that would want access to private financial data? Sharing documents online will continue to be a problem because individuals will continue to be careless. And while Google Apps may not have any inherent security lapse, the individuals who use the service will continue to screw up and get scared by how easily they may do so.

As more services move into the cloud, companies have to be very careful about what they are sharing and where. For corporate usage, there is something to be said for paying the fee for software specific to a computer in one location.

That's not to say that sharing online isn't useful for large groups. But online, companies have to remember that they are only as secure as their weakest password. A point proven by this simple lesson from the Twitter debacle: don't ever use "password" as your password.

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Can Google Learn from Microsoft's Mistakes?

Google's indication (hardly an announcement) that they're getting into the OS business comes as no surprise. It's already got Android. It's got Web-based apps that are now (finally) out of beta. It's got the right vision, IMHO, for mobility. They have the potential at the very least to put a thumbtack on Microsoft's chair, if not actually kick them in the butt.
And that's because MS thinks that an operating system is a destination rather than simply a facility to abstract hardware and network services into metaphors that programmers and end-users alike can deal with. The two key directions for mobility -- netbooks (or at least lighter clients, which includes handhelds) and Web services -- really don't require MS's vision of bloated, complex, buggy, slow, inefficient, unreliable, and expensive operating systems. Because they've been competing in the PC, rather than the Web-centric, era,
Microsoft has only two options to address this opportunity -- Windows Mobile, which I still think is doomed for reasons of cost, and Windows 7, which would need several passes through the shrink-o-tron to work here, leaving it much less than Microsoft's vision (and, in fact, business and financial requirement) of OS as destination.
Google may, however, be making the same mistakes as Microsoft has continually made via a strategy of OS diversity. As with Vista, there are way too many versions of Windows 7.
I'd have to buy Ultimate at an absurdly high price just to get file encryption. As you might guess, I'm not looking forward to giving Microsoft another nickel; I will, of course, buy a new PC with W7 on it to do testing projects for Network World, but this PC will otherwise not be used for production around here.
I've had it with Microsoft's vision and implementation of the operating system, which is to use bloat to thwart competition, change to the user interface to add to OpEx and TCO via increased training and support costs, and refusal (or outright inability) to address fundamental architectural issues that leave their operating systems insecure, unreliable, and a burden on IT and users alike. I can't wait for all those XP users out there thinking they can upgrade to W7, and then discovering that (a) they need to do a clean install, and (b) they need W7 Pro for backwards compatibility to XP. Wow! At least Microsoft is being upfront is saying that W7 is "best experienced on a new PC".

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Google: Big on Twitter

If anything, 2009 is the year of Twitter. With so many companies embracingtwitter_tweet2_300 Twitter to improve their external communication, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google is riding the wave with a whopping 50 Twitter accounts used to tweet countless stories each day promoting Google’s many products.

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock lately, you know how big Twitter has become. Despite the fact that the popular micro-blogging service has been around for quite a while, it looks like all stars have aligned for Twitter in 2009, when the service exploded into public consciousness.

Corporations, media outlets, and users around the world all took advantage of the technology so Twitter links on corporate and personal sites, even blogs, quickly became the norm. Businesses were among the first to realize that Twitter is an effective, instant, and affordable communication channel with a very broad reach. Although corporate Twitter channels are nothing unusual these days, we’ve been surprised discovering popular Twitter has been with Google.

According to a post on the official Googl e blog, the search giant maintains nearly 50 Twitter accounts, each dedicated to a specific product. In addition, each Google’s account on Twitter is tied to a product’s official blog, tweeting short leads linked to specific blog entries. Official Google accounts on Twitter include Reader, Blogger, Calendar, News, YouTube, Earth, AdSense, and other product-focused accounts, as well as user tips, central Google account, news from Google localized for non-English markets, etc. Here’s how Google justified its assault on Twitter:

Like lots of you, we’ve been drawn into Twitter this year. After all, we’re all about frequent updates ourselves, and there’s lots happening around here that we want to share with you. Of course, we enjoy watching, and contributing to, the tweetstream (we hope you find our tweets useful, too). Because there are many programs and initiatives across the company, we’ve got a number of active accounts.

Check out this cherry-picked list of Google accounts on Twitter that you may like:

Complete list available at the official Google blog.

Christian’s opinion:

As a reporter, I’ve noticed this new trend emerging a while ago, with companies using official Twitter accounts to communicate with journalists and PR agencies. Media, corporations, and consumers all benefit from the Twitter technology. News items beamed via Twitter get out of the door fast, reaching subscribed journalists and PR agencies instantly. Needless to say, instantaneous short messaging is exactly how journalist prefer getting the latst information. Because each tweet is linked to an official press release on a company’s web site, these tweets augment other communication channels already in place, rather than replace them.

Because the media gets news items as they happen, they can react swiftly, providing consumers with up-to-date information. In fact, it’s my personal opinion that tweets will overtake RSS feeds down the road as a preferred technology used by journalists for staying up-to-date.

However, the real problem with Twitter, in my opinion, is this information overload. With so many channels to follow, Twitter.com should offer tools for organizing subscribed tweets into folders. I only use one Twitter account to track all business and personal tweets but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with it. Dozens of iPhone developers, tech companies and PR agencies to whose Twitter channel I’ve subscribed to beam dozens of tweets a day. Yet, Twitter.com lacks tools that would help me bring order to this mess. I simply don’t have the time to waste on sorting through so many different tweets.

Hey Twitter, can we have some kind of folders or categories that automatically file specific tweets? Yes, I know, there are countless desktop and mobile Twitter clients that bring such a functionality but I’d really like to see this implemented on the Twitter.com website as the default feature.

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