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Yahoo's Tumblr, Google's Makani and Noah Cross's Future

Designing software, wings and your life

Tumblr's picture of the human race is what we can see on the surface in others and ourselves and its design and technology doesn't really let users go much deeper. It claims to be the most democratic of services; it's actually a viciously elitist experience allowing most of us only superficial relationships and product consumption. The user that pops out of that experience is tailor-made for introduction to the rest of Yahoo's services and that's what Meyer's Yahoo has in store. Yahoo doesn't want Tumblr users to do anything more than what they're doing. Some of us see young people, who are taking over this world, as critical to its survival; Yahoo sees them as slowly growing dollar signs. For a company like Yahoo, truly productive use of the Internet is not only irrelevant, it's disruptive.

What Yahoo is doing with this purchase is acquiring a kind of "training" program, teaching young people to scale down their use of the Internet and the value it places upon their thinking. It's a developmental strategy, a shrinking of expectations and its brilliance, in that sense, is dazzling and frightening. Marissa Meyer sees the future and it's not the one most people reading this want to see.

Meanwhile, Meyer's former employer, Google, released a bit of startling news this past week. It purchased a company called Makani Power that is building a power generation system based on flapping wings. The wings flap rapidly and, when they reach a certain speed (and height), they begin generating power. The brilliance, and potential, of this technology is astounding because it can bring power generation to private homes, farms, businesses and all kinds of local and personal existence.

The question that pops into any mind: Why is an Internet company, famous for searching the web for just about anything that enters your mind, investing millions of dollars in flapping wings?

The answer can be found in a place called Google (x), a highly secretive research facility occupying two buildings about a half mile from Google's main campus in Mountainview, California. Its role is to work on technology of all types and that means virtually anything. On occasion, the facility lets us know what it's working on. We know it's developing a car that drives itself and, of course, those Google glasses that allow the bespectacled person to see the entire Internet (literally) before his or her very eyes.

But we have no idea what else is being cooked up there because most of the over 100 projects the place is working on are, like the staff and offices, kept under the tightest security.

Few would say that a company as rich as Google should not be working on future technology. It is, after all, a great way to use those spectacular profits being collected through Google's ever-expanding businesses. What's more, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has a great interest in alternative power so the acquisition of Makani (in which Google has been investing for a while) makes a lot of sense.

The real question is why do it so secretly and possessively. If you're going to do research for the future, after all, wouldn't the right thing be to do your research in an open environment allowing everyone else capable of doing that research to collaborate? That is, after all, how the Internet itself developed.

story | by Dr. Radut