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Google Competitive Intel – for free

It can be very interesting (and entertaining) to watch experts at competitive intelligence at work. Especially when they are racing to compete with each other. Why, it practically makes CI a spectator sport!

Seriously, when the target is Google, any new info rapidly becomes the target of competitive intel research by some of the most skilled Internet technologists on the planet. Today it was GDrive and “Project Platypus”. It reads like a cse study in modern Competitive Intelligence. Watch how the geeks tear into it, open your mouth, and say “whaaaaaaaaawww”..

Corsin Camichel runs a small script against writely, an online editor that Google purchased, and which some believe is a cornerstone of a larger Google MSOffice-like program. The script simply hits the domain with different sorts of default pages, looking for responses. Such probing can reveal the technologies inuse behind the scenes, e.g. index.php reveals PHP. Assuming they are not obfuscating.

He gets a response that appears to be a start page for something called “Platypus“, an online storage system. We all know about Google’s plans for GDrive due to a “info leak” some months ago. Could Platypus be GDrive?

Within hours the geek community, via that thread and others, contributes research efforts into CI on this project. Platypus is the name of a solid state storage company in New Hampshire (makes perfect sense… Google would go for a space-tech soluton like that, due to the shear volume of data and need for speed). Hey, here’s a quote from Google’s CEO that

“it costs less money and it is more efficient to use DRAM as storage as opposed to hard disks.”

So did Google by Platypus? No, wikipedia shows it went under in 2002. Hmmm….

So the eager online blogger-geeks review source code and whois and track down an employee at Google, and a phone number. Someone calls, and there is a vacation message. Innocent enough, yet in that message, he suggests that callers interested in Topic A call person X, and for Platypus issues, call person Y. Wow. So person Y, (David Braginsky) has a blog. His blog from 2004 says he moved to Google to become product techlead on a project at Google. The same guy posts this bit about privacy:

Wondering why so many people are complaining about GMail. Big deal, a computer scans your message and offers you ads. Privacy for privacy’s sake just seems silly.

Wow. So if he’s working on GDrive, surely he’s been drinking the Kool aid. Anyway, the open source competitive intelligence work continues… they find a product manager at Google behind a related domain, some internal server names at google that hint at Platypus being in use internally for employees. There is also a blog reporting from Google Analysts day in March, describing the Google GDrive effort.

At this point (what, 8 hour sinto the day?) the publicity and credit issues surrounding this “find” have taken over. The geeks seem more interested in getting link love and noteriety than finding out any more about Gdrive, so I suppose this is where the CI pros kick into gear (if they’ve even heard of it yet). That looks to me like a nice jump start provided by the Open Source Competitive Inteligence community.

Funny how Google AdSense is primary behind their desire to learn this stuff…and Google search referrals.
For those who enjoy wathcing and learning from this stuff, checkout the anti-spam forums. Those guys are top-notch researchers, and they post every detail of thier investigations into spammers, tracking whois, breaking down email headers, etc. They are usually very happy to disclose every private detail they find about spammers. Very, very educational.