Google is a head-scratcher. For starters, it hosts the world's largest search engine, so its programmers know how to make connections between Web services and users. Google also now makes a Web browser, Chrome, making it a natural entity for contextual technologies.
Moreover, the man who created GreaseMonkey, Aaron Boodman, is a Google programmer working on Chrome and Google Gears. eWEEK asked Google about its plans for the contextual Web and was told there was nothing new to announce, "but we are still working hard on our extensions platform for Chrome."
Web watchers can track Google Chrome extensions progress here on the Chromium site.
While Google may have yet to make Chrome contextual, the contextual Web players eWEEK spoke to said Google is already there in Gmail. For example, Tori pointed to a Google's Gmail Lab feature that lets users add any gadget by pasting in the URL of its XML spec file.
So Google clearly is aware of the value of contextual Web technologies. The real question is when the search giant will leverage its resources to create contextual value in Chrome. By owning a browser, Google has free rein to enrich Chrome as it sees fit.
Meanwhile, there are stumbling blocks to contextual Web technologies. Most businesses aren't just going to sit there while users create Greasemonkey scripts that alter their Web pages, Iskold noted.
Anything that alters the original page, scrapes it and replaces what's there can be questioned, though no one has been too vocal about it yet. It's good for the user, but certain lawyers will argue it hurts publishers' content. I'm sure there could be battles around that.
Even so, Iskold, Tori and others say contextual Web tools are unstoppable and that Google is very much aware of them because it has to be. "Google is experimenting with stuff like this," claimed Iskold, who recently elaborated on his contextual Web ideas for ReadWriteWeb. "It doesn't want Microsoft eating up into its home page."
Iskold's big bet is that the social Web will be where context plays the most in 2009. Services such as Glue will enable contextual social networks within the browser.
Perhaps some combination of Google Friend Connect within Chrome can help Google challenge Facebook Connect.