The greatest single reason that the World Wide Web has been so widely used and adopted is because individuals are allowed to participate in the Web. People can produce web content and create a MySpace page or home pages provided by their school or organization and contribute their creativity and content to the Web. Free services like Blogger, Flickr, Google Sites, Google Groups, and others have given us all an outlet for our creativity and presence on the Web—at no charge.
For most of the life of the Web, if you wanted to have your own rich software-backed website with data storage, your only choice was to purchase hosting services from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and learn database management and a programming language like PHP to build or run your software. Learning and paying for this much
technology was just beyond the reach of most web users, who simply had to accept the limited features of MySpace, Blogger, or whatever system hosted their web content.
In April 2008, Google announced a product called App Engine. When you write a program for the Web that runs on App Engine, your software runs on the Google servers
somewhere in the Google “cloud.” It is as if you are a Google employee and you have access to the entire scalable Google infrastructure. App Engine captures much of Google’s
experience of building fast, reliable, and scalable websites, and through App Engine, Google is revealing many of the secrets about how its own applications scale to
millions of users.
The most exciting part of the Google App Engine announcement is the fact that it is free for moderate levels of use. Every person with a Gmail account can have a number of free applications running on the Google infrastructure. If your application becomes extremely popular and your traffic goes above the allowed levels of the free account, you can pay to use more of Google’s resources. As your application scales, Google engineers and operations staff take care of all the hardware, data storage, backup, and network provisioning for you.
The cost of purchasing resources from Google’s cloud of servers is likely far less than purchasing/renting/maintaining the same amount of resources on your own. Google focuses on providing hardware and network; you focus on building your application and the user community around your application.