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How does Google's 'Web platform' differ from others?

Google is hosting a two-day event to promote Web development. But its Web-as-a-platform strategy has slightly different goals than that of competitors like Microsoft.

Google will hold a developer confab in May, called Google I/O, to discuss the challenges of writing applications for the Web.

This year's two-day event in San Francisco is larger than last year's Google Developer Day, its first organized conference aimed specifically at Web developers.

While the format is different--there will be more in-depth technical sessions and tutorials for newbies who want to write mash-ups--Google's developer strategy remains the same.

Why do they court developers? To encourage creation of more and better Web applications, said Tom Stocky, a senior product manager at Google, on Tuesday.

"We're trying to get more users, in general. We want to increase the number of users and the amount they use the Web. And improving the platform is the best way to do that, we've found," Stocky said.

What will be different this year is an increased focus on developing social applications, reflecting Web development in general. Google will have sessions on social applications, including ways to use OpenSocial, which is designed to let people share information on social networks among different applications.

There is also a track on mobile development, including ways to use Google Gears for Mobile and Android, the mobile phone platform Google and its partners introduced last November.

All the same Web platform?
Google, of course, is hardly the only tech company that is attracting Web developers to their "platform." sells subscriptions to a customer relationship management application, but when you talk to the company's CEO, Marc Benioff, you quickly understand that he is betting that its development platform, called, will fuel growth in the future.

Other Web giants--Yahoo, eBay, and Amazon--all have their own developer programs as well.

But the company set to shake things up the most in Web service development is Microsoft, which just hosted its own Mix Web development conference.

It already has many application programming interfaces (APIs) to its Web services, from Virtual Earth to Windows Live Messenger, and continues to release more.

"We don't have an underlying platform we're selling. We're trying to improve the Web as a platform...and increase usage of the Internet as a whole."
--Tom Stocky, senior product manager, Google

More significantly, Microsoft understands platforms, how to build a thriving "ecosystem" of third-party applications and partners, and how to make money for everyone involved.

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie has laid out a vision of a providing unifying development model for a wide range of applications, from classic client-server Windows applications to Web services mashups using Silverlight.

On a technical level, Google's push to attract developers to the Web has a slightly different flavor than others.

Stocky said that Google's focus with tools and APIs is JavaScript and good Ajax development practices.

Of course, Google doesn't have a legacy development tools business--like Microsoft or Adobe both do--that needs refreshed tooling to write applications for the Internet "cloud."

In addition, Google wants to promote technologies that work in all browsers, not things like Flash or Silverlight that require a special plug-in and are proprietary.

"If anyone's going to push the Web forward, we want them to do it in way that benefits everyone," Stocky said. "We don't have an underlying platform we're selling. We're trying to improve the Web as a platform...and increase usage of the Internet as a whole."

Google's own engineers were able to push the boundaries of Ajax. Its first release of Google Maps, where users can drag a map around a browser, inspired many developers to push the limits of Webware.

Stocky said that one of the goals of Google I/O is to garner some feedback from developers on where they are hitting the limits of Web development. But it's clear that Google wants to ride--and push--the momentum toward more capable Web applications.

"In general, every developer I know is trying to learn more and more JavaScript and Ajax best practices," he said. "It's where programming is going."