Earlier this summer, in a debate about e-mail security, my fellow blogger George Ou pointed out to me one of the better secrets to some additional security when using Google's GMail service (which Mass Events Labs, the events company I started outside of CNET, relies on extensively). What I didn't know is that you can encrypt the transmissions between your PC and the GMail back-end by prefacing the Web address to your GMail account with 'https' instead of the less secure 'http.'
As it turns out, this doesn't work in all situations for Gmail (I have a new action item for the folks who design Google Apps). If your company's e-mail domain is mapped to the Gmail part of Google's Google Apps service, there should be two ways of getting to it. The first is through the URL http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomainname.com. The second, if you so elect, is through http://mail.yourdomainname.com. In my testing of George's idea, swapping the https into the first URL works. But not the second. Just an observation. Also, based on my testing of the https approach to the GMail part of a Google Apps account, you can also move around to the other Google Apps services (Google Docs, Spreadsheets, etc.) without ever losing the secure https context. Cool.
In private conversations, George maintains that the performance penalty for providing encrypted (https) access to any Web page is so negligble to both the client and server that it's inconceivable that most other Web sites aren't providing or even defaulting to https-based access to their pages.. If he's right about the performance issue, I agree.
What got me onto the subject of Gmail and https and what does it have to do with James Gosling, the inventor of Java? Today, while accessing my Gmail account, I noticed the following text advertisement at the top of GMail's user interface:
It reminded me of a quote from Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. I don't recall the exact words, nor can I find it right now (it might have been at a conference or in his blog) but it had something to do with how many of the Internet's users were touched by Java, thanks to Google. Google is apparently a very big Java shop. How big? For example, how many of Google's page views are in some way shape or form associated with a Java routine on the back-end? I'm not sure anybody knows the answer. But, reminiscent of how people started to talk about Cobol when its glory days started coming to an end, over the last few months, I've heard people talk about Java as though it's a has-been. The above advertisement and the employer behind it is a reminder that such statements probably couldn't be further from truth.