This is probably obvious to you but I discussed this with some friends recently and they seemed to not have considered the eventuality so I thought I might post it here as well.
Straight to the point: it is already technically possible for Google to host the entire Internet and serve it from their machines.
Google already offers an email service (2 Gigabytes of emails they mantain on their servers and serve it from their machines). Google already mantains a copy of (almost) the entire Web (and they serve it from their machines, through their Web cache service). While not all the people in the world at the moment use them, they surely can scale them to all the people of the world; in short they can host all the email boxes and all the Web sites and serve them from their machines.
Just imagine what will happen if tomorrow Google announces that you can register a domain for free with Google and can use their hosted services (hosted email, blog and web page). They can afford the cost of domain registration. Actually, if they are able to get all the domains in the world, they can even outrule and substitute the ICANN (the fact I agree to pay some organization for being in control of paolomassa.com means I agree with a social-technical convention, involving domain names and how they can be found in a decentralized system; social-technical conventions can be changed of course. But I’m digressing.)
95% of the people will prefer to have everything working and for free from Google instead of investing a lot of time and money in setting up servers, DNS, backups, replication, etc. There will be no more need for email servers or web servers, basically all the servers in Internet will be Google ones, our computers will just be dumb terminals able to run a Web browser (the free software Firefox probably). We will move from a network of computers connectig each other (decentralized) to a star topology (centralized) with all the dumb terminals connected to Google central server. Google will be able to even change HTTP since all the servers will be theirs. Actually there will be no more need for the protocols I studied at the University (SMTP, HTTP, FTP, GOPHER, NNTP): all emails will move from Google machines to other Google machines (so they will be able for instance to completely change the protocol, I consider spam a feature and not a bug of a decentralized system but, if you don’t, in this way Google will be able to stop spam as well), all web sites will be served by Google machines, the only protocol remaining us would be anything able to send data to our Web browser and it could be anything.
I’m not arguing that Google will do it soon or that it is in their best interest, now. But it might be and in few years there might even be more companies technically able to host (and take control) of the entire Internet. On a related note, it is interesting to mull over how much would be worth such a company, the recipient and holder of all the knowledge created by anyone in the world.
So would this be good for the world? Of course I think not, it will be the end of the world of ends and of innovation happening on the edges. And when there is no more concurrency and a single point of failure, it will be no more in Google’s interest to stand by their “don’t be evil” motto but they will have to stand by the interests of their shareholders and the governments which will easily hunt for information in one single place.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, what if you can have all the people of the world directly creating this information in your hard disks? This is technically possible today, will it happen? Time will tell.