What is Google Caribou?

I’m at “SXSW” this week, enjoying the warm weather and (relatively) interesting sessions. I’m still not really used to people in the audience having their laptops open surfing the web wirelessly. It looks like more of a distraction than a benefit and most people seem to use it to check their e-mail and visit the blogs of the panel participants when bored. This, of course, leads to some unavoidable voyeurism as it is pretty much impossible not to look at a neighbor’s screen as they surf.

During the “Blogging Showdown” panel this morning, I noticed that an attendee from “Blogger” was checking an application called “Caribou”. The logo and interface were clearly Google, looking much like a Gmail clone. There was a small “alpha” under the Caribou logo, but other than that I couldn’t really make anything out before the laptop was closed.

So, what is Google Caribou?

Well, after some initial excitement that I had a scoop on a Google RSS reader or something like that, I find that (“in all likelihood”) Caribou was the pre-beta name for Gmail. Still, it seems odd that an online version of an alpha release is still available. Is it possible that Google is recycling the name and using it for internal alpha versions of Gmail upgrades?

Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on March 14, 2005.