The company randomly selected 500 Google Toolbar users to try out a new version of the toolbar that allows them to donate spare compute cycles to the Folding@home project, which simulates protein folding to study folding-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow disease (CJD in humans), ALS and Parkinson's.
But unlike Juno Online's effort last year, Google isn't looking at the distributed computing collaboration as a source of revenue. The purpose of the project, the idea of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is to contribute to science, the company said. Google may expand the program to include other scientific distributed computing projects, and may use the distributed network to improve Google's own services. Google is itself a large distributed computing system, using more than 10,000 computers to power its search engine.
The program may not bring in revenue directly, but it could attract more users to the Google Toolbar, which adds Google tools to Internet Explorer. The Folding@home software is available as a download on the toolbar. Google is considering offering the distributed computing program to a wider audience, but the company hasn't set a timetable for making that decision.