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Google – Somebody that I used to know

Who is Google anymore? They have changed so much I really don’t see the company I used to like.
What happened to the friendly “We’re on your side?” type of company I grew up with? And what are they doing to their own products?
When I was in high school, I was one of the few between to get a Gmail invite. It was a big thing too. There was high value to a Gmail invite. Only certain people could give them out, and they only had a finite amount of invites. Also, that was around the same time I discovered (and fell in love with) Google Labs. Their little corner of the internet were experiments and software demos were shown off and discussed. It was fun and dynamic. There browser was a no-brainer for me being embedded into their ecosystem later down the track and after getting my first Android (Samsung Galaxy S).
So what’s different now? Well everything. Currently the Google Graveyard stands with lots of flowers from users paying respects their favorite and often frequently used products. Their recent causality; Google Reader.
Google Reader
The decisions to closed down Google Reader came to as a shock to me and a lot of other in the community as it is a useful tool. A central web-based site to keep up to date with your favorite websites through a single page using RSS. I used it for many years to keep up with my tech sites and found the go to place for news and other sites.
Google claims that a drop in user activity is the reason behind the decision to close the project. Really? Is it that low in usage that its not worth the server space? You’re Google. You could just run this on a server in the basement and no-one would care. This tombstone sure suggests that it has somewhat of a significant fan base.
Google Chrome
When Google release their own web browser, it was a welcomed competitor to the web browser market. At the time, it was a fight between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. Although Firefox was popular, IE still had a market. However today, things could be more-or-less split three ways and no-one complains.
However on a technical level, people welcome the browser as it was based on the Webkit rendering engine. Webkit is famous for it support for industry standards in web markups and languages. It was fast and also used by Apple’s Safari browser. And while using the engine, Google has contributed development back to the engine to improve it’s capabilities not just for Chrome, but for all browsers using the engine.
However recently, Google has announced that they would be making their own engine based on Webkit. They claim that using Webkit is restricting their development and building their own engine would allow them to redesign the engine to perform certain functions as separate processes, speeding up the loading process. But no only are the making their own, but splitting it two ways, open-source version and Google version. Because there just isn’t enough fragmentation in this digital world enough already.
The free email service that everyone loves. Kind of.
It was revolutionary when it was announced. Most people in the industry (even myself) thought it was joke as Google announced this project and released it on April 1st, none other than April Fools Day. But it turns out, it was actually real. Who woulda thunk it?!
The revolutionary part about the service was that fact it was the first service to offer 1GB of free online storage. And it continues to climb to this day. This amount was unheard of. Microsoft’s Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail only offer mere tens of megabytes.  But it got better from there.
They introduced Microsoft Exchange as a way to synchronize your mobile devices (phones, tablets and even computers) to the service for free. Only businesses really ever saw the light of a Microsoft Exchange server. But to have it on a free webmail account was awesome. And I love it. Fully sync mail, calendars, and contacts in a sync wizard. Awesome. However we are now going backwards.
Recently Google announced that they would no longer offer Exchange to free Gmail accounts but would continue to the services for their paid business services. Well that was a bummer. But it got worse.
While everyone was moving their settings from Exchange to IMAP, there was the question over syncing Calendars and Contacts. Well that was solved with using open technologies like CalDAV and CardDav for contact sync. Ok fine. But that didn’t last long. Google have now decided to develop and use their own proprietary Google Calendar API to sync calendars (not sure about contacts at this point). What?
That’s right. Google chose to develop their own way instead of embracing a open standard supported by lists of hardware and software. Microsoft even update their Windows Phone to allow CalDAV. But just as that update arrived, so was Google decision to not use it.
While Microsoft Exchange is proprietary, it was recognized by everyone. Google Android, Apple iOS and Blackberry had no issues connecting to a Exchange server. And it connected Mail, Contacts and Calendars in one hit. It was obviously the licensing cost that was too much for them.
So what do you from here? Can you really trust this company with it’s products?
I have had this long skeptism in Google. You could invest you time and efforts into a single product and next day, they could decide they’re no longer interested and you would be on the hunt for a replacement before losing all your data.
It’s a nervous time, but you can’t blame them. They’re growing at an enormous rate and none much more than the fun little company. They are an software enterprise. Android being a huge hit. Search advertising raking in the dollars. It would be nice to see some stability in their products some times.
Some Extra Reading
Google ditching Webkit for their own version of webkit but still open source?
After ditching Exchange, they want you to use CalDAV and CardDAV. But now ditching that for their own propriatary API
The Verge – GMAIL drops Exchange
Google Spring Cleaning

2 thoughts on “Google – Somebody that I used to know

  1. I do agree, in the most part – except for the chrome engine.
    A large number of rendering engines is not fragmentation, it is diversity. As long as there is not major changes in rendering of web elements between versions, diversity is a good thing. A perfect example of fragmentation is Internet explorer – coding for IE6 was, and is, an art in itself. IE7 became slightly more standards compliant, which resulted in less coding for web developers. IE8 and 9 dramatically improved compliance, to the point that now IE10 is pretty much the most compliant browser of any. Why did this happen? Microsoft had a sweet niche with IE6, where sites coded for it, the leading browser, were pretty much always incompatible with other browsers. The uptake of a wide variety of more standards-compliant, and predictable, browsers, put pressure on Microsoft to improve their product to its current state. Introducing a new, standards compliant engine can only help the web.

    Also, the irony of posting this on Blogger is not lost to me!

  2. I see your point about IE, but the main point of what I was driving at is the unnecessary of it all. Things would be better and easier if people helped make fewer products better, rather than creating their own and having lots of different good ones.

    Also, the "irony" comment… the theme behind this post was that I like[d] Google. I love[d] there services. But now they're are changing and making it more difficult or Engineer-friendly rather than user-friend. I use Blogger, a Google service, because it works well and hopefully it doesn't end up in the Google graveyard.

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