Divesting in Google

Three years ago, at OSCON 2010, I was ready to go all-in with Google.

I came in a Google fan-boy. I used every Google service I could, both personally and in shifting (particularly mail and chat) any IT services that I would have traditionally provided at work. And while I hadn’t yet shifted to Android by July 2010, I would have imagined it would have only been a matter of time and the next cell-phone contract. I was, and am, still in favor of a lot of the ideals of Android, and functionally if I was all-Google all the time, it would make sense.

And maybe it was the excitement of my first OSCON, by far the best conference of its size I had ever attended. But I came away ready to build on Google Wave, ready to come back and spread AppEngine throughout the services I hosted, and evangelize it among my colleagues in Higher Education/Extension throughout the nation. I wrote Wave notes on multiple sessions, interacted with the Wave Team listened intently in every training, built a gadget, even if the platform was a little mystifying. I really, really liked AppEngine.

And while I couldn’t get the AppEngine developer evangelist to respond to my wave-based communication and questions about the training materials and licensing ( “hey, he’s busy, maybe he hasn’t caught the wave internally yet.” ) I left OSCON all ready for my Google future, and immediately announced a multiple-part training series on AppEngine.

The next month, Google killed Wave.

You know, I don’t blame them for the decision. Wave had incredibly interesting technology, but, honestly it was weird. It was never going to acheive mass-market, ever, in the form that it was. And I’ve seen Apache Wave since, I’m not going to run one, and I understand Google not running. And honestly, I admire Google for saying “no” — well sometimes saying no. It’s not an “Apple No” — but it’s more “no” than any organization in which I’ve worked.

But to have that much evangelism of the platform, and then weeks later ended – well, that still stung. It’s totally weird, I know, to have feelings about a platform I had been pretty skeptical of before — maybe I was scared of what was next of the free products that I really, really depended on? Notebook? Docs? Reader? Mail?

Well, Notebook died next, but I had already moved on to Evernote, and I couldn’t ever see Docs, Reader, or Mail going away. Reader had no advertisements, but it felt like almost the entire tech illumanati had shifted to it to have something server-side. And everything I actually cared about, every attention I had, from products to services flowed through Mail, and even importantly Reader, and I figured Google was mining the hell out of it to sell me things in my search.

And in the three years after Oscon, I started drifting back to Google. Chrome everyday over Safari and Firefox, Mail, Reader, an uptick in Google+, other Google products at work. And while the whole quagmire over Google’s caving on Network Neutrality in cell networks ticked me off, I still value the Android ideals and the unlocked Google-provided Nexus hardware was tempting from time to time.

Occasionally I’d think about writing my own feed reader, because the outage here and there made me nervous. And I’d think about paying for email, even paying Google for it.

And then, the thing I didn’t think would be killed was. Reader is the third Google product I depended on the most, and knew the most about me after Search, and Mail. But for Google that’s not enough. I was mad, but that’s just silly, so I’m not mad anymore. Like others are saying, it’s going to unleash a wave (pun intended) of new products in the Atom (and RSS if you must) parsing space. I’m looking forward to that.

But it is the stark reminder I needed again that I can’t depend on Google for anything that I want to keep around. I’m not sure you can depend on anyone’s technology/service or anything that’s not an open standard and that you run yourself, but still, I don’t want to run everything.

But with Google there’s no customer relationship. Their customer are the advertisers (as I’m reminded of in the Google snail mail I get for my registered LLC offering AdWords credit) — and the only products staying are the ones that achieve the advertising volume they need (and a few really incredibly interesting future pet technology projects, yes I mean Project Glass).

I can, do, and still love their technology, and will continue trying it and using it, but just not depending on it.

So personally, I’m done. Google has lost my investment. I get my Mobile OS from Apple, my desktop OS from Apple (for now, and that’s as much Apple Hardware and Lightroom as anything). I’ll get my maps from Apple on mobile, and just as often as Google from Microsoft on the desktop. My work browser stays Chrome, my personal browser is back to Safari (for now). My feeds I control, for now from Fever, but I’ll write my own reader, starting with Sam Ruby’s Mars — or one of the twenty bajillion readers that will come out of the community or the market now. Opera Software/Fastmail gets my mail. My google spreadsheets get replaced with Numbers sync via iCloud. My bookmarks and notes are in Pinboard and Evernote (though Evernote makes me a little nervous long term as well). Google analytics for my personal sites, gone (I’ll replace it with Gaug.es when the time comes that I want analytics again).

I still need a replacement for Google Voice — but I seem to be keeping that around only for the email notifications of messages and because the transcriptions are like subscribing to some mashup of LOLCats and Damn you Autocorrect and are worth the humor factor alone

Google still gets my search. Maybe Google+ keeps making that better, but I’m not so sure. My content is mostly coming to me from my feeds, and twitter, and facebook, and specialty sources these days.

And they get my work (well everything that’s not my code) But my work email and docs, and plusses are just as temporary as Google, Just for an age. Not like Shakespeare, or my personal data or my code history: “for all time”. (and probably not anywhere near as valuable as my personal interests to Google’s advertisers)

Google you’ve been an awesome date, but really, I just need more, and you just don’t have it in you to be long-term.

We’ll still be friends in Facebook though.