Google that I used to love

Tags: English, opinions
Created on Mon, 18 Mar 2013

For those who know me, they are used to the idea that I am one of the biggest Google-fan boys. Thus, this post will be long. It's my life. I use not only the trivial Google search which everybody uses, I write my reports on Google Drive/Docs, organise my schedule on Calendar, correspond with Gmail (I even redirect the University email, which uses some 50-year old MS mailbox) and listen to YouTube. Of course the list goes on - Blogger, Chrome, Picasa, News, Music, Maps, Plus... Basically almost every tab I open comes from Google (or its search).

The Reader is Dead

One of these services is Google Reader - many probably haven't even heard of it, but for me it was one of the daily tabs. It aggregates RSS feeds (mainly blogs) that I love to read if there is something new. That's because I don't want to visit everyday xkcd, the Oatmeal or the blogs of my friends. It's good and keeps me updated with the stuff I like when they become available. Unfortunately, it was announced that it will be discontinued. That made a lot of people, like me, very angry, but the reason is that according to Google, we are in the minority. Most of the people never visit it or even heard about it, even though for years it was on the top of the Google bar (the black-y thing on top of every Google page that they are desperately trying to remove). Oh, well, Google has to have priorities, right? If it does everything, eventually it will get distracted and it's services will become worse, right?

RIP Google Reader

Update 2021: I now self-host my own reader at ttrss.pi2.dev

That's the case if Google was a normal company. But it is (was) not. Once upon a time, before Google started redesigning everything and trying to force people using their social plus, most of the pages were ugly, almost no pretty HTML5 magic or CSS wonder-animations. It was just simple, blue, underlined links that point to stuff, but the things behind these links were the real amazing things! The ideas like Google Squared, Wave, iGoogle, Notes. Google loves playing around and experimenting on the edge of the possibilities but lately it slowed down this to make more money. How? Simple...

Google plus whitespace How to make G+ more beautiful? Integrate with other services? Meh, white is the new black!

Pretty Means Money

Redesign something, make it look more beautiful and voilĂ  - people will come. They will come, because it's the nature of people to look for beautiful things, the simple basic urge to seek harmony and peace, to have their eyes rested on large white spaces, thin fonts; to enjoy the harmonic colours. Many companies, like Apple, are the real pro-s in that area - they know this and have exploited it ever since Steve Jobs pointed it out. However, he pointed it out to an important person for our discussion: Larry Page. Here are Steve Jobs recollection of a particular meeting:

"...The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It's now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great. " (Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson)

Sounds familiar to what is happening now? I don't know if this is truly why Google are doing the stuff they are doing, I am not a conspiracy theory lover. But Google had certain audience of people like me, loyal and putting all of their stuff in their basket, now are going away. Because they changed. They are becoming a regular company who cares only about the revenues and not the geeky culture they say they support. This is not yet evil but it going this way.

Don't be evil Actually the original slogan of Google is "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." But Don't be Evil is more catchy.

What made me write this post is the sudden realisation of a thing I read again in Google Reader. Apparently soon Google are going to release a note taking app. So far, so good. The difference is once I felt the excitement for the new things they are going to release, waited for them, wanted to be amongst the first to use it (For example, I went through a proxy in the early days to create a Music account which is available only in US. I think Google understood that and somehow blocked this, but I still have it. Or on the day they announced Drive in the first hour before raising the prices to monthly fees I bought a 20 GB for $5/year). That was the excitement I felt. But not today. My first thought was - this is probably going to be discontinued soon so why bother creating an account, organizing my information and everything, so that one day I have to transfer to different service, when there are many awesome apps like Evernote, whose only business is keeping notes, so probably they are not going to stop it any time soon.

Open Source Rant

Or why after Drive came out, there is still no support for Linux machines? Like Evernote, I think Dropbox now is still a better alternative for cloud file management. But it's weird, isn't it? They are dropping most of their clients for Linux. Maybe this is part of their thing to do everything on the web, and concentrate but what if they drop Chrome for Lunux these days? Besides, why Linux first? If you look at Google Plus, most of the time the trends are geeky stuff - Ubuntu, Google, Linux, Apple, technology conferences and news, scientific discoveries. Don't they know their audience? Google were supporters for open source, right? Look at Chromium and Chromium OS, Android. Also, everything they are providing is free, so I shouldn't really complain. But it's not like they are under performing, their main revenue - the ads, are still number one and they profit a lot. In fact here is an interesting comparison.

Apple/Google stock comparison All is well. Google is the new Apple.

Once I liked the idea that it's good to have a lot of stuff in Google's possession (yes, I know, how can you trust them, bla-bla... well, I do) because they would provide me with better integration and searching in one place would discover everything. But I start slowly realising that this might not happen. Have you ever tried to change your language on Google? And this language change would reflect all of the services, right? WRONG! Try it - YouTube doesn't obey at all, nor calendar, search is creepy, the domain you are searching on and the language you are using, AND the location are now are all fighting for first place and it's a mess! How then can you think that they are ubiquitous? Not talking about Drive and how it supposedly should be your one-stop for every file on the planet. It doesn't integrate with Picasa, Gmail or Music. Google Contacts sometimes has several contacts with the same name even if you created it once - the one you created on your phone, one for the Google Circles person, one for the person you tagged in Picasa albums (which is almost gone as well, slowly replacing it with Google Plus Photos).

Future Google

Yes, Google are still doing cool stuff. We know they are making a driverless car, augmented reality a-la Mission Impossible Glasses and many other secret things in Google X lab. These will be awesome once they come out. It will be a completely different world in 5-10 years and Google will be a lead player. But I liked it better before the redesign. Because they made cool stuff without thinking how much they will profit. They didn't make Chromebook Pixel's which has an Apple-like price tag for a mediocre machine (but it's beautiful). No, seriously, just watch the video. Remind you of something?

From the video: "But then you have that urge to just go and touch a button, or hit play on a video... and it actually works - it's just a wonderful experience...".

Seriously - "It just works"? C'mon...

In the end, it doesn't even matter

To sum up: I still like them.

What?! After all this rant!?

The free stuff they provide, the cool culture they have in their offices (that I was lucky to experience just briefly last summer), the 20% projects and the amazing stuff they are doing, they are still the best company out there, by my humble opinion. And I hope this is just a fluke, just a little slowdown until they catch their breaths, drink a little cold water and then run again like the super champions they are. I still believe in you guys!!

Googlism The Church of Google