By now most people realize that Google’s mission to be free from evil is impossible. Idealism wasn’t able to withstand the lure of hundreds of millions of potential users in China. Coupled with the fact that Google has quickly become an advertising and media giant, there seems to be a schism between the need to feed the beast and a desire to do things differently.
Making compromises and drifting away from ideals because of reality doesn’t bother me too much. In fact, I would be concerned for the health of their company if that wasn’t happening. What bothers me is their total disregard for their developers and end users. This is an area where they are not only different, they are rude.
Google created the idea of the “lab.” The lab is a place where products and services can be presented and tested in the public. If something graduates from the lab, it becomes a beta release. The idea with a beta release is that it still needs testing, and in order to make it better you enlist brave end users to participate and report bugs. However, for Google, beta can mean whatever they want it to mean, regardless of these expectations.
Google has gotten away with releasing poorly functioning and unreliable services, because they leave their services in perpetual “beta.” For Google, their services are things to tinker with and tweak, not release.
The turning point for me was with Google’s SOAP Search API. It was Google’s first major attempt to offer an easy and robust way for developers to access their search engine data. Since its inception, it has always been unreliable — often times unavailable or sending back data errors. But that was okay, because this was a beta and we knew that the Google SOAP Search API team was hard at work making it better. Knowing (assuming) this, we continued developing products and services that used the API as a critical component — waiting day-after-day for their API to get better.
Unfortunately, the Google SOAP Search API team gave up on the API about year ago. For an entire year they said no word about discontinuing support and work on their SOAP Search API. Instead, they allowed developers to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars developing software that uses their API without any hint that they planned on killing it off (or at least letting it die a slow lonely death). While developers like ourselves were working hard to develop with their SOAP API, they were busy working on an AJAX Search API that would basically cripple the ability for developers to properly communicate with their servers. The AJAX API employs a completely different approach to accessing their data and their Terms of Service are so restrictive that it makes it completely useless to most software developers.
Google never gave their SOAP Search API a chance and misled developers along the way. They scared away smarter developers because of its continuous shoddy performance and refused to consider commercial (fee-based) licenses that would offer the ability for developers to run more queries and charge for their services (something they offer with AdWords).
Through their sudden drop of Google Answers (which I was a researcher for) and their extremely poor handling of their SOAP Search API (which directly affected my company financially), I have lost complete loyalty and interest in Google. So much so that I’ve decided to start my new year Google free.
I’ve spent the last couple of days moving my messages over from Gmail to my own email service and updating Firefox to search using Yahoo! instead of Google. All-in-all I will no longer be using:
- Google Notebook
- Google Toolbar
- Google Search
- Google as my browser’s start page
- Google Docs & Spreadsheets
- Google Calendar
- Google Reader
Instead, I’m returning to my OS application based world and will be running Mail.app, iWork & NeoOffice, iCal and NetNewsWire. Will I still use Google’s services? Sure I will, but not as my primary source for information and applications. They’ve lost my trust and loyalty, something that didn’t have to happen if they had just shown a little respect to their customers and developers.