Saturday, March 10, 2007

Google and data lock -- not being evil

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Google has taken a public stance against using data lock to retain customers ...
Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO � Not trapping users’ data = GOOD

... We build a very good targeting engine and a lot of business success has come from that. We run the company around the users–so as long as we are respecting the rights of end users and make sure we don’t do anything against their interest, we are fine,” Schmidt said. He noted that history has shown that the downfall of companies can be doing things for their own self interest. “We would never trap user data,” he said...
This is a radically different stance than almost any company I can think of in any industry. The use of data lock to retain customers is almost universal -- even when it isn't an overt tactic [1]. Google's stated opposition to this strategy is probably more a marker of exceptional confidence rather than true virtue, but I'll give them some "non-evil" points.

Not a lot non-evil points, however. As far as I can tell Google's photo service (Picasa web albums) still locks in data. I don't believe there's an API for transferring images and metadata, or even an XMP-sidecar export option. If Picasas changes course, then I'll give Google full credit. At the moment: B-. Of course everyone else has a big fat F.

[1] The de facto covert approach is to fund development with feature-based ROI. There's no ROI for building migration capabilities, so it never gets funded. Migration capabilities can be expensive. Of course customer demand might change this, but consumers haven't figured that out. Or rather, they hadn't a year ago. I think that may be changing.

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