Saturday, February 07, 2015

Google and the Net 2015: The Quick, the Sick and the Dead - 7th edition

I first published a Google Quick, Sick and Dead list in January 2009, at the dawn of Dapocalypse. This was six months after the Battle of Latitude; we were well into the post-Android Google-Apple War I. By then the iPhone was big, but not as dominant as it would get.

Less than two years later, in July of 2011, Google Plus launched. Five months later Google Reader Shares vanished and Google 1.0 was declared dead. Looking back, a lot of software became ill in 2011.

Again with the damned interesting times! Since then many cloud services have been killed or abandoned. We’re growing accustomed to major regressions in software functionality with associated data loss (most recently with Apple’s Aperture). I am sure businesses struggle with the rate of change.

Looking back the 2009+ software turmoil probably arose from 2 factors, one technological and one external. The technological factor was, in a word, the iPhone. Mobile blew up the world we knew. The external factor was the Great Recession (which, in Europe, continues today as the Lesser Depression). 

Of course if you believe the Great Recession has its roots in globalization and IT (including IT enabled fraud and IT enabled globalization) [1] then it’s really all a post-WW II thing. I suppose that’s how it will look to the AIs.

Which brings me back to my Google Quick Sick and Dead series. It’s been more than four years since the 6th edition. I haven’t had the heart to update the list the way I once did — too many old friends have become ill. I’m doing an update today because I started a post on the Google Calendar iPad experience and it got out of control.

As with prior editions this is a review of the Google Services I use personally — so neither Android nor Chromebooks are on the list. It’s also written entirely from my personal perspective; I don’t care how the rest of the world sees Google Search, for me it’s dying.

With those caveats, here’s the list. Items that have effectively died since my last update are show with a strike-through but left in their 2011 categorization, old items have their 2011 category in parentheses. Items in italics are particularly noteworthy.

The Quick (Q) 
  • Google Scholar (Q)
  • Chrome browser (Q)
  • Maps and Earth (Q)
  • News (Q)
  • Google Drive and core productivity apps - Docs, Sheets, Present (Q)
  • YouTube (Q)
  • Google Profile (Q)
  • Google Translate (S)
The Sick (S)
  • Google Parental Controls (D)
  • Gmail (Q)
  • Google Checkout (S)
  • iGoogle (S)
The Walking Dead (D)
  • Google Search (S)
  • Google Custom Search (D)
  • Google Contacts (Q)
  • Google Hangout (S): on iOS
  • Google Voice (D)
  • Google Mobile Sync (S)
  • Google’s Data Liberation Front (S)
  • Google Calendar (Q)
  • Google Tasks (Q)
  • Picasa Web Albums (Q)
  • Blogger (D)
  • Google Books (S)
  • Google Plus (Q)
  • Buzz (D)
  • Google Groups (D)
  • Google Sites (D)
  • Knol (D)
  • Firefox/IE toolbars (D)
  • Google Talk (D)
  • Google Reader (S)
  • Orkut (S)
  • Google Video Chat (S) - replaced by G+ Hangout
A lot has happened in four years. I was surprised to see I’d rated Google Search as “sick” in 2011 — but that was the right call. In my personal experience Search has moved into the Dead zone since; I am often unable to locate items that I know exist. I have to find them by other means.
I haven’t adopted any new Google Services since 2011. On the other hand hand many services I thought would die have simply remained “Walking Dead”. Google Scholar’s persistence is quixotic; I figure Larry Page is personally fond of it.
Google Calendar is the Canary case. Four years ago Calendar was due for some updates, but it looked healthy. My immediate family members each have 1 Google Calendar; with various other family and school calendars and event feeds our total number of subscribed calendars is probably in the mid 20s. We use Google Calendar with Calendars on iOS and Safari or Chrome elsewhere. We’re Calendar power users.
Since 2011 though Calendars has stagnated. Google’s only “improvement” has been a partially reversed 2011 usability reduction. Today, thanks to our school district’s iPad program, I got to experience Google Calendar on the iPad without the benefit of Calendars 5 
[2]. It’s an awful experience; the “mobile” view is particularly abysmal. Suddenly four years of stagnation leapt into focus. Google Calendar is now an Android/Chrome only product.
Looking across the list there’s a pattern. Google is abandoning its standards based and internet services, focusing instead on Android and an increasingly closed Chrome-based ecosystem. Presumably those two will merge and Google and Apple will become mirror images. It’s unclear if anything will inherit the non-video streaming internet, or if it will simply pass into history. Maybe our best hope is that smaller standards-friendly ventures like Fastmail, Pinboard, WordPress, and Feedbin may prosper in an ecosystem Google has abandoned.
Damn, but it’s been one hell of a ride. The take away for me is that I need to get away from Google, but that’s easy to say and hard to do. Replacing my family’s grandfathered Google Apps services with the Fastmail equivalent would cost over $600 a year and the migration would take a non-trivial chunk of my lifespan. History is better to read than to experience, and we’re still early into the AI age.
- fn -
[1] It’s a different blog post, but widespread hacking (governments included) and ubiquitous identity theft may yet kill Internet 1.0. As of as Jon Robb predicted in 2007 the Internet itself is ailing.
[2] I haven’t been able to get my own iPad purchase past Gordon’s Laws of Acquisition. Those same laws have stopped my iPhone 6 purchase. Maybe I can justify the iPad by keeping my 5s.

See also:

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