Wither Google?

I remember Google's original motto of "Don't be Evil." I believed them, because they backed up those words with actions. Their products were open and interoperable. Where standards didn't exist, they wrote and published them. They were principled, and consistently so.

Not any more.

It's been a slow slide from grace, but the final straw was them half-assedly killing their formerly interoperable IM service, Google Talk. Ironically, this happened the very same day their CEO decried their competitors for not inter-operating with open standards.

Why is this a big deal? Simple -- Network effects. Why are telephones (and SMS), snail mail, and email so useful? Because anyone can communicate with anyone else. XMPP was that for Instant Messaging, and Google was its biggest champion. Unlike its competitors, the service was federated, just like email. You could operate your own server and still communicate with anyone else using the standard. Everyone had a walled garden, but Google through their clout started kicking those walls down. Until they changed their minds, using a set of bullshit excuses ("oh, the standard wasn't keeping up with our needs" -- never mind they had no problem extending said standard before, and indeed, conveniently ignored many already-defined features they claimed they needed)

Now it's effectively dead, because not only has Google actively chosen to wall their garden off, they did it in such a way that renders communication with the outsiders useless -- you're told they're available, but nothing gets through. No errors, just silently dropping everything.

Why am I so pissed about this? My last two employers used federated XMPP to talk to vendors and customers. One had independent servers, one used Google Apps directly. And guess what? Now everyone who uses google can still communicate, as can everyone who doesn't. but those inside the wall can no longer talk to anyone outside.

What the fuck, Google? You just destroyed your primary value proposition over your competitors. We don't want to socialize or "hang out", we want to communicate with people we need to communicate with. We need the tools to facilitate business. Heck, even Microsoft's communication suites are fully federated (with XMPP!) these days.

I've had it. Google, which I had such high hopes for initially, is just another Facebook now. Only they've done the Embrace, Extend, Extinguish trifecta far more effectively than anyone else.


Today was my first day at the new job. They're using a combination of Hosted MS Exchange and Skype for communications. It's an utter mess, slow, and won't scale much longer. I'm supposed to give some recommendations on how to grow this cleanly, but what am I going to recommend? Host everything ourselves (naturally) but should I fight for open systems (standard SMTP/IMAP, CalDAV, XMPP, built on LDAP) or just take the easy way out and recommend an all-encompassing Microsoft solution?

After all, I have the only Linux desktop in the office. So what makes the most business sense? Where's the value proposition fighting this uphill battle? Not only to the business, but to me, personally? Heck, would I honestly be better off just doing my Linux work in a Virtual Machine?

On that same note, I don't need Google to communicate. I run the server that hosts my DNS, photos, web pages (ie this blog!), email, and IM presence. RSS feeds adorn everything. It even does calendaring and address books. I'm working on adding federated VOIP services next. Everything built on open, federated, interoperable standards.

I started this before there was any real choice, but I've kept at it because I believe in the principle that I should control my own data, and not rely on the good graces of an increasingly-arbitrary third party for my digital presence.

The big feature that Hangouts added over Talk was (far) better Google+ integration. But that presumes you actually care about Google+. What did Google+ offer me that I didn't already have? Or maybe I should rephrase that. What did Google+ have to offer that they didn't just arbitrarily take away? (Aside from the ability to be a colossal waste of time, that is...)

So, I've purged my Google+ profile, and told Google why when they asked. It's a token gesture -- about as effective as farting into a hurricane.

Since my employer doesn't use Google services, I've also purged all but the essentials from my Android phone; the stuff I personally find useful. Which boils down to Voice (far better than my carrier's voicemail system) and Maps (OSMand is catching up quickly though!)

It's a shame there aren't any meaningful alternatives to Android; while I may be more than a little disgusted with Google these days, at least I still have the ability to recompile the entire Android system from scratch, and that's nothing to sneeze at. And as increasingly bad as Google's garden walling is, it has quite a ways to go before it catches up with its competition. If you can't beat them, join them. Or beat them, then join them anyway.

Anyway. Time for bed. Maybe I'll wake up with a better idea about what battles to fight.