Why are Google Apps users treated like second-class netizens?

Google+: Great Walled Garden
Google+: Great Walled Garden
Original photo by Neil D'Cruze

Hey Google.  Remember me?

I was there when you launched Gmail.  I got one of those first beta invites a couple of weeks after you launched the platform.  I immediately dropped my Hotmail account and switched everything over from a crazy [email protected] (at the time it was fibonacci_jazz), to a more professional sounding address using my initials and last name @gmail.com — then, a symbol of l33tness.

When you released Gtalk, I was all over it.  I downloaded the client, and it is still the main messaging platform I use, eschewing frilly and ridiculous, ad-ridden messengers like MSN Messenger, AIM, and Yahoo!.

When Apps was first released to the public, we all thought it was cool, even if we didn’t know exactly what we’d do with it.  Moving everything to the cloud was a hard pill to swallow, but swallow it we did, and started sharing documents across the interwebs.

Since then, our relationship has gotten a little rocky.

You launched Google Apps for Business.  Okay, so you’re trying to take on Microsoft — a lofty and noble goal, even if it is a bit delusional.  No one is going to dump years worth of Microsoft Office in favor of a free, web-based platform, surely.  And you created a free version for us normal folk.  We weren’t entirely sure why we would need Google Apps on our own domain — outside of being able to use a Gmail interface for our own personal domain, which was pretty cool — but we all signed up anyway.  We wanted to be part of the cool club, and just saying “I’m using Google Apps for my domain” was pretty cool.

But you shit on us.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.

Google Apps for personal domains was always last to receive the latest and greatest updates you were making to Google Apps for everyone else, and that included the improvements you made to Gmail.  Sure, you added an option to be on the bleeding edge of updates.  Later.  After the resentment of having been slighted set in.

Then, once we’d gotten settled in our new Apps domain, and started using our Apps email address for everything Google under the sun (and I mean everything, because we were still drinking the Kool-Aid), you pulled the big whammy on us.  This migration bullshit.  WTF, Google?

Okay, I get it.  I’ve worked in the IT industry and I understand the challenge of moving a bunch of users from an old platform to a new one.  But to us, it’s not really a new platform, is it?  It’s the same stuff we’ve used for years.  It’s the address we’ve had since the day we signed up for Google Apps for our domain and have used for every other stinking Google product including freaking YouTube.  Conflicted account, you say?  Conflicted how exactly?  It wasn’t conflicted when I set up a Blogger site to test templates I was developing.  It wasn’t conflicted when I was saving stuff in Google Docs on jazzsequence.com.  To us, this is just some crazy bullshit you made up.

From a tech perspective, it’s no better.  So you need to migrate thousands, if not millions of users over to the next generation Google platform.  So what?  Figure out the migration process and make it work.  Do this first, before you launch a new product, before you tell everyone that they will lose everything and need to create a new personal Gmail account, which is just bullshit.  A new Gmail account?  That’s the reason we set up Google Apps on our domain to begin with — so we didn’t have to use a Gmail (or Hotmail, or Yahoo) address.  How and when am I going to use another email address, and why would I want to have to switch accounts every time I need to use that stuff?  You’ve got 28,000+, highly trained, incredibly brilliant, motivated, well-paid employees and you’re telling me not one of them had any insight into making the transition more painless?

But the real slap in the face, Google, and the reason I am writing to you, is your latest insult: Google+.  When you first launched those +1 buttons, I was right there with you.  Yeah, I said, share content with friends and family, affect their search results and show them things that I think are cool — sounds awesome.  And I started using the +1 button and trying to figure out how I could add it to my website and the sites I built.  That is, until Google+.  All of a sudden, the +1 button required me to log in, and  I couldn’t log in because I was using an Apps account.  I’m surely not going to switch accounts every time I want to +1 something, and why bother getting set up on a new social network when I’m going to have to dump that account anyway if/when you do let the Apps people in.  This whole switching accounts thing is bullshit anyway — I thought you were going to make that easier.  Why can’t we, I don’t know, merge accounts?  Multiple email addresses and profiles that all feed into the same master address/profile that works on everything.

I can’t tell you how many invites I’ve gotten to Google+ at this point.  I’d love to be able to use it.  But you screwed me, Google.  I refuse to log into a crap account that only exists because you forced me to make it so I can get access to your pretty walled garden network and ogle over how glorious and white it is.  I’m not going to bother setting up circles and following people until I know I can do it with the account I actually use.

We’ve had a rough couple of years, Google.  My brief period of alone time from you made me realize how dependent I am upon a number of your products.  But I can’t buy into your bullshit anymore.  The “don’t be evil” thing — maybe it meant something a long time ago, but now it’s a joke.  You are evil, fueled by the profits you reap from harvesting all our personal data.  There’s some pockets of good in there, I’m sure, like the developers who work on the products you deploy that people can actually use, but I know you’re taking my Chrome browser and click history and storing it in your datacenters so you can feed me better ads (which I then block with a Chrome extension).

When Apps users are let into Google+, we’ll all be raving about how wonderful it is, I’m sure, but until then you’ve just made yourself look like an ass, Google.  Locking out the very people who were very probably some of the earliest of early adopters, people who have used Apps for years and stuck with it.  Don’t get me started on how badly you’ve nerfed Groups, and how Groups for Apps is a joke now.  Fine, whatever, I have to believe you’ll bring some of that stuff back.  And if not, well, I can live without, I guess.  But if you want me to be a megaphone for your new thneed, then you need to give me the fucking key.

Don’t be Google: A battle-cry for Net Neutrality

By now you should have heard about the closed-door talks that Google isn’t having with Verizon that absolutely wouldn’t destroy Net Neutrality as we’ve known it (and Google has argued for it) for the last several years.

Here’s the rundown:

The New York Times published an article that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement in talks that would create a tiered structure for content providers such that certain types of content providers would get faster speeds than others.  In the current model of the internet, everyone works with what we’ve got, and any speed issues are solely on how much you as a consumer are willing or able to pay.  As everyone hooks up to broadband and Google is fighting for nationwide fiber-optic, speed differences will be dependent upon the servers of the content providers for the first time, rather than how slow or fast your modem is (remember 28.8k?).

Basically, this would give some content providers (i.e. anyone who’s worked out a special deal with Google, or content providers that Google already owns, like YouTube) fast-lane speeds whereas everyone else (say, a video startup in someone’s garage to compete with YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, etc) would be stuck behind grandma.

Essentially, this means that if you are friends with Google (or Verizon), you get to be in the cool kids club.  If not, you can eat the cool kids’ dust.

Huffington Post published a great editorial yesterday that highlighted some of Google’s flip-flops in publicly-expressed attitudes toward Net Neutrality.  In particular this:

Traffic prioritization allows the broadband provider to become an unwanted gatekeeper in the middle of the Internet. Because of the market power they currently employ, broadband providers have the technical ability and economic incentives to determine which packets of Internet traffic get delivered to which consumers under what conditions. The end result is that the Internet becomes shaped in ways that serve the interests of the broadband providers, and not consumers or innovative Web entrepreneurs.

has turned into this:

People get confused about Net neutrality. I want to make sure that everybody understands what we mean about it. What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another. It’s OK to discriminate across different types…There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue.

Seriously, Google?  That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve been saying and arguing for.

Net Neutrality, it seems, is only worth fighting for when it’s profitable.  As soon as the time comes when Net Neutrality (or, you know, anything at all) no longer becomes profitable, Google seems to think it’s perfectly okay to switch gears with a complete reversal.  Google is no longer the scrappy underdog we all rooted for in the dotcom boom, when Microsoft was evil (and made no claims otherwise).  Google has grown to a mammoth internet behemouth able to wield huge swaths of internet real estate and tear down empires with their mighty power.  While we weren’t looking, they’ve hidden behind their “don’t be evil” slogan and made us okay with taking all our information (it’s okay because it makes search results more accurate and personalized), giving up our privacy (we don’t mind as long as we can find where we’re going), and handing over all our data to someone else (it’s so much more convenient to store our data online and access it from anywhere).  Now, they’re crowning themselves Kings of the Internet, able to rule over all that they see (which is everything), and determine what content providers or what types of content deserve special treatment and what doesn’t.  Not only that, but they’ve got us in a vice grip; like junkies, we’re addicted to their services because they work so damn well.  And Google can’t be all bad when all their applications are free (despite the millions of dollars they make shoving ads in your face).  I’d say I’m switching to Bing but even Bing can’t deliver search results that are as accurate to what I’m looking for as Google.

There’s a new meme in town.  No longer shall we say “don’t be evil”; henceforth the battle cry will be “Don’t be Google.”