Where’s Google in the conversation?

Marc Canter lays out how Google is “locking in” developers more every day. But, what I find interesting is the lack of conversation from Google itself, particularly senior strategists. Where’s MarkL??? That’ll end up being what bites Google in the behind in the end game (does anyone notice they aren’t getting quick adoption outside of search and email? This lack of attention to influencers is the reason. They should have learned that from Microsoft’s Hailstorm experience. The kinds of things that Google is trying to do are massive — and scary, if we don’t trust Google anymore, and developers tell me they are headed toward believing Google is the new Microsoft).

It’s just a datapoint, but Marc and Chris Messina have two posts that hurt my head thinking about the strategic implications here. Developers are talking about Google, though (this isn’t the first time I’ve heard these concerns, they are running rampant in the developer networks I talk with).

I am meeting with some parts of Google next week, so I’ll try to get them to come out here and join the conversations.

UPDATE: Pete Hopkins, who works at Google (but says he’s not speaking for Google) joins the conversation!

Comments

  1. Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

  2. Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

    Beware the echo chamber of Google-dislikers and stinky-listers with axes.

  3. It’s easy to be a Google apologist today when we’re early in the web-as-application-platform is being built out for normal, end-user applications, but my concern is what the web will look like 5 or 10 years from now.

    I doubt that folks were worried about Microsoft when they started to push Office — after all, it was good software at the time — if not the best.

    Google is building best of breed web applications today, but the long term ramifications for its API choices, data formats and most of all authentication protocols will either leave open the possibility of continued innovation or eventual product stagnation, as their usage grows and they become paralyzed to make changes without pissing off a large number of users (which is the situation that Internet Explorer had been in until open source Firefox came along).

    Now, there are plenty of things that are different this time around, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not old enough to prognosticate accurately about the future, but if there are signs of history repeating, as Robert asks, I’d love to hear Google’s opinions on these matters.

    I, for the most part, like Google’s services and I use them quite frequently. But I also use other services — and the points where there isn’t interoperation — especially in authentication and user accounts — is really starting to weigh on my productivity. There are open solutions in the wild that would address these issues; I only hope that Google considers adopting and supporting behind them before we end up back where we were for another 10 years.

  4. It’s easy to be a Google apologist today when we’re early in the web-as-application-platform is being built out for normal, end-user applications, but my concern is what the web will look like 5 or 10 years from now.

    I doubt that folks were worried about Microsoft when they started to push Office — after all, it was good software at the time — if not the best.

    Google is building best of breed web applications today, but the long term ramifications for its API choices, data formats and most of all authentication protocols will either leave open the possibility of continued innovation or eventual product stagnation, as their usage grows and they become paralyzed to make changes without pissing off a large number of users (which is the situation that Internet Explorer had been in until open source Firefox came along).

    Now, there are plenty of things that are different this time around, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not old enough to prognosticate accurately about the future, but if there are signs of history repeating, as Robert asks, I’d love to hear Google’s opinions on these matters.

    I, for the most part, like Google’s services and I use them quite frequently. But I also use other services — and the points where there isn’t interoperation — especially in authentication and user accounts — is really starting to weigh on my productivity. There are open solutions in the wild that would address these issues; I only hope that Google considers adopting and supporting behind them before we end up back where we were for another 10 years.

  5. @Chris: I’m not sure I really agree with your “best of breed” web application comment. I think the only things Google has really gotten right are search and (maybe) mail.

    I’m of the oppinion that the UI for a lot of Google products is just plain bad. I even dislike the gmail UI. That might have something to do with the lack of adoption as well. Not that I’m saying Google shouldn’t be joining the conversation. Here’s a run down of what I think about their services:

    Google Search: The Best
    Gmail: Leaves a lot to be desired. While conversation view has it’s uses, there needs to be more customization available.
    Maps: I think Windows Live Local is currently best of breed in that category.
    Orkut: Give me a break
    Google Earth: A very cool product, but not a web app.
    Blogger: I think there are plenty of hosted blogging platforms that outshine Google here.
    Google Base: Does anyone actually use it?
    Google Video: Pretty much a failure
    Writely and Spreadsheets: Would anyone actually use these for anything more serious than a shopping list?

    I just think Google’s a bit overhyped, and I’m waiting for people to start seeing that besides search and advertising – Google’s probably not best of breed.

  6. I think there are a lot of conversations happening –but just not where its totally visible or in the form of blogs (which most folks harp about as the new wave method for conversations !!)

    If you join certain key Google groups, I am pretty sure that you will see conversations happening.

    In fact, here we near got an instantaneous answer a question.

    I think a lot of blogosphere, expects Google create blogs and join into ‘conversations’, but their mode of communication and conversations is different- that’s all.

    I kind disagree with Chris’s comments on “as their usage grows and they become paralyzed to make changes without pissing off a large number of users”,

    Google is listening and learning, thier userbase is strong and increasing along the loytalty ladder. Making changes will not piss of the user – not being truthfull will piss of the users’. Services and products constantly change and will evolve. Some users may like the enchancements, others may not, but thats the risk w/every prodcut correct ?? Oh well, like just the screeeeeech in vista Beta startup :)-

  7. @Chris: I’m not sure I really agree with your “best of breed” web application comment. I think the only things Google has really gotten right are search and (maybe) mail.

    I’m of the oppinion that the UI for a lot of Google products is just plain bad. I even dislike the gmail UI. That might have something to do with the lack of adoption as well. Not that I’m saying Google shouldn’t be joining the conversation. Here’s a run down of what I think about their services:

    Google Search: The Best
    Gmail: Leaves a lot to be desired. While conversation view has it’s uses, there needs to be more customization available.
    Maps: I think Windows Live Local is currently best of breed in that category.
    Orkut: Give me a break
    Google Earth: A very cool product, but not a web app.
    Blogger: I think there are plenty of hosted blogging platforms that outshine Google here.
    Google Base: Does anyone actually use it?
    Google Video: Pretty much a failure
    Writely and Spreadsheets: Would anyone actually use these for anything more serious than a shopping list?

    I just think Google’s a bit overhyped, and I’m waiting for people to start seeing that besides search and advertising – Google’s probably not best of breed.

  8. I think there are a lot of conversations happening –but just not where its totally visible or in the form of blogs (which most folks harp about as the new wave method for conversations !!)

    If you join certain key Google groups, I am pretty sure that you will see conversations happening.

    In fact, here we near got an instantaneous answer a question.

    I think a lot of blogosphere, expects Google create blogs and join into ‘conversations’, but their mode of communication and conversations is different- that’s all.

    I kind disagree with Chris’s comments on “as their usage grows and they become paralyzed to make changes without pissing off a large number of users”,

    Google is listening and learning, thier userbase is strong and increasing along the loytalty ladder. Making changes will not piss of the user – not being truthfull will piss of the users’. Services and products constantly change and will evolve. Some users may like the enchancements, others may not, but thats the risk w/every prodcut correct ?? Oh well, like just the screeeeeech in vista Beta startup :)-

  9. Robert, maybe Google Maps does have less features than Yahoo or Windows Live Local AND less market share than Mapquest… But, I use it more than any of the others because it’s so easy to drop in two addresses and get directions.

    Google “767 Fifth Ave. new york to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave 20001″ .. *volia*

    Also it’s great to just drop in one address and navigate the area.

    Mapquest takes too many clicks and is filled with ads.

    Also, the SMS directions from Google are awesome.

    Text the same query above to 46645 (GOOGL)

  10. Robert, maybe Google Maps does have less features than Yahoo or Windows Live Local AND less market share than Mapquest… But, I use it more than any of the others because it’s so easy to drop in two addresses and get directions.

    Google “767 Fifth Ave. new york to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave 20001″ .. *volia*

    Also it’s great to just drop in one address and navigate the area.

    Mapquest takes too many clicks and is filled with ads.

    Also, the SMS directions from Google are awesome.

    Text the same query above to 46645 (GOOGL)

  11. “Google Maps has fewer features than Yahoo or Windows Live Local and a LOT less marketshare than Mapquest. ”

    suprising that Google Earth enterprise is then used by the likes CBC, CNN etc etc MSM for the mapping efforts :)- Why would they want to choose a product that has “fewer features” — costs ??

  12. “Google Maps has fewer features than Yahoo or Windows Live Local and a LOT less marketshare than Mapquest. ”

    suprising that Google Earth enterprise is then used by the likes CBC, CNN etc etc MSM for the mapping efforts :)- Why would they want to choose a product that has “fewer features” — costs ??

  13. Oh BTW Robert but did you catch this

    “This is kindergarten stuff, folks–stuff Microsoft needs to get right if people want to take them seriously.” :)-

  14. Oh BTW Robert but did you catch this

    “This is kindergarten stuff, folks–stuff Microsoft needs to get right if people want to take them seriously.” :)-

  15. Where’s Google in the conversation? They all use Macs, and Google Talk doesn’t freakin’ run on a Mac. Sure, you can use third party clients with the service, but the official Google Talk is PC only – so they’re not in the conversation because they can’t HAVE the conversation.

    /disgruntled Mac user

  16. Where’s Google in the conversation? They all use Macs, and Google Talk doesn’t freakin’ run on a Mac. Sure, you can use third party clients with the service, but the official Google Talk is PC only – so they’re not in the conversation because they can’t HAVE the conversation.

    /disgruntled Mac user

  17. IE 7 im not a fan of I use Avant or Firefox only Avant because of social networking alot pages html arent displayed properly on gecco.

    The things I dont like about IE 7 are the fact youre stuck with the search bar , I can add and maniuplate all my search engines by simply creating a folder in my links and open in new browser page or tab in Avant or Firefox

    also you cant move tab bar to bottom its interface is lousy or move and center the address bar , I like to set up my browsers like AOL and center the address bar , Is it possible to keep IE 6 design and interface with Vista???
    or some kind of alternative???

    also last but not least no skins the same old boring stuff that really isnt as important as the above mentioned but I thought I’d include it anyway

    Good Luck On IE -7 / Vista
    I truly hope they condsider this feedback at Microsoft LOL

  18. IE 7 im not a fan of I use Avant or Firefox only Avant because of social networking alot pages html arent displayed properly on gecco.

    The things I dont like about IE 7 are the fact youre stuck with the search bar , I can add and maniuplate all my search engines by simply creating a folder in my links and open in new browser page or tab in Avant or Firefox

    also you cant move tab bar to bottom its interface is lousy or move and center the address bar , I like to set up my browsers like AOL and center the address bar , Is it possible to keep IE 6 design and interface with Vista???
    or some kind of alternative???

    also last but not least no skins the same old boring stuff that really isnt as important as the above mentioned but I thought I’d include it anyway

    Good Luck On IE -7 / Vista
    I truly hope they condsider this feedback at Microsoft LOL

  19. Robert, Sorry that I have not been paying attention to your blog or this thread. I think you guys might want to do your homework on GData. It IS RSS or ATOM on the read side. And on the write side is ATOM Publishing protocol. I don’t understand how you guys can possibly decide that GData is some proprietary Google protocol. How would you like us to provide read/write access to public and private (per-user) information? Sorry there isn’t a name for the combination of read side RSS/ATOM + write side ATOM Publishing Protocol + A9 Open Search Query. Yeah, we coined GData for this combination. Maybe we should have just called it “foo”?

  20. Robert, Sorry that I have not been paying attention to your blog or this thread. I think you guys might want to do your homework on GData. It IS RSS or ATOM on the read side. And on the write side is ATOM Publishing protocol. I don’t understand how you guys can possibly decide that GData is some proprietary Google protocol. How would you like us to provide read/write access to public and private (per-user) information? Sorry there isn’t a name for the combination of read side RSS/ATOM + write side ATOM Publishing Protocol + A9 Open Search Query. Yeah, we coined GData for this combination. Maybe we should have just called it “foo”?

  21. umm … did microsoft get in trouble because they *didn’t* provide the api’s ? if google continues to expose whatever api they use, a developer can convert from any google service to any other. google never holds your data … gmail (grab it with pop3) picasa (never touches your pictures) writely/spreadsheets (export your docs in whatever format you like)

  22. umm … did microsoft get in trouble because they *didn’t* provide the api’s ? if google continues to expose whatever api they use, a developer can convert from any google service to any other. google never holds your data … gmail (grab it with pop3) picasa (never touches your pictures) writely/spreadsheets (export your docs in whatever format you like)

  23. [I'll say straightaway that I'm speaking for me, sitting around on a Sunday morning. So this is Pete Hopkins joining the conversation and no, uh, larger entity of any sort.]

    I’m disappointed that the two posts you’ve linked to seem to get some facts wrong and, as a result, I think draw the wrong conclusions.

    As a quick initial aside, Marc gets the description of the Blogger 1.0 API totally wrong. It does use XML-RPC, and it actually pre-dates the MetaWeblog format. (If you believe Wikipedia, “MetaWeblog API was designed to address limitations of Blogger API.”) Blogger has deprecated the Blogger 1.0 API, according to the docs, though it is still supported in the beta.

    More significantly, though, Marc gets the description of Gdata wrong. Isn’t one of the big reasons for Atom that it has a sane extensibility model? And adding extensions does not make it not Atom. Right now Gdata is Atom plus conventions for searching and filtering the Atom feed, and some initial work on handling versioning/conflicts. Isn’t that a good thing? The Atom API docs that I’ve read don’t address these issues. And, if you take a 3rd party Atom 1.0 client that has nothing Googley in it, that will work, too. Because it’s still, at its core, a standard. “Bastardization” — Marc’s word — is a totally inaccurate way to describe Gdata’s relationship to Atom.

    Finally, I do not buy Chris’s “Google Accounts == lock-in” argument. Google Accounts is an authentication scheme (well, two: one for clients and one for webapps) and single sign-on across Google products. It has nothing to do with the openness of the APIs. Yes it allows for integration between Google products that 3rd parties won’t have (for example, Google Video would not need to ask for your Blogger password to post if you’re already logged in to Google Video), but nowhere in that equation does it mean that YouTube won’t be allowed to post to Blogger, or that Google Video won’t support, say, MetaWeblog. Saying that Google Accounts means that Google will stop allowing 3rd parties in to its APIs is baseless, cynical speculation.

    I see Gdata as a way of standardizing, if you will, Google products’ APIs on — oh, look! — a standard: Atom. As I said, I can’t speak for that company’s plans, but with Calendar, Blogger, and now Base on Gdata, I think that the trend and momentum are in the Gdata direction. Reducing the overall variety of API formats, and choosing a standard on which to base those APIs seems to me the exact opposite of API lock-in.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if Blogger is on your itinerary for this visit, Robert, but if it is I look forward to seeing you again!

    – Pete

  24. [I'll say straightaway that I'm speaking for me, sitting around on a Sunday morning. So this is Pete Hopkins joining the conversation and no, uh, larger entity of any sort.]

    I’m disappointed that the two posts you’ve linked to seem to get some facts wrong and, as a result, I think draw the wrong conclusions.

    As a quick initial aside, Marc gets the description of the Blogger 1.0 API totally wrong. It does use XML-RPC, and it actually pre-dates the MetaWeblog format. (If you believe Wikipedia, “MetaWeblog API was designed to address limitations of Blogger API.”) Blogger has deprecated the Blogger 1.0 API, according to the docs, though it is still supported in the beta.

    More significantly, though, Marc gets the description of Gdata wrong. Isn’t one of the big reasons for Atom that it has a sane extensibility model? And adding extensions does not make it not Atom. Right now Gdata is Atom plus conventions for searching and filtering the Atom feed, and some initial work on handling versioning/conflicts. Isn’t that a good thing? The Atom API docs that I’ve read don’t address these issues. And, if you take a 3rd party Atom 1.0 client that has nothing Googley in it, that will work, too. Because it’s still, at its core, a standard. “Bastardization” — Marc’s word — is a totally inaccurate way to describe Gdata’s relationship to Atom.

    Finally, I do not buy Chris’s “Google Accounts == lock-in” argument. Google Accounts is an authentication scheme (well, two: one for clients and one for webapps) and single sign-on across Google products. It has nothing to do with the openness of the APIs. Yes it allows for integration between Google products that 3rd parties won’t have (for example, Google Video would not need to ask for your Blogger password to post if you’re already logged in to Google Video), but nowhere in that equation does it mean that YouTube won’t be allowed to post to Blogger, or that Google Video won’t support, say, MetaWeblog. Saying that Google Accounts means that Google will stop allowing 3rd parties in to its APIs is baseless, cynical speculation.

    I see Gdata as a way of standardizing, if you will, Google products’ APIs on — oh, look! — a standard: Atom. As I said, I can’t speak for that company’s plans, but with Calendar, Blogger, and now Base on Gdata, I think that the trend and momentum are in the Gdata direction. Reducing the overall variety of API formats, and choosing a standard on which to base those APIs seems to me the exact opposite of API lock-in.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if Blogger is on your itinerary for this visit, Robert, but if it is I look forward to seeing you again!

    – Pete

  25. [...] Maybe that’s the key to Robert’s question… and my criticism. Google has a ton of blogs and newsgroups, but I just don’t connect with them the way I do with the blogs, services or people of Flickr and Upcoming… I mean, I know there is, but it just makes me wonder, “Gee Tinman, is there really a heart in there?“ [...]