I remember the days I was encouraging my friends and family to embrace Google’s products, because it was safer to do so than utilizing anything else. I remember my reasoning when I chose that I would use goo.gl to shorten my links: “if it’s Google, I have the certitude that those shortened links will never break”. After all, the likelihood to see Google go bust is relatively low, to say the least. But all that was before a spring clean spree Google initiated in 2011.
Services going down
I was a decent user of a service called Aardvark, bought by Google in February 2010. The tool was a pre-Quora, post Yahoo! Q&A type of service, allowing people to ask or give answers in real time. It was extremely useful to get insights about a city you wanted to visit, find a good doctor or anything like that. Google bought it, Google killed it about 18 months after – most probably because they like to be the only company giving answers on the web.
“While Aardvark will be closing, we’ll continue to work on tools that enable people to connect and discover richer knowledge about the world”. Google Blog
Funnily enough, I can’t remember seeing anything similar to Aardvark in Google’s product list, which tend to confirm that by tools Google means Google Search.
Google killed Reader quite recently, too. I wrote about it, and I still do think about it a lot because the matter is not about the loss of a useful tool but, about understanding this will happen again.
The problem with blind confidence
People put their lives in between hands of companies they do trust more than anything, due to their size and popularity. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple are all in the same boat. These ubiquitous companies embody global consistency, quality, security and even culture. We tend to forget they are all public companies, and that their main customers are their investors, not their users. Of course, products are still very well made, but I don’t trust them to keep a service alive just because it looks good. If Google decided to kill Reader, why wouldn’t they kill goo.gl and other minor services as well? Let’s not forget that more than 90% of Google’s revenues comes from Search. If this revenue stream is threatened, we can be sure non-revenue generating services will go down.
Don’t rely on one horse only
My main concern has always been to ensure continuity of what I’m producing online, let it be a link I shorten, a site I stylize with a web font, an email I write. I used Google’s services for everything. Since I do not believe relying on Google only is healthy any longer, I am looking for alternatives that allow me to:
- Think different
- Get better service
- Don’t rely on one horse only
I’ve been using Windows Phone heavily for 6 months now. The way I use a smartphone has changed. I know, that I will change OS again next time something innovative arises, because using a different OS has had positive impact on me, as a human looking forward to learning new things every day.
Finding alternatives also helped me to find better service. I’d been thinking for a while that goo.gl was far too basic. I recently switched to bit.ly, which was a revelation. I should have done so before. Bit.ly’s core offering is url shortening. Their service is so much better than Google’s equivalent. Yes, bit.ly can disappear tomorrow, so can goo.gl – at least I’m using something better.
Blindly relying on one horse is indeed good as long as the horse wins, but the concept of racing suggests that competitors are involved. Although Google are extremely good at what they produce, it is without a doubt that more specialized companies can beat them. Otherwise, Netflix would be Google Play Movies, Google Music would have been around before Spotify, WhatsApp would be Talk, Square would be Google Wallet, and so on.
If Google checks the activity logs for my personal account, they will see a strong drop in usage. I’ve halved my searches by using Bing on my handled devices (more on this in another article), I don’t use Chrome at home, I’ve dropped Android, I’ve never looked at Drive, and I think I did a Google+ hang out in 2011 Since then I haven’t willingly interacted with Google’s social network.
When we go out shopping, we should always try to help local shops to keep afloat, in a world dominated by big retailers, whether they’re called Amazon or Tesco. This is normal, and yet slightly utopistic, supporting small businesses is supporting creativity and innovation. Not using Google’s services feels the same – I’d rather miss some very good and handy solutions provided by big companies like One click purchase, two step verification, cross device sync but help the smaller ones to exist. Otherwise, who shows us better can be done?
I’m currently reviewing the list of Google products I use to check if there is no more products likely to be killed by Google. If I find anything that is relevant to replace, I will without hesitating. It won’t hurt Google, and I know for sure I’ll discover that some other horses can do really nice things.