27 votes

Google blew a ten-year lead

39 comments

  1. [4]
    skybrian
    Link
    I don't think they've become irrelevant. I think they've become a utility. Utilities are focused on providing basic service to everyone. This means not focusing on anyone in particular....

    I don't think they've become irrelevant. I think they've become a utility.

    Utilities are focused on providing basic service to everyone. This means not focusing on anyone in particular. Enthusiasts find them boring and most people find them unresponsive. But it would be hugely disruptive if they weren't there, and providing basic service to everyone is harder than it looks.

    I expect that if self-driving cars end up coming from Waymo then they will soon become boring.

    20 votes
    1. [2]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Utilities are low margin businesses that focus on reliability and consistency while being very conservative about change because their customers need to depend on them. Google doesn't run its...

      Utilities are focused on providing basic service to everyone.

      Utilities are low margin businesses that focus on reliability and consistency while being very conservative about change because their customers need to depend on them.

      Google doesn't run its products like utilities. They routinely make drastic changes and pop up and kill new product lines. They're definitely not prioritizing stability or reliability.

      10 votes
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        With a big company, it depends where you look, the analogy only goes so far. Stability and reliability is what SRE's do and Google's main apps don't go down much. Chrome is pretty reliable. There...

        With a big company, it depends where you look, the analogy only goes so far. Stability and reliability is what SRE's do and Google's main apps don't go down much. Chrome is pretty reliable. There are core products used by billions that don't change very much. These core products are very persistent; Google tried to innovate with Inbox but it just got sucked back into Gmail.

        Sometimes they are bad at being a utility, though, and newer products sometimes get killed for not being enough of a utility.

        12 votes
    2. acdw
      Link Parent
      I think this is an extremely perceptive response. Google's maybe done with the innovation space, and they're aiming for the background-of-our-lives space, like GE, etc. That's kind of terrifying.

      I think this is an extremely perceptive response. Google's maybe done with the innovation space, and they're aiming for the background-of-our-lives space, like GE, etc. That's kind of terrifying.

      9 votes
  2. [16]
    feigneddork
    Link
    This is actually pretty spot on to why I’ve moved over from Google. Also applies a bit with Microsoft Windows (although I find Office 365 too much of a bargain to drop, especially when you...

    This is actually pretty spot on to why I’ve moved over from Google. Also applies a bit with Microsoft Windows (although I find Office 365 too much of a bargain to drop, especially when you consider they include OneDrive for the price that’s less than Dropbox).

    I used to be a Google/Android die hard enthusiast. I looked at Apple as this company that was slow, lacked real innovation, and stupidly expensive. It was such a laughing stock from an Android fan’s perspective. Why would I ever move to iOS? Did you see how much Android progressed with Ice Cream Sandwich? These Nexus devices are incredible.

    Not to mention that Google we’re just brimming with crazy, unique software that was unlike anything in terms of how niche yet useful it was. Google Reader. Gmail. The whole calendar/drive/office suite. It was mind boggling I’d get this so easily and for free? Are you kidding? Oh what’s that? Google knows everything about what I do? Who cares? this stuff is almost like gold in terms of value in my life!

    And then something happened. I have no idea internally, but it started with the end of Google Reader/the birth of Google Plus. Ever since that point, Google as a software company was never the same. Gone were these little cool bits of software that under any company would never exist because they have no use. Gone was the Nexus product line. Gone was the crazy innovations under Android.

    Suddenly Google’s software became just like every other big corporation - low risk, low effort. I’ve moaned in the past about Google’s product killing spree, and to me it is a real panic, especially given their track record. But mainly I miss the craziness of Google’s products - even iGoogle, something I would never use myself, but it showed Google had a sense of personality, like a group of people has this cool idea and then just built it themselves to fit their needs.

    I’ve pretty much moved to the Apple ecosystem recently - MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone, AirPods. In happy with what I get from Apple, but in all honesty I do miss the old Google.

    21 votes
    1. [8]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      I've been increasingly tempted to make the move over to apple but I loathe both ecosystems for different reasons. I wish there was a good alternative. 😩

      I've been increasingly tempted to make the move over to apple but I loathe both ecosystems for different reasons. I wish there was a good alternative. 😩

      12 votes
      1. feigneddork
        Link Parent
        Honestly I was in the same boat as you until I bought a cheap second hand iPhone and just stuck to it. After a while my issues with the iPhone gradually faded and I stopped caring about Android....

        Honestly I was in the same boat as you until I bought a cheap second hand iPhone and just stuck to it.

        After a while my issues with the iPhone gradually faded and I stopped caring about Android. No quite 100% there on Apple fanboy Ian, but in a way I respect iOS (secure os with data consent at pretty much every step of the way) and macOS (as someone who loved Linux but finds a lot of the time I’m fighting silly things about the os) the macOS is a godsend in terms of just getting on with things.

        But of course everyone has their own take on iOS/macOS and that’s valid too.

        9 votes
      2. [4]
        babypuncher
        Link Parent
        I used to be die-hard anti-Apple, particularly because of how closed their ecosystem is. Having to use an iPhone for work gradually changed this. As I used more and more Apple products, I began to...

        I used to be die-hard anti-Apple, particularly because of how closed their ecosystem is.

        Having to use an iPhone for work gradually changed this. As I used more and more Apple products, I began to see why their ecosystem works the way it does.

        They don't usually close things off for no reason. When Apple rolls out a proprietary standard, it's because they find the existing open standard inadequate from a user experience perspective. Lightning cables are a great example of this. When they launched with the iPhone 5, USB-C was still years away. Lightning provided a much better user experience, and solved problems that even USB-C hasn't fixed.

        9 votes
        1. [3]
          Iliketoast
          Link Parent
          What problems with USB c are fixed by lightning? Not sure I see any advantage

          What problems with USB c are fixed by lightning? Not sure I see any advantage

          2 votes
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Lightning predates USB-C by about half a decade. It was designed because micro and mini-USB were bad. As for advantages over USB-C. The main one is probably that it's a much firmer connector....

            Lightning predates USB-C by about half a decade. It was designed because micro and mini-USB were bad.

            As for advantages over USB-C. The main one is probably that it's a much firmer connector. USB-C ports are loose and I would still get nervous about plugging in something like an eGPU or an external hard drive via USB-C.

            It's also more durable of a connector since the tabs are on the cable instead of in the port. If something fries, it fries in the easy-to-replace cord rather than the hard-to-replace device.

            4 votes
          2. babypuncher
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Lightning ports are more durable. If you look inside a USB-C port, you will see that it has a thin plastic thing that sticks out right in the middle. This is where all the contacts are. Being kind...

            Lightning ports are more durable.

            If you look inside a USB-C port, you will see that it has a thin plastic thing that sticks out right in the middle. This is where all the contacts are. Being kind of long and made of plastic. This becomes a weak point if a user shoves in an improperly made USB-C cable (or the wrong kind of cable in general), or if debris gets in there. It doesn't take much pressure to bend or break this plastic piece, rendering the port unusable.

            The lightning port does this inside out. The pins in the connector line the wall, and are embedded in the frame of the connector. In the above scenarios, it's much harder to cause damage on the port.

            My guess is that USB-C probably did not follow the Lightning connector's design in order to protect end users from cables connected to out of spec devices that offer power delivery.

            This wasn't anything I had ever really thought about until a friend of mine who owns a repair shop at a nearby mall told me about how many broken USB ports they end up fixing.

            2 votes
      3. [2]
        scissortail
        Link Parent
        The FOSS ecosystem is a great alternative for most use cases, imo. There's even great work being done on smartphones and tablets by PINE64. Mobile devices aren't up to snuff with the iPhone yet,...

        The FOSS ecosystem is a great alternative for most use cases, imo. There's even great work being done on smartphones and tablets by PINE64. Mobile devices aren't up to snuff with the iPhone yet, but they're getting damn close and it's only a matter of time. I've got a PinePhone on the way and I'm extremely excited to see what it can do.

        Free and open-source software won't mine your data, and works on a huge array of hardware. Some of it requires a bit more of a learning curve, but it's a low price to pay for the many upsides.

        1 vote
        1. KapteinB
          Link Parent
          I don't know if there are many upsides, exactly. Privacy is a big one. There's security through obscurity, I suppose. Choice is my personal reason; I just plain don't like Android or iOS, but I...

          it's a low price to pay for the many upsides.

          I don't know if there are many upsides, exactly. Privacy is a big one. There's security through obscurity, I suppose. Choice is my personal reason; I just plain don't like Android or iOS, but I enjoy using my Sailfish phone.

          1 vote
    2. [7]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      It probably happened sometime around when Google split up and became a subsidiary of Alphabet. Who would have thought that making your company bend to the will of a corporate overlord would reduce...

      It probably happened sometime around when Google split up and became a subsidiary of Alphabet. Who would have thought that making your company bend to the will of a corporate overlord would reduce innovation?

      I also like to think that the perception people have that Google constantly axes it's services has made them want to be more selective about where they put their efforts.

      3 votes
      1. [4]
        scissortail
        Link Parent
        Wouldn't it be more accurate so say Google became Alphabet? My understanding was that Page and Brin founded Alphabet as a holding company, essentially to keep Google away from antitrust laws. I...

        Wouldn't it be more accurate so say Google became Alphabet? My understanding was that Page and Brin founded Alphabet as a holding company, essentially to keep Google away from antitrust laws.

        I see it less as a matter of bending to a corporate overlord, but more getting too big and becoming a corporate overlord.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Yes, it was a restructuring but it had more to do with letting subsidiaries like Google Fiber and Waymo do their own thing. Also Nest, but that didn't work out and it got folded into Google. There...

          Yes, it was a restructuring but it had more to do with letting subsidiaries like Google Fiber and Waymo do their own thing. Also Nest, but that didn't work out and it got folded into Google. There are a bunch more like that, none all that well-known yet.

          Berkshire Hathaway is an example of a company whose subsidiaries are almost entirely independently managed and they wanted more of that for some businesses.

          At least that's what they said. Who knows what the real reason is. There was speculation that Page and Brin were bored with running Google and wanted to do other stuff.

          4 votes
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I suspect it was probably some kind of defense against anti-trust. It's easier to argue that you're not leveraging your position to inhibit competition if the subsidiaries are nominally independent.

            At least that's what they said. Who knows what the real reason is.

            I suspect it was probably some kind of defense against anti-trust. It's easier to argue that you're not leveraging your position to inhibit competition if the subsidiaries are nominally independent.

            2 votes
        2. Akir
          Link Parent
          Given that the end result seems to be the same, I don't think it's a meaningful difference.

          Given that the end result seems to be the same, I don't think it's a meaningful difference.

          1 vote
      2. [2]
        feigneddork
        Link Parent
        It definitely made me think really carefully about if I could trust any of Google’s services, even if I paid for them. Say what you want about Microsoft and Apple, but they’ve been in the software...

        It definitely made me think really carefully about if I could trust any of Google’s services, even if I paid for them.

        Say what you want about Microsoft and Apple, but they’ve been in the software game for a long time, and - unless the product is an absolute flop - are used to supporting software for a considerable amount of time.

        1 vote
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          I actually think that that perception is really unfair. Microsoft has abandoned far more projects of far greater scale, and Sun (compared here because they were arguably the Google of their time)...

          I actually think that that perception is really unfair. Microsoft has abandoned far more projects of far greater scale, and Sun (compared here because they were arguably the Google of their time) had also abandoned a large number of their projects before they went out of business.

          The big difference is that Google's projects are much more visible - many of these projects were publicly available and offered at no direct cost, plus they were constantly eyed by tech journalism. And since most of these projects were implemented as services, they completely disappeared after Google stopped supporting them. Products like Microsoft Streets and Trips and Zune could all be used after Microsoft stopped updating them.

          And then of course Google shot themselves in the foot by constantly reinventing it's own chat systems. That's the downside of letting engineers choose their own pet projects - you're going to get a lot of overlapping ideas.

          8 votes
  3. [2]
    NaraVara
    Link
    I've noticed myself that I care less and less about Google services anymore. I'm kind of hanging on out of sheer laziness about learning new paradigms or transferring stuff over to things like Hey...

    I've noticed myself that I care less and less about Google services anymore. I'm kind of hanging on out of sheer laziness about learning new paradigms or transferring stuff over to things like Hey or Notion. But inertia is only going to hold me in place for so long. . .

    13 votes
    1. sron
      Link Parent
      It's the same for me, except the only thing keeping me in is the cost. I've been having a look recently and the alternatives are just so expensive. To switch email it's £40 a year, Drive it's...

      It's the same for me, except the only thing keeping me in is the cost. I've been having a look recently and the alternatives are just so expensive. To switch email it's £40 a year, Drive it's almost £50, almost £80 if I want space to switch away from Photos too.

      And some things there just isn't an alternative for. OpenStreetMap is great but nothing can match the amount of info Google has on opening times etc.

  4. [6]
    annadane
    Link
    I don't understand why the MO of companies is to ignore their customers, though of course it doesn't stop them from proudly proclaiming "We do listen! :) :)"

    I don't understand why the MO of companies is to ignore their customers, though of course it doesn't stop them from proudly proclaiming "We do listen! :) :)"

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Customers don't necessarily know what they want. That Henry Ford adage about faster horses, for example. Or the bit in The Simpsons where Homer designs a car. Incorporating customer feedback is...

      Customers don't necessarily know what they want. That Henry Ford adage about faster horses, for example. Or the bit in The Simpsons where Homer designs a car.

      Incorporating customer feedback is important, but there's lots of different ways to do it that work more or less well. I think something in big tech got lost cultural as they got big, though, where they're really focused on designing around specific personas and use cases to the detriment of making flexible and generally applicable tools. It's a much more prescriptive posture around how to use their tools.

      9 votes
      1. [4]
        joplin
        Link Parent
        There's an issue of misaligned incentives at many tech companies. Friends and coworkers who used to work at Google have expressed that this sort of thing happens there as well. (You can also find...

        There's an issue of misaligned incentives at many tech companies. Friends and coworkers who used to work at Google have expressed that this sort of thing happens there as well. (You can also find countless stories about it happening at Google on HackerNews and similar websites.) Basically advancement for many people is tied to shipping features. (I've heard it described as "you'll get a promotion if you make your manager look good.") I'm sure it isn't intended to work that way, but what ends up happening is that features are created for the sake of shipping something, bugs are ignored in favor of features, and feature design is less about improving the product and more about creating something flashy that shows well in a review. It also means that when a product owner wants to move on, things can get abandoned even if it's a project popular with users if nobody else takes up the project.

        6 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          This is a story that Googlers often tell, but notice that a lot of people are complaining, which means that they think it's wrong and don't necessarily do this themselves. It's difficult to tell...

          This is a story that Googlers often tell, but notice that a lot of people are complaining, which means that they think it's wrong and don't necessarily do this themselves.

          It's difficult to tell from the outside how important this problem is. Or even from the inside, in a company so big.

          5 votes
        2. Halfloaf
          Link Parent
          Yeah, unfortunately this was prevalent in the last company I worked for.

          Yeah, unfortunately this was prevalent in the last company I worked for.

  5. [6]
    KapteinB
    Link
    What are Google's four monopolies?

    It’s amazing how they have four monopolies and only monetize one of them.

    What are Google's four monopolies?

    1 vote
    1. [5]
      viridian
      Link Parent
      If I had to guess: gmail, maps, search, and youtube seem like the most likely suspects.

      If I had to guess: gmail, maps, search, and youtube seem like the most likely suspects.

      5 votes
      1. [4]
        Wes
        Link Parent
        I don't know if Gmail or Search count as monopolies (they have plenty of competitors). I do agree on Youtube, and probably Maps though. My other thought was DoubleClick. There are other ad...

        I don't know if Gmail or Search count as monopolies (they have plenty of competitors). I do agree on Youtube, and probably Maps though.

        My other thought was DoubleClick. There are other ad networks, but they really do dominate.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          Google appears to have over 90% market share in search. Here's one source. Facebook is their closest competitor, having a large amount of search traffic internal to their social networks, but it's...

          Google appears to have over 90% market share in search. Here's one source. Facebook is their closest competitor, having a large amount of search traffic internal to their social networks, but it's still a very minor player compared to Google.

          If Google isn't a monopoly in search, with 90% market share, then they definitely aren't a monopoly in email (Outlook, Yahoo) or online video (Netflix, Facebook, Twitch).

          4 votes
          1. Wes
            Link Parent
            When I consider competitors for Google, I generally think of Bing, Baidu, and Yandex. I don't think I'd include Facebook's internal search as a competitor. I'd have to do some research, but these...

            When I consider competitors for Google, I generally think of Bing, Baidu, and Yandex. I don't think I'd include Facebook's internal search as a competitor.

            I'd have to do some research, but these numbers seem a little off to me. I wonder if their sampling is very global. I previously understood that Yandex and Baidu are quite popular in their respective countries.

            As for online video, I think there's also a big difference between user-produced content like Youtube, and professionally produced content like Netflix. Their more direct competition would be Vimeo, Daily Motion, and... that's really it.

            Sidenote: I don't know what Vines or TikTok or any of these things are. Maybe these are also considered competitors.

            Twitch is a different format as it's live content, but Youtube has also moved into that market (as has Facebook, apparently). While there's definitely overlap I'd still consider live content a different market than traditional videos.

            In the context of live, I'd say Twitch is the closest to a monopoly (especially with the closing of Mixer yesterday).

            Finally, I understand this comment might come off as very pedantic and non-contributory - sorry if that's the case. I think categories are important though when discussing monopolies, and I had some differing views on how these companies might stack up in their respective markets.

            4 votes
          2. Lawrencium265
            Link Parent
            google search is great if you want to know what is on pinterest!

            google search is great if you want to know what is on pinterest!

            1 vote
  6. [5]
    dkod
    Link
    As an aside to this - the author mentions a nice looking app called Notion that looks like the type of thing I'd like to try but I'm loathe to sign up to yet another service. Would anyone know of...

    As an aside to this - the author mentions a nice looking app called Notion that looks like the type of thing I'd like to try but I'm loathe to sign up to yet another service. Would anyone know of any Open Source alternative that is similar?

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      You can login to Notion with Google so that makes it easier. There is a not as good, but open source version too: https://www.getoutline.com But you need to integrate it with Google or Slack to...

      You can login to Notion with Google so that makes it easier.

      There is a not as good, but open source version too: https://www.getoutline.com But you need to integrate it with Google or Slack to get it working. And there's no mobile app.

      Unfortunately a lot of what makes Notion cool is the online connectivity so it's more of a service than an application. So it's hard to make something as good that isn't tightly integrated with some kind of other cloud service.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        dkod
        Link Parent
        Would you know of something like these services that is just an Open Source local install app? While I see the draw for cloud functionality, I'd only envision using something like this on one device.

        Would you know of something like these services that is just an Open Source local install app? While I see the draw for cloud functionality, I'd only envision using something like this on one device.

        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Sadly not. I also use Byword, which is much more barebones and integrates with whatever you do for file management but it's just a straight Markdown text editor without any templates or formatting...

          Sadly not. I also use Byword, which is much more barebones and integrates with whatever you do for file management but it's just a straight Markdown text editor without any templates or formatting or rich multimedia or anything.

    2. Weldawadyathink
      Link Parent
      If you also wanted to get a nas, synology has google docs like software built in. You obviously have to pay for the nas and administer it yourself, but there are no ongoing costs.

      If you also wanted to get a nas, synology has google docs like software built in. You obviously have to pay for the nas and administer it yourself, but there are no ongoing costs.

  7. Comment removed by site admin
    Link