I’m a big Google user. Much of my digital life is wrapped up in their services. I think I joined Gmail when the beta was still in the oven 10 years ago. I’m also user of Calendar, Voice, Wallet, Authenticator, Maps, Drive, Hangouts, Chrome sync, News, Music, Play, and tons of Android stuff. I even meddled around with Buzz and other betas that never quite made it. I was also an avid Reader user, until it was retired recently.
One of my very favorite services is the much-heralded Google Voice, the service that gives you a virtual phone number and lets you forward calls to that number to other numbers per rules that you set. It also enables custom answering schedules, call screening, unlimited texting from your browser, transcribed voicemails, and other really cool stuff.
I’ve loved it so much that my entire mobile communications are dependent on it. My only phone number is a Google Voice number. Nobody knows the number to my mobile, and I have no house phone.
Google Voice, as a separate service, has gone the way of our beloved Reader.
The functionality of Voice is being rolled into Hangouts, the new multi-platform video chat/instant messaging platform which also absorbed the Google Talk service (you may remember this as the original IM function baked into Gmail web client). The future of the individual features of Voice are uncertain.
Let the outrage commence.
… That’s what I wanted to write about. The outrage, and why folks need to chill out and take a step back to see the big picture here.
Depending on a vast array of Google services (or Microsoft services or third-party stuff, what have you) means you have to roll with the punches. Ever notice how most Google services have that little “beta” tag on them? This stuff is always changing. My favorite description of the “Labs” features in GMail is “…they may change, break or disappear at any time.”
We’re living on the cutting edge every day with many of the Google services we depend on. And other products too; just last month, my favorite Twitter client for Windows, MetroTwit, was sunsetted because of API issues. So what did I do? Complain to the developers? No, I went and found something else (Tweetdeck).
Second, I have to mention money. Specifically, the money I pay for all these Google services. It’s zero. I pay squadoosh for this stuff. There’s no service-level agreement here. When an absolutely free service goes away or doesn’t quite do what I want it to, what am I going to do? Ask for my money back? Nobody made me any promises when I started using this product. And don’t forget about the other end of the transaction here: Google’s pocketbook. When a particular product isn’t making any revenue and the company finds themselves eating a significant amount of developer time for a project which really doesn’t have a future, it makes perfect sense to scrap it. There have been several cases in the past where Google has found duplication of functionality in several different products, which means rolling together some products into one.
I don’t hate Google for retiring Reader or eliminating Voice. On the contrary, I applaud them for actually putting the work forth to develop this stuff and inspire others to do the same. Reader taught a lot of folks that RSS is your friend, and it can ease your daily life on the web. Now there’s Feedly and other cool web-based aggregators out there that do the job just as well, and some of those may never have come to light if Reader didn’t exist.
The integration with Hangouts has begun. I’ll have to make some changes. I might need to modify some of my workflows for how my call forwarding works and install a new app on my smartphone. So what? A small price to pay for rich functionality that seems to get better and better every year.
It’s all about rolling with the punches.
What’s your strategy for navigating changes to your web-based services?