2013-01-23

Google Part 1

Let's talk tech. Google is a has been.

Wait a minute? Did I really just type that on my Blogger account while using Chrome with Gmail open? Yes, yes I did.

Flash back to last decade, and Google was an innovator. They were coming into the new millennium with a great search engine, and great new product offerings such as Gmail, Chrome, Voice, Calendar, and even Android. I should know. I use most of these every day. (Let's ignore for a moment that many of these techs were built by buying them).

But there's been something that's bothered me with each new release. Bugs. Lots of them.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of great stuff that's been done. Gmail is rock solid.Those are apps that really defined the new Web. Before Gmail, everyone was using Outlook or Outlook Express or the Mozilla client with some SMTP / POP3 service. Some folks had Hotmail. Some folks had Yahoo. But none of them really took the web clients seriously. Then Gmail came along. And everyone else was playing catchup. Sure, Google used the massive (at the time) 1GB of storage to lure people in, but really it was the quality App that made people stay.

Calendar is another great service. Easy to use, very functional, and integrated with Exchange.

But then it starts to fall apart. Along came this little service called Google Talk. Which I loved. To this day, it's still my favorite chat client. But, I've resorted to using Trillian again (which, I also love... just not as much as Google Talk). Why the switch? Because Google hasn't released a new Talk client in 6 years. Google still hasn't released an official Mac client. Google still hasn't integrated AIM into it--like they did in Gmail Web years ago. Nor have they yet to released Voice integration--like they did in Gmail Web years ago. Hell, Talk still lacks 2-factor authentication. Application Passwords anyone?

Which, I suppose brings me to my next point. Google Voice is brilliant. Yes, yes, I know it's a fork of the old Grand Central code, which they bought out years ago. But they've really only had two releases of that since. The first was dropping that nasty Flash client that Grand Central had. The second was a couple of crummy mobile apps. I would seriously pay good money for Google Voice, but it's lacking some serious features. Here's a laundry list of things I'd love to see from it:

  • MMS Support (and not the lousy Sprint integration)
  • Three way calling
  • A better web client--one that functions more like Gmail
  • Better yet, fully integrate voice into Gmail. I don't like managing my messages in two places.
  • Business user support--that means give me the ability to have an "Office" number that rings to my cell phone, and don't restrict me--let me have my personal GV number that rings to  my cell phone, too.
  • Fax support. Yes, some places still prefer faxes.
  • Drop the Flash client for Gmail. It doesn't work. It crashes. And I can't install it/uninstall it from my Mac now--and it is in an unusable state.
  • A better iOS app--and yes, I know, part of that is Apple's fault.

Which, I guess brings me to the mobile apps. I could go on and on about their mobile apps. Gmail on iOS is a wreck. Gmail on Android is barely usable as is. The Authenticator app doesn't work on my iPhone. Don't ask me why. Goggles is awful. Plus isn't bad, though...

But, you ask, why am I griping about Google today? Youtube. Yeah, yeah, I  know Google bought Youtube. The website isn't my problem (I've got a few complaints, but I'll save 'em for now...). The mobile apps.

When I first bought a smartphone, I bought the iPhone 3G. And Youtube was very usable on it. Even on 2G. Somehow, that old phone would buffer and playback videos without any problems. Then I got an Android. And that Youtube app--on T-mobile's 4G (HSPA+) had so many problems buffering video. And so did the next Android I got. And the next one. My signal never seemed to matter. I could navigate the web like a boss. I could download MP3s, stream from Google Music, do whatever. T-Mobile wasn't the problem. But that lousy Youtube app would stutter and skip and fail to buffer time and time again.

And then I switched back to iOS with the iPhone 5. That old iOS Youtube app was gone. So, I downloaded Google's app. And behold, this one does the same thing.

So what's going on here? Does Google have a lousy HTTP stack built into their Youtube app? Was the iOS app better at buffering before it started playback? Maybe we're getting to the root of my problems with Google. Do they test their software before releasing it? Do they try to make it work? Or do they just push it on us? Are Apple's programmers that much better? Or are Google's programmers just that lazy.

I don't know. But what I can tell you is that the bugs that I find in Google's software is what really irks me most about this company. And my experiences from Google lately have really been wearing my patience thin. Sure, we're in a Web 2.0 (or 3.0, if you must) world. But bugs are bugs are bugs. Beta ain't my problem.

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