Marco Arment, who is the co-creator of Tumblr and the brainiac behind Instapaper in his widely read blog disagrees with my take on Google Keep. And here is my response to his response. Actually we both make sense, somehow!

google keep

My emotional response to Google Reader and the ensuing lack of trust in betting on Google’s applications has received many reactions. Marco Arment, who is the co-creator of Tumblr and the brainiac behind Instapaper, disagreed with my take on Google Keep in his widely read blog.

In this business, you can’t count on anything having longevity. To avoid new services that are likely to get shut down within a few years, you’d have to avoid every new tech product. Products and services lasting more than a few years are the exception, not the rule.

Fair enough! Except I didn’t say that.

This is what I said: It is hard to trust Google anymore to make rational and consumer centric decisions. I said — nuanced as it might be — that I don’t trust Google to introduce new apps and keep them around, because despite what the company says, these apps are not their main business. Their main business is advertising and search — regardless of whatever nonsense you might read. They will sacrifice anything and everything to keep those businesses intact. Sure, they embraced mobile advertising and mobile search, but that’s just the same business on a different device.

I am far more likely to believe in and use products that are the main focus of the company behind them. Online storage? Dropbox. Time-shifting web content? Pocket or Instapaper. Short form communication? Twitter. Baby pictures and wedding photos to make single people miserable (or happy for being single)? Facebook.

The point is that a company whose main focus is a specific service or a singular product, like Evernote, is far more likely to focus its energies to build a business around it and keep it around. And if in seven years (or seven months) they fail — hell, at least they went down trying.

Our company pays thousands of dollars for Google Apps and the reason we do is because it is a business for Google and it makes good business sense. I have no problem paying for Instapaper or Pocket or Dropbox or Skype or anything that helps me do my job. And if anything that starts out free (Dropbox did) and then wants me to pay for it (like Evernote), I don’t hesitate upgrading. Why? Because I want these guys to be around.

As the Google Reader example shows (and as Chris Wetherell told me in an interview), Google didn’t even try with Reader. It never gave us an option to pay, even though Google is willing to offer some paid services when it makes sense, like multiseat licenses for Google Apps.

As Marco said, in the end it’s always business. It’s just not Google’s business, so perhaps that is why we should shift our energies and attention to services whose business is the apps they want us to use.

That said, I don’t think Marco is that far off from my way of thinking. He wrote, “Investing too heavily in someone else’s proprietary system for too long rarely ends gracefully, but when it bites us, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”

Isn’t that what I am saying? Albeit, with a lot more emotion?

google keep

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  1. It sounds like the only difference here is you are not exiting the “app freeway” when you approach a “It is not our main business” app exit while Marco isn’t automatically deterred by the sign. He essentially doesn’t see the sign when he sees the exit.

    1. Well said! I think the differences are glass half-full or half-empty.

  2. You don’t pay for google search. Is that going to go away?

    You don’t pay for Linux. Is that going away?

    There is zero correlation between product longevity and whether or not the user pays for it.

    1. You don’t pay for Google Search because you are not their customer there! You are the product served to the advertisers by Google. Very foolish argument there. Also, Linux is a community driven product not out there to do business.

      Seems you don’t understand tech world at all.

      1. “You don’t pay for Google Search because you are not their customer there”

        And why wouldn’t that apply to Reader and any number of other Google services, too? if you want to use the “you didn’t pay for it, therefore you’re not the customer” argument, then that applies equally to Google, the search engine, Gmail, and Reader.

      2. Not sure it could be more obvious. Search makes money, reader did not.

  3. Pedro Villarroel Friday, March 22, 2013

    agreed, absolutely agreed

  4. Paul Fidalgo Friday, March 22, 2013

    Isn’t Pocket entirely free?

    1. But I am happy to pay for and have asked the management about it.

      1. Fair enough.

  5. David A. D’Agostino Friday, March 22, 2013


  6. Yet you use an iphone, a closed , crippled ecosystem that can only be niche long term.

    1. LOL.

      Care to define “long term” so I can check back for claim chowder?

    2. … which he paid money for, which contributes greatly to the company’s bottom line, making it important to continue development of said device.

      That versus an “open” ecosystem that contributes very little (actually negative value considering Motorola) to the company’s bottom line, and also one that the company is rapidly losing control over (see Samsung, Amazon).

      What was your argument again?

  7. Robb Chadwick Friday, March 22, 2013

    I won’t say that I will never use a Google product again; but I will say that I will never trust Google again. Furthermore I will go out of my way to use a competitor whenever possible. For instance, my search engine is now Bing … which I prefer anyway. For now I will continue my already limited use of GMail and Google Voice. I no longer really use Blogger, so I will likely just never post to that blog again. (I’m sure it will be a casualty soon anyway.) I recently thought about spending more time on Google+; but now I see no point. As far as anything new, I wouldn’t take the chance. Purely & simply, I refuse to be disappointed again by Google.

    Google has yanked something out from under me one time too many times … and Google Reader was the worst hurt of all. It is the most useful product they have cancelled in my opinion … not just to me but to possibly millions of others as well as many developers who have made excellent RSS apps to sync through Google.

    1. Reader is my most used web service. It is dedicated to the first browser tab on all my computers, as well as my phone. I’m feeling out alternatives, but nothing has proved as useful yet. I understand why Om and many others are emotional about it, and it definitely brings feelings of distrust to any of Google’s future services. It definitely feels like a good time to start being less reliant on Google.

    2. “It is the most useful product they have cancelled in my opinion … not just to me but to possibly millions of others as well as many developers who have made excellent RSS apps to sync through Google.”

      Surely a lot of those developers with enough resources to survive will be reluctant to create new products relying on Google services that can unexpectedly be pulled out from under them. While looking for an iOS feed reader app before choosing Newsify it was tough finding ones that *didn’t* require a Google Reader account (as Newsify still does). Some developers (e.g. Feedly) might be opportunistic with GR’s shutdown but plenty, plus end users, will suffer at least short term negative consequences. I think it has the least impact on those who’ve only used Google Reader’s web interface; more migration options already exist.

    3. Why do you trust any company?

      What company is going to keep around products that waste their time and lose money?

  8. Caitlin Bestler Friday, March 22, 2013

    What is really needed is a universal app (Android, IOS, HTML5) which:

    * encrypts/decrypts your notes.
    * stores/caches them locally.
    * stores/retrieves them, in encrypted form, from any storage service you specify.

    Then if someone loses interest in being in the notekeeping business, I just have to specify a new storage server and move the content.

    I also never have to trust said storage provider not to reveal my content to third parities or government queries without them having to subpoena *me* to get the passphrase.

  9. Mohan Kompella Friday, March 22, 2013

    Keep will actually be around for a while. Make that a long time. Here’s why:

    Evernote has shown to world is that “note-taking” is indeed another “killer app” that syncs across various platforms and provides for a very sticky and useful experience. This is attested to by 50 million users around the world, of which nearly a third are in the US. With those numbers growing by 100,000 users a day, Evernote controls this market. 1.4 million of those are also paying customers (each of them pays either $5 a month or $45 a year). [Source: recent Businessweek article.]

    But, for Google, it’s not about the money (which is why I don’t think it will ever charge users for Keep or roll it into its Google Apps suite). Instead, for Google, it is about not being there, helping create and capture value – when users are creating data, archiving it and presumably returning to it repeatedly and throughout the day. And horror of horrors, searching through it!

    OK, that was a bit dramatic…but the reason Google Keep is (should be) so important is because Evernote has captured a healthy marketshare, momentum and media attention in a recurring, high-importance online experience market .

    And that early mover advantage means that as more and more of users’ data is stored within Evernote, the less they will be inclined to migrate away to another platform in the future. And Google realizes that. It realizes that it is a bit late to this game. So, many of those users are probably lost to it for the foreseeable future. But it also knows that better late than never is a good strategy too.

    So in a move that should remind everyone of Microsoft’s second or third-to-market + catchup strategy in the past, Google will also work very hard to catch up and slow down Evernote’s growth in the near term and try as hard as it can, to encourage Evernote user defections in the medium to long-term. We can certainly expect some serious enhancements and integrations with a variety of other Google services that already enjoy the first mover advantage, as Keep keeps evolving.

    Google can’t afford to do otherwise and let its’ users use yet another service for part of their online lives.

    Mohan Kompella | BminusC.com

    1. I disagree, Mohan… I don’t think Keep is a reaction to Evernote. Instead, I see it as a consolidation of services like Tasks and Bookmarks into the new ecosystem of Drive. Drive is a Google Apps service and therefore Keep should/could very easily be included in that as a Drive app.

      People are quick to see the “war” and think that everything is a reaction to competitors, but Keep is actually just a refinement of Google tools within their new “Cards of information” design scheme and search strategy.

  10. Steven Mautone Friday, March 22, 2013

    @Om I can’t understand your logic for avoiding Google Keep out of spite.

    Google Reader was discontinued because it does’t fit the new Google ecosystem. Not because Google simply no longer feels like supporting its users… I personally have started using Google+ much more than Reader to stay up to date with my industry news and connected with experts. Sure, Google+ is not a replacement for Reader, but it very easily could be with the addition of a few features; the most important being staring posts so you can return to them later and auto generating posts from an RSS feed… I’m sure we will see development on Google+ prior to Reader’s end date.

    Regardless of Google’s ability to integrate Reader-like functionality within Google+, they provide Google Takeout so that we can easily take our data with us… Google Reader included. It is ridiculously simple to move from Reader to any other RSS reader, so the quote about proprietary systems is completely off the mark.

    With all the other RSS reader services out there, why is everyone so upset about Reader being sunsetted?

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