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?