What We Have Here Google is a Failure to Communicate

Here at WWD, we’re all big users of Google, in many of its incarnations. From the search engine itself to GMail to Google Documents to Grand Central to Google Reader, it’s hard for us even to imagine a world without Google. Judging by your responses to our most recent open thread, many of you feel the same way.

And yet…despite their enormous success, despite the zillions of smart people working there, there are still things that confound, upset, and annoy us about Google’s various operations. Sure, we get that sometimes there are other things on their mind, and that writing good software takes time, and that it’s even tougher when you have to work in a variety of browsers. Even so, here are the top 25 things (give or take) we hate about Google.

Blogger – It’s sort of sad to see the current state of this early shining star of blogging software. Apart from being a sea of splogs, Blogger has fallen far behind competitors like WordPress or TypePad when it comes to features. Even inline commenting would be a big improvement.

GMail – Where’s the attachment management? Most people never use up their GMail storage allocation, but some do. It would be really nice to be able to delete the attachments from a message without having to delete the message itself. And why can’t we have multiple email addresses linked to the same Google Account, even sharing the same address book?

Speaking of address books, we could do a whole post on what’s wrong with Gmail Contacts. With all of Google’s attention on the email itself, contact management has largely been ignored beyond a visual refresh with Gmail 2. Contact management doesn’t even warrant its own preference settings? For starters, we may not want to add every contact we email to our address book. Give us the option. And if we email a contact and it turns out they have the same name as someone already in our contact list, there is no way we can merge the two together. For Google Apps, there should be the option to share address book contacts between users in the same domain.

Google Calendar – Let’s have some work on synchronization here. Sure, sharing calendars is great – but with MobileMe about to roll out “synchronized everywhere,” we’d really like to get away from using third-party solutions to sync up our Mac desktops. The calendar also feels like the right home for the missing task manager that we’ve been waiting for.

Google Docs – How come Google Docs don’t go in the same big bucket of storage as everything in GMail? If you work heavily with both services, you need to search twice to find things. We’d like to see a “search all my Google stuff” option everywhere.

Most business users are coming to Google Docs from experience with “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word. Help users get over the initial learning curve by handling comments and text changes the way Word does…show the changes (with attribution) in the margins. If not, allow the option to select more than 2 revisions to compare.

Google Sites – Google’s wiki service is a pale, pathetic remnant of the JotSpot that they purchased. While it does offer very basic features, we think there’s still room in the market for a high-end programmable, mashable wiki.

Google Groups – Why can’t Google Apps administrators create private groups with all the Group functionality using their own domain, instead of @googlegroups.com? Is there some reason this little piece remains out in the cold?

Grand Central – Grand Central’s address book stands alone from the rest of Google – which means entering all of our contacts twice, and manually managing changes between the two. This is long after it became a Google property, we’d expect at least that basic level of integration. We also expect to see new features at some point, rather than having the site sit in stasis. Other sites like PhoneFusion offer a laundry list of services that Google could do well to look at.

As many users now depend on Grand Central as their main phone number despite the beta tag, the service should do a better job of notifying users when the service is not available or unreliable. Take a cue from Twitter and start status.grandcentral.com so we’re not finding out days later that someone couldn’t get through to us on the phone.

Jaiku – Jaiku could have been the Twitter killer we’ve speculated about. Instead, the doors have essentially closed: no new members, no changes to the service, not even any announcements since the acquisition last year. Will anyone still be interested by the time it relaunches or will it go the way of Google Sites?

Google Talk – There are contacts with whom we have instant message conversations, and there are contacts that we want to share Google Reader links. Separate them. While we like the idea of sharing links with friends, let us pick those friends from our Gmail contacts, not just our Google Talk buddy list (if you’re counting, that makes three different contact lists we’re managing within one company).

In general, make our contact address book the repository of all our personal people data across all Google services, and make it so we only have to enter a name once. It is ironic to us that Google has invested so much time and thought into OpenSocial and Friend Connect, but is still so poor at building networks between services that are within its walls.

Which of your own Google integration and other annoyances did we miss?


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