What We Have Here Google is a Failure to Communicate

31 Comments

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?

31 Comments

Neil

After investing a fair bit of time in learning my way around the new Google Sites, I took the time to read the Terms of Service – only to discover that by posting anything on a Google Site, you grant Google a perpetual, irrevocable right to use that content anywhere in any context, including with ads.

No thanks!!!

Mike

Google is free… so? They’ve put their products out there and they want people to use them. Neither the article or comments are angry or spiteful, it’s all been very positive criticism – these sorts of observations are absolute gold, they’re giving unbiased, user-driven feeback.

When you’re too close to something it gets incredibly difficult to see where the real problems lie. Communication from the users of these services should be seized upon by the Google developers so that they can best direct resources that help them to improve.

Gmail addict

Great post. My biggest peeve is again the contacts issue. I would LOVE (hear me Google) LOVE to sync my Blackberry contact database with my google contacts list. A simple app, ala gcalsync, would be all that is needed and I could then use my google address book as my cloudweb backup to my mobile device and then wirelessly resync my contacts after buying a new device, or if it crashes, or takes a lap around the toilet, you get the idea.

Rhea - Google Fan

Great post. It’s nice to know what other users think. I usually don’t have much to say against Google as of this time, since I just started using most of its product last year. Really great. Thanks.

Stephen

Yes, what is happening what GrandCentral? It is in limbo. Can’t export or import addresses. Just see a message that they are busy working. This has been the case for at least a month. If they could sync the Gmail contacts with grandcentral, etc.

Judi Sohn

True, most of Google’s service are free. But there are folks who are paying for the Premium version of Google Apps and they’re not avoiding a single problem the rest of us are facing.

Hamsini

Couple of points here:

The big picture is that Google is free.

AdWords does offer time of visit and referral sites data. IP address is not shared because of user privacy.

Integrating all their services is a work-in-progress and not an easy task as writing a comment here about them.

KilgoreTrout

i agree – google started with a bang but it’s turning into a hotchpotch of services that start out well and then just whimper on. With the amazing resources they must have, it’s a snails pace of improvement both in terms of integration and features. Many of the leaps they have made over the last year or two are via companies they have purchased rather than in house developments.

I guess the end user software they provide is a loss leader to their real business but the way they treat that software is starting to look a little like how Computer Associates do things in the non internet world.

gmarie808

It seems we all have missed the big picture here…GOOGLE IS FREE.

Libran Lover

Great post. Google should realize that each day they spend in not giving proper integration to their users, they get dangerously close to losing out to another competitor who does these things well. Not only because the competitors are hard at work building new and improved services, but also because the users are dissatisfied.

Google does not have the luxury of assuming that their vast user-base won’t move to another service or that they can acquire any new upstart who makes a splash on the scene.

For example, Google should have integrated all their services long before MobileMe from Apple came into the picture!

george

the thing that annoys me the most is that mobile phone integration is really quite poor. No SyncML to sync the calendar, no gmail contacts as my phonebook. Oh, one more thing: why can’t I add a contact person’s birthday, creating a recurring reminder when the day comes?

Michael

Thank you for this great post.

I am totally with you here. What I can not understand is why Google, with its vast resources is not able to fix some of the most glaring problems. ie, lack of functionalities in its core services.
Look at Zoho for instances and see what the company is able to deliver in so little time, and with relatively few resources.

I was looking at Glabs with, at first a great deal of excitement…. Interesting developments but…, when looking at the big picture, it is a joke.

Son Nguyen

And the fact that Google does not show details about clicks (IP address, time, referring pages) in AdWords is another missing feature that they might intentionally try to hide.

Alfred

I couldn’t agree more. This is a prime example of several software products being released by one company yet having practically no interaction between them. Don’t get me wrong, I love Google and I want to love the services even more, but can I just get a single unified address book? And since we’re asking, can I get that address book to be downloaded to my Blackberry too. :-)

Warren

Something that drives me crazy is the fact that, although you can blog from Google Docs to Blogger, you cannot set the title. You have to post, then go to Blogger just to do the blog post title.

This has been around for some time. I’m sure that blogging from Scribefire to Blogger works fine.

Now if Google Docs could just talk to Google Blogger…

Todd

A lot of the services you mentioned are ones I use, but mainly due to late of an alternative to handle many of these tasks. I am really waiting for one system to rule them all.

cp

Great read. You hit the 2 things that annoy me most: 1) Limited integration between the various services. Attachments, docs, pictures, etc. should all have a central repository.
2) Email Aliases. Google should take note of Yahoo. They’ve implemented this without a hitch.

Jackson West

Great post. My big kvetch is that Google Reader’s OPML import-export is really bad, and the feed management page refuses to load if you have too many feeds. A Reader engineer even asked for a bug report from me, but it has still yet to be resolved.

psmithaustin

Bravo to a lot of this list. Too much to agree with, but Blogger has always been horrible, and private domains for google groups would be a huge plus for a lot of orgs.

Steve

if you use google apps, you have to have TWO google accounts, with the same email address, to have any integration. Reader, other services are on a google account, wheras docs, gmail, other apps services are with your google apps account. it is a mess.

JL

Grand Central in my opinion has the potential to be one of Google’s premier services. But i agree with Scott, they obviously have no commitment to it. Other than service outages, there have been no developments for some time. How many blog entries can they post with the context of “stay tuned for a bunch of cool features” before they release just one? I really like the service but, as this post reiterates, they are really loosing credibility with the user base.

Tsudohnimh

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

I’m a googlephile of the first order but some things just seem forgotten.

I second your sentiment especially when it comes to Email contacts (not adding every recipient to address book) and separating Google Shared RSS and Google IM friends.

erica banks

Another small annoyance (unless I’ve totally missed it on the UI) … no easy, quick way to add multiple attachments to an email.

Scott Blitstein

Fantastic post – you certainly hit all my pain points.

The lack of any visible movement or display of commitment to Grand Central has certainly left me feeling hesitant to move to it full time, despite it’s obvious benefits.

SB

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