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March 25, 2009

In Google We Trust

This is a guest post from Fixer Dave, a Google user who's disappointed about the latest developments in the Google land.

I chuckle when people tell me that they never use online services. "Read the EULAs" they tell me. They can do anything they want with your data, don't you know! Yes, I know, and I don't really care. You see, I've sold my soul to Google. I let them know everything about me, and, in return, they give me all these super-cool web-based applications that make my life so much easier. It's a pretty good deal, if you ask me. It's not like I'm some kind of secret agent or something. For the price of my online soul, I get the Google suite: Gmail, Picasa, News, Calendar, Notebook, Bookmarks, Docs... It's great, it really is.

Well, it was great; I'm not so sure anymore. Google has always been special to me, a "don't be evil" enterprise. They have wowed me, over and over again, with the cool free stuff they just keep pumping out. I mean, how can you not trust a company that gives you access to an amazing tool like Google Earth, for free? Google is, well, Google. You'd never equate them to the likes of RIAA, or Microsoft. But, a couple of things have come along to set me back, make me wonder about what's going on, and make me think again about this whole "don't be evil" thing.

The first thing that happened was that Google announced they were going to stop development of Google Notebook. Now, Notebook is a very, very cool application. With the browser plug-in installed, it lets you easily clip bits of web-pages into notebooks which they store online, for free. I find it immensely useful and promote it to everyone I know. It just works great; it's one of the best things Google ever did. But, if you want to try it out, well, you're too late. Google says I can keep my data, so they're not being evil about it, but no new users can sign up for the service. This shocked me in a way that's hard to explain. From the moment I first heard about Google, they've been innovating, expanding, doing new and wonderful things. A trip to the labs was like going to a candy store. But, this was the first time I've ever experienced them stop offering a service. Sure, they may have stopped other stuff, but this is the first time for me. Google stopped a service. Google stopped.

The next thing was a cryptic email about "Interest-Based" Adsense. That was another shock. I know Google tracks me as I browse the web; I can see it in my Google Web History page. I also have no doubt that they track a lot more than what they put up on this page. They know things about me that I've totally forgotten, and it doesn't bother me. But, having them package up these histories and then auctioning them off to advertisers does bother me, a lot actually. That's just a little bit evil, don't you think?

It bugs me because Google could have gone so many other ways, where they could increase their revenues without selling out the people that trust them. I can think of several ways that Google could have their users signing up for interest-based advertising, ways that would have people jumping at the opportunity to be part of something. Instead, Google went the way you would expect any other corporation to go in tough times. They're laying people off, shutting down innovation, and grabbing revenue the easiest way they can get it. It just doesn't seem like Google anymore; it's like there's been a coup and the bean-counters have seized control. I get the feeling that Google has become a corporate adult, with all the loss of innocence that entails. I'm not so sure that I can still trust them. I just don't know. While I'm not quite ready to pull back from the cloud, I'm starting to think that maybe I want my soul back.

65 comments:

  1. "Instead, Google went the way you would expect any other corporation to go in tough times."

    I believe with interest-based advertising, Google will show you the interests it thinks are relevant for you and lets you add/subtract/edit those interests. That's a lot more transparency than most other companies that try to match ads based on interests.

    I sympathize on Google Notebook. I wasn't a heavy-duty Notebook user, but I know the product had a small but very loyal following. At the same time, it is important to consider each product from time to time and whether it's carrying its own weight. There was a live chat called "Hello" in Picasa that Google decided to shut down. I think that was the right call as well, but I remember reading comments by a really distraught user who loved Hello's chat.

    At the same time, I think Google is continuing to work on a lot of neat stuff like Google Voice or Chrome where there's a new approach (automated transcription of voicemail, or really fast/secure web browsing) and where we can make life better for users.

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  3. I very much agree with Fixer Dave, but I also hope that Google will eventually stay on the 'do no evil' path.

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  4. "I also have no doubt that they track a lot more than what they put up on this page."
    -- Just wait till they start reading you web history from your browsers cache!

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  5. basicly, I agree with it. so, i have been trying to move my stuff away from google, such as yahoo's mailbox (gmail), microsoft's space(blogger), yahoo pipe(feed), flickr(picasa), delicious(bookmark)...but google is too good that i cannot move far away and sometimes even drag me back. i just want to prepare well for life without google, if they are going to be evil finally. anyway, i still hope google could be self-discipline.

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  6. Regarding the demise of Google Notebook, I too felt the sting on that one, as I used Notebook constantly. However, I've found Evernote to be a wonderful replacement. Even more well featured, more stable, and just as handy. For anyone who is missing Google Notebook, you really need to try Evernote. Didi I mention its free?

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  7. yes it is a shame that they remove futures that pepole use and are used to use like public calendars search in google calendar

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  8. excellent article. couldn't agree more. notebook's demise was a punch in the stomach. let's hope google doesn't become the new microsoft....

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  9. 100% agree. Exactly what I felt about Google in the past and what I feel about it now.

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  10. It:s called capitalism and since the IPO, the rest is history.

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  11. But what exactly is the problem? If I have to put up with ads I'd much rather they were to do with things I was interested in. If ads disappear so would half the content on the internet. No such thing as a free lunch.

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  12. Agree with the post - however Google is too good at what it does. If we move away we'll eventually come back.

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  13. I suffered but understand the reasons for stopping maintaining Hello, but it's difficult to understand why they stopped developing Notebook, which was pretty new, was being developed a lot, had mobile access, gadget, etc. already and fits so well on "organizing information" and the rest of Google services.
    I didn't use it for clipping, but just to have my notes and tasks available everywhere with auto-saving, trash folder, some shared with others!
    Gmail Tasks could had been a subset of Notebook, tasks have a lot of limitations.

    Regarding Hello is a pity, I dream one day gtalk or add-on will provide the possibility to share on the fly 1000 pictures peer-to-peer, navigate trough them togeter (follow-me), transfer the thumbnails first for the peer to select the picture to see while the rest are being scaled and transfered in the background. It was great.

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  14. I am not a heavy duty notebook user but I find "Note in Reader" functionality in Google Reader a good replacement; perhaps even better with sharing and comments features.

    On Advertising, well.. the strength of the revenue model of Google lies in optimizing the channel between the marketer and his customer and ensuring they know each better. In doing so, what they should ensure is that channel is transparent and information flow is consent oriented. I hope that is the case though I am not very sure. But unless that is proved, I continue to be a die hard Google Fan.

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  15. I agree on op, but on slightly different terms.

    First, I am also a big notebook user, and got very disapointed when I head it got discontinued.

    But what bothers me the most, is how slow they are developing Chrome for Linux. I was and am one of Chrome's biggest fans, but as a linux user I still have to stick with Firefox. This is something that bothers me a lot, since Google has the power and people to easily make a linuxversion. As open source fan, I even thing Google should make one to Linux before they make one for windows, to keep their do no evil - stamp. One year later is too late, Google.

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  16. Well,

    First of all, Google Notebook was stopped before the crisis started, so I don't think they've stopped innovating. Moreover, they said the reason to stop offering Notebook was that there were other Google tools which could offer the same service (Sites, Docs, Bookmarks...); yeah, I know, I'm not pretty sure how to handle all those tools to have the same functionality but I think they're right (I haven't yet tried Sites).
    About using your personal info to sell to companies, well, I think they were doing that already through Adsense, although the information was hided from companies. I don't know if they plan to sell the information directly or to offer a better service to them.

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  17. I am with the author on the Notebook issue. It was the first time I missed a Google service and I felt similarly burnt --- losing trust in Google and in the idea of cloud computing.

    I guess the number of people feeling burnt is low. Google must have looked at the statistics for Notebook and decided they were sufficiently small before pulling the plug. I wonder, however, if Google really knew how enthusiastic these users were about the service and the things they did with Notebook.

    Reading the 962 comments on http://googlenotebookblog.blogspot.com/, three things are clear. One, many users were highly enthusiastic, often evangelising Notebook among their circle of friends and colleagues. Two, for many uses, services such as Evernote or Google Reader notes are not yet an effective replacement. Three, one of the most popular uses of Google Notebook was to support academic research and schoolwork, with many teachers -- stupidly as it turns out -- recommending it to students for online source gathering and note taking. I know Google is not a charity, but did they really intend to kick this demographic in the groin?

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  18. this is really creepy. Google is stronger now then Microsoft was at its peak IMO. it can pretty much do whatever it wants. i am thinking about pulling out, but i just don't know if there's a good alternative to gmail. yahoo mail sucks badly unless you plug it into a mail client. there are online alternatives for the other google features, but you can't put them in a nice personalized portal like iGoogle.

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  19. I agree with Viking the Brent concerning Evernote, which I found at a time when my frustration with Notebook was reaching a peak.. Evernote is a superlative note taker, and I think Google made the right choice to drop Notebook.

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  20. @ fourstar
    THIS!
    Why in gods name do you people care about your advertisements being sold on so much?
    Do you seriously think you actually have any privacy when online?
    Please, wake up, you have no privacy the instant your connection is up.

    I, for one, would rather have advertisements that *I* like, not advertisements that are based on a webpage that i probably don't like.


    @ OP
    Yes, it was very sad that Notebook had to go.
    They could have at least modified it so that you could use your Google Docs to save notes instead.
    You listening Notebook developers?

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  21. Totally agree with this post and echo AB's comments. I am really concerned about the message that stopping developing GNotebook gives us - we can only conclude that Google are not concerned about those in education. This notetaking system would bring users to Google so I do not understand why they have taken this course of action.

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  22. Re Matt Cutts etc
    I've seen perhaps several thousand blogs that regret the loss of notebook. Clearly Google is not interested in these kinds of numbers. Google chooses to ignore the potential of notebook that the bloggers refer to. One might say that Google acutally does not have any imagination, that is, they have imagination about individual products that they develop but they lack imagination when it comes to showcasing their products and integrating them in a simple and understandable way for 'common' users. I consider myself an in-between person; that is, I like and appreciate new products and technologies but I don' really have the time or skill to figure them out adequately. Thus, it took me a pretty long time to get comfortable with notebook and to realise it's potential. Imagine being able to click on a passage on a website and have it instantly added to a specified folder that pertains to that clipping, and then,additionally, adding a tag so that the website itself becomes bookmarked. Very simple and useful and obvious.The reason that there is a relatively small population of users of notebook is simply because 'common' users can not easily become aware of it's presence (as well as some other products), and having once become aware it still remains unclear as to how to use it effectively. These are simple facts that Google needs to think about.In the large picture I think that Google is making a mistake by looking at the small picture and acting in an arbitrary way. Why don't you hire someone, like Ionut, as a consultant for integrating products and making them more accesible to common users. This would well serve the interest of your engineers who, on an individual basis, apparently, develop interesting products.Ionut seems to be very even-handed and very clear about what works and what does not work. Give it a try. One reaps what one sows, right?
    Thank you.

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  23. "Regarding the demise of Google Notebook, I too felt the sting on that one, as I used Notebook constantly. However, I've found Evernote to be a wonderful replacement. Even more well featured, more stable, and just as handy. For anyone who is missing Google Notebook, you really need to try Evernote. Didi I mention its free?"

    Ya as soon as they announced the end of notebook, I switched to evernote, and have been disappointed ever since... Evernote it at best a mediocre app. It runs horrendously slow on my windows machine (it works great on my mac). But where notebook blew evernote away was in the browser plugin, I didn't have to run a separate app to contain my notes. The evernote browser plugin is just for clipping, not viewing, I loved how you could just pop notebook up in the corner of your screen. Now I have to tab over to some bloated app.

    Overall, while evernote is acceptable and really the best option going forward, it is a distant cry from where Google notebook was in terms of usability and product quality.

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  24. Nobody likes it when a service that they use and love gets shut down. While I was never really a Notebook user my face would fall off if Gmail or Calendar or Docs were to go away. I get it.

    What I don't get is all of this stuff that comes up. "Google is selling my data", "Google is tracking everything that I do and selling it" or this direct quote from the guest:

    "package up these histories and then auctioning them off to advertisers does bother me, a lot actually. That's just a little bit evil, don't you think?"

    This is a total misstatement of the facts. Google IS NOT taking your history and auctioning it off to anyone. There is this from the privacy policy:

    "We will not collect, sell, or share personally identifying information from ad serving cookies without your explicit consent."

    That means that Ionut has allowed a guest blogger to post false and misleading statements. Going back to the whole thing about Notebook I can only guess that this guest blogger is upset about the loss of Notebook and in jealous lover fashion makes these PLAINLY inaccurate statements.

    Look people, every site that you interact with on the Internet tracks what you do. Every ad network, new site, sports site, game site. Every single one of them. For you Yahoo users; do you think that moving back to Y! protects you from this type of thing? I hope you don't because they are an ad network and they track you too, they just don't do it as well as Google does. Microsoft? Yeah, you bet.

    The biggest difference for me is that Google is TELLING you that they are doing it IN ADVANCE, they are TELLING you what categories your history falls into, they are TELLING you that your information isn't being shared and they are GIVING you (I think the whole thing should be opt in but I am not the guest blogger) a free and easy way to opt out.

    Neither Microsoft or Yahoo (I keep accounts with them as well) has ever told me to what extent they track me through their services, they have never shown me what interests that have attached to my name and they have certainly never provided me with a way to opt out of their tracking.

    Evil? I hardly think so.

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  25. *heh* Notebook warrants an opining but Shared Stuff didn't. ;)

    I tried Notebook, but it never met my definition of "flow" for my use. i.e. it had a weird stilted and interrupted style to it.

    You might want to try Diigo as a replacement, though. Annotate web pages on the fly for your own use. Good stuff, aside from the big ugly toolbar.
    -----

    Attaching one's self to Google for services is really no different than attaching yourself to a platform for computing. If your "Have you read the EULAs?" friends read their OS and applications EULAs like they read the Google ones they would find their in the same boat pretty much (Dear Client: We bear no responsibility. Fuck off.) The real difference is that you don't have any recourse with Google. The service is free so you get support commiserate with the payment you make. You also have no recourse if they decide they don't like you for an arbitrary reason, such as the gentleman who sued them in small claims court because someone decided his AdSense account violated terms of service in the most convoluted of manners. It isn't just Google, of course, we all now are beholden to the cloud as part of our memory structure and entirely dependent on it as our method of daily communications. Every upcoming computing related big thing is somehow tied to being a service driven by subscription and entirely offset on a server. What's the last big application that you actually installed on your computer and used that you were excited about that didn't have anything to do with the internet?

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  26. "Google went the way you would expect any other corporation to go in tough times. They're laying people off, shutting down innovation, and grabbing revenue the easiest way they can get it. It just doesn't seem like Google anymore;"

    Oh My GOD!!! They're laying people off! They MUST BE evil, I'm telling ya!

    Bring forth the pitchforks and the torches!

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  27. stopping notebook (which i liked and still use) isn't evil. complying with chinese regulations so that their govt can have more control might be.

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  28. Google, like every other company that does business in a foreign country, must follow the laws in that country. China has laws just like every other country and if Google wants to do business in China then Google must abide by Chinese law.

    Google cannot, because they are an American company, refuse to comply with Chinese law. Cannot, cannot, cannot. It surely is evil that Google gave China user information but the evil party in the transaction was the government of China.

    China didn't demand and get user information about people in other countries. The law of the land is the law of the land.

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  29. This was a horrible blog entry.

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  30. I'll reserve judgment on how transparent Google plans to be with regard to "interest-based" advertising, but I'll admit a strong skepticism given Google's history of being a black box. That said, I don't feel that strongly about "interest-based" advertising vs. any other kind. Search is not advertising.

    As for Google's discontinuing Notebook, I can see how that would upset users, but it seems a bit of a stretch to get angry at Google for discontinuing a free service. If they were snarkier, they might offer to give you your money back. Seriously, folks, if you want service guarantees, you might consider paying for them.

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  31. Increasingly I've created browser silos between Firefox/Yahoo, IE8/MSN, and Chrome/Google for personal, financial, and entertainment purposes, according to what that browser seems to do best. No one service has access to everything, each of them is limited to one set of interests. "Snoople" still has the individual data edge because it's the best search, but the Chrome is the biggest aggregation tool yet, and I've limited it to Google's own services.

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  33. loved Google Notebook, and I'm not sure how Reader's Notes replace it but I'm willing to bet much of the frustration comes from the change rather than the replacement. I used it more for personal notes than for annotating the web or sharing thoughts (hmm, Blogger, Twitter, Reader's Shared Items, Digg, etc. what else do we need?)

    I'd love to transition my PIM entirely to Google. So far they've got e-mail and calendar, and tasks (albeit lacking an API), so all they're missing from Outlook is Notes. All my PDA's (Palms, Axims, and now Blackberries) have had those four features so I'm really frustrated that Google doesn't have a PIM that integrates them yet.

    As for Google becoming evil, will I think their favicon speaks for itself: Google moves towards evil?!.

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  34. Get over it. So Notebook is by by. It probably means that Google has learned it is not that popular and they want to use their resources elsewhere. I think Notebook was a minor app anyway. Docs, Calendar, gmail, etc., those are the more important apps.

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  35. What disappointed me was when Google discontinued their excellent iGoogle iPhone specific page, and replaced it with some crap generic mobile page.

    It made me find a better iPhone home page, which lead to me to stop using my desktop iGoogle page. How is that progress?

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  36. Google's tagline is "Search, Ads and Apps" in order of importance/priority to them. That helps to explain the discontinued Notebook development as well as the fact that it produces no revenue and had a relatively small user base. No one I know even knew it existed. Like many Google products, they are lightly or not advertised at all. I was hoping that it would eventually become part of Docs where it would have more exposure and become integrated with the rest of the apps suite. Maybe someday it (or a variant of it) will.
    As far as the the targeted ad-sense - as others have said, at least they are being transparent about it with options to configure it or opt out. The future of the online advertising model is heading this way regardless, so what is the largest internet advertising company supposed to do? Just wait to see how Facebook's new targeted advertising model is going to impact the ad market. Not only will they be targeting ads based on your activity - they will also target them based on your friends activity as well. So, I don't think Google has much choice, but to expand their ad scope to compete with other upcoming platforms. At some point, they may have a complete 'Pay Only' solution, where for a fee, you can use any/all their services (inc search) and not see any ads. It would likely be pricey, but that may be the cost of privacy in the online age.

    Its also ironic that the company provides the free public platform (Blogger) that allows one to criticize and disagree with said company...that's cool.

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  37. Why use notebook when reader took that functionality over, basically?

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  38. This is starting to sound like a support group, of which I would be a frequent visitor. Great post. I feel your pain.

    Any tips on how to manage your relationship with Google? Here's a few I'd like to propose:

    (1) DON'T SLEEP WITH HER! Google's not the marrying type. Though very seductive, she takes no vows except "to do no evil"--and that's small comfort if you're heavily invested or "in love."

    (2) LET GO OF YOUR MILK - KEEP YOUR SOUL. I like the Google User Farm metaphor rather than the Mephistopheles sell your soul one. It makes letting go of what you've given easier to accept. Enjoy the comforts of your Google stall for what it is; free room and board with targeted advertising plastered in front of the feeding trough. Hey, they've got the best stall in town!

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  39. I, too, was disappointed in the demise of Notebook, especially its usefulness as a means of organizing GoOgle bookmarks. GoOgle: BWC. I was disappointed in GoOgle re-arrangement of the iGoOgle start page (addition of widget tags to the left). BWC. Many GoOgle users objected. GoOgle's reaction? "Use it or don't." A free service is worth about what one pays for it.

    Cloud computing puts the cloud user at the mercy of cloud software versioning and cloud server security. Section 11 of GoOgle's TOS tells us firmly of GoOgle's concern for intellectual property and personal privacy. And a careful search through sections of GoOgle Groups will reveal GoOgle responsiveness(!) to user needs.

    Yes, we we must recognize that "monetization" is "not evil". I had been under that "do no evil" was the same as "do good". Hah!

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  40. Excellent article; couldn't agree more!

    I loved Google Notebook and ever since that announcement I constantly search for an equally good tool -- in vain. For bookmarks, I've started to use and fell in love with Del.icio.us, which is truly clean, fast, simply fantastic, but it does not do clippings and notes in general.

    It's a complete mystery to me why did they kill just Google Notebook (yes, they did - its availability for existing users is just extending its agony!) Why did they not, instead, remove some of the boring services that are better solved elsewhere (e.g. who cares about Orkut?!)

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  41. My 2 cents, I've tried both evernote and zoho notebook, and I came back to notebook, hoping that google will change their minds and keep it.
    I also got a new google account and I was able to use notebook, I'm not sure where the comment "no new users can sign up"

    The other service that was useful, and I'm really sad to see go is google video, unless youtube finally incorporates long video

    The thing is that even though google is becoming less benevolent, by suffocating notebook, encroaching into firefox's territory, etc, it's still way ahead of the other online companies, both in terms of "doing good", and in terms of making useful stuff.

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  42. Errghhh...I had signed up for Google Notebook some time ago, but never had a use for it until I stumbled across an iPhone app that allowed you to sync your notes with Google Notes. (Quite beautifully, by the way.) Prior to that, I was using Evernote, but was disappointed in the functionality of it on the iPhone (read, but not edit). I was very disappointed to learn that Google was no longer going to support Notebook, and was frustrated by trying to transition over to their other services that claim to support Notebooks functionality (IMHO Google Bookmarks should have been killed, as it doesn't support importing bulk bookmarks from my web browser and doesn't seem to have much support; likewise, Google Docs doesn't have much support on the iphone, in terms of being able to write as opposed to just reading). Google has great ideas, but the development seems to fizzle after a time; their focus, understandably, is on Search, Gmail, and Docs (in that order), and to a lesser extent on peripheral apps like Picasa, that will actually make them money. However, their "vision" of a cloud-based future seems to be getting a little cloudy, especially when it is canceling services that support moving data into the cloud. While I continue to use Google Notebook, I am expecting its eventual demise, and have prepared to move the data off-site, if need be. I think if Google had thrown 1% of the support into Notebook that it has thrown into Gmail, it could have developed it into a stronger, better app.

    Perhaps Google can buy Evernote?

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  43. Ugh, I couldn't only get halfway through these comments (just don't have the time to read 'em all).

    I'm glad that I can still use Notebook, and I'm sorry new sign-ups were discontinued. I'll look into Everlast (thanks for the tip).

    Someone said that Google is more powerful than Microsoft in its heyday. You know, there is NO comparison between the Google we know today and the Microsoft we saw in its prime -- these companies have two entirely different cultures. I work in Marketing and have to say that the ads I've seen over the years from Google are far more useful to me than the crap I see anywhere else on the Net. Personalized ads are the future; some of you are just having a hard time adjusting to it and spinning this story into a huge privacy conspiracy that is more Hollywood bullshit than reality.

    You're free to walk away from Google's services. Have fun on your way back to 1997....

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  44. I rather surprised at how many people think Google is really this other type of company that isn't interested in making money.

    "Do no evil" is a marketing slogan. Google is a company in the business of making money. Of course, its leaders should try to do good while they make that money, and Google does a lot of good. But Google is not a charity. They will do what helps Google. (For example, they are willing to support government censorship in China.) And even when they mean to do good, they sometimes cause a lot of harm. (Such as their support of the radical redefinition of marriage which, if successful, will cause immense suffering for many generations.)

    To think that Google is somehow exempt from normal economic forces is naive in the extreme. If you find their services and applications useful, use them. But don't be shocked to discover that Google is actually a business.

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  45. Google has its own ad service so Google would gain nothing by selling user data. They use the data to provide personalized ads to you but they could check your browser history and offer you ads based on the history and believe me, you don't want that because it would be much more irrelevant to your actual interests and you could get ads based on sites you have accidentally opened. (Porn, spam, viruses.)

    Google closes down some services? Well, they do, but all companies lose services which gain no profit. You can't blame them for it.

    IMO Google's greatest problem is that it is updating its applications (Chrome for example) without asking/notifying you.

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  46. I like Google Notebook very much. I wish Google don't stop it. Please~~

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  47. dualsub2006 said ...

    ...or this direct quote from the guest:

    "package up these histories and then auctioning them off to advertisers does bother me, a lot actually. That's just a little bit evil, don't you think?"

    This is a total misstatement of the facts.
    ...
    That means that Ionut has allowed a guest blogger to post false and misleading statements.

    ----

    In my own defense, I think this is a little harsh. While it may be a generalization, even an over-generalization, I don't think it's false. I was trying to keep the entry short, believe it or not, and cut out a lot of details. Anyway, my understanding is that Google will be using my history to place me into various "Interest Categories" (the packaging) and then selling advertising space on those categories to the highest bidder (the auction). And, yes, I find this a little bit creepy. Yes, I am well aware that many other companies attempt the same thing, and are perhaps far more invasive in their attempts, but this is Google we're talking about here.

    Flipping this around, do you think Microsoft could have gotten away with machine-reading emails to place context-sensitive advertising? I don't think so. Google is special because they worked very hard at building trust. Is Google becoming evil like Microsoft? Of course not, and Microsoft is watered-down meek on any scale of true evil. It's not like Mr. Bill overthrew governments or set up forced labor camps to make his money. I mean, the guy played a little business hardball and he gets lumped in with the Borg.

    The web is built on trust and it doesn't take much to earn the "Evil Empire" label. I'm just saying that Google is "most trusted" at the moment, and they have a lot to lose. Interest-based advertising is not the right way to go, especially when there are far better alternatives that are more inline with the published or at least perceived Google ethic. If they had taken a different path, they could have been making a lot more money and people would be cheering them on.

    As for Notebook, well, I'm not exactly shopping around for a replacement. It still works and will continue to do so, at least until the Firefox plug-in is incompatible with any usable version. By that time, I expect there will be much better alternatives. The issue is not that a good service is going away, it's that, well, it's hard to put into words. It's like the very first scratch on a new car; it hurts way out of proportion to the actual damage. It's just not new anymore.

    The next time Google stops a service, it will be "oh well, there goes another one..." And, after that... sigh. But, the first one, well, that always sets a person back. Google isn't new anymore, it's a little less shiny, heading down that path to "business casual" dress-codes.

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  48. I hate to tell you this, but it's not the bean counters who gain control (they're just drones). It's the shareholders who buy into a corporation and the board of directors who get to chart the course for their company. Unfortunately this happens to nearly every corporation that starts out with vision and ingenuity.

    Pretty soon some other startup will come along and we'll like and trust them more than Google; then they'll become too big for their britches, and we'll have to assign our loyalties to someone else, ad infinitum.

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  49. > Pretty soon some other startup will come along...

    Well, if you find one, send 'em to me. I'll show them how to flip advertising on its head, get people actively trying to attract the attention of the best advertisers. We'll get rich together, without being evil. Google's heading in the wrong direction...

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  50. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Joannah

    http://2gbmemory.net

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  51. Hands down excellent post.

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  52. Totally agree with most comments, this is an awesome post and I definitely agree that Google is loosing it's edge as "the friendly corporation". I think they are being a little pushed into these corners though, just look at the UK press response to Street View being implemented in out country.

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  53. And what does Google have to say about this?

    I'd like to hear some answers from them in some continous post.

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  54. We're in the middle of an economic crisis people. Every company, even google needs to stop with activities that are least profitable. I'm a fanatic Google Notebook user, but if the reality is that not so many people use it and that it is not profitable, then it's just 'normal' that is no longer developed.

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  55. RoninTDK said:

    ...then it's just 'normal' ...

    And, that's the whole point. When did Google become normal? Google was always:
    "What, are they crazy?"
    "How are they going to make money at THAT?"
    "They're giving it away for free?"
    "No one is going to get away with that!"

    Normal? I always thought the people running Google thought 'normal' was just a setting on a dryer.

    You're right though, it had to happen sooner or later. I suppose if I owned a lot of stock in Google, I'd be happy with their corporate maturation. But, I'm just an opinionated user, and it's, well, kind of sad.

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  56. eternal vigilance is the price of...

    basically this is good that everyone is expressing themselves. but as another poster mentioned, TINSTAaFL(there is no such thing as a free lunch).

    I think it is important to offer Google Corp other options by expressing what there services are worth in dollar amounts. If every Googler had the option to "give their soul for free services" OR pay $100 per year to use the services without giving their information to Google, that might be something they could offer and make money at.

    But everybody wants FREE, and that is impossible to deliver. It is unreasonable to expect that a company can deliver inventive and cutting edge products with NO OVERHEAD. I think they are trying to monetize however they can right now because they have to to weather the storm. Not that they aren't also allowing themselves to be dominated by stock prices.

    But I just hope that we have learned from our economic turbulence right now that focusing on stock prices in the next quarter ends up getting you into trouble in the long run. You have to keep feeding the Goose "that lays the golden eggs."

    And guess what, we are the one of the Geese. If the users don't exist, they have no business.

    again, eternal vigilance is the price of...fill in the blank.

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  57. People... I am astounded. As others have pointed out, what GOOG does, others also do in spades and with less disclosure. What really blows me away is the amount of concern about GOOG vs the amount of concern about the GOVERNMENT. Ahem. Who is bigger? Who has more resources? Who has the ability to confiscate property, conduct 'extraordinary rendition,' intercept ALL your electronic communications without a warrant, 'coercively interrogate' aka torture you, etc etc? Not GOOG, people! Uncle Sam! What have all you nerds been smoking since 9-11? You are worrried about targeted advertising. Holy crap, you are all nucking futs.

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  58. Who trusts the US government? We expect them to do all those nasty things. But, Google built its empire on TRUST. You know, "don't be evil." It's like, we all know that there are nasty people out there doing nasty things all the time, but if our friend did something a little bit nasty, well, we'd notice.

    Well, we notice when Google slips from the high perch that they put themselves on. That's the problem with being on top, there's a long way to fall. That there are a near-infinite number of other scummy groups below them is irrelevant. Get it? ... "In Google We Trust"

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  59. Stopping a free service I wouldn't class as evil (though I found notebook very useful).

    Regarding them auctioning off search histories, is this anonymous or linked to the user? Google has always clearly been a profit driven organisation that makes money through advertising - but i would class it as 'evil territory' if there taking information without making it clear and then selling it to others. However, as far as i'm aware there not doing this. I guess it could be clearer though that if you sign up to any of there services or use any of there software that they will be monitoring, storing and possibly selling that information.

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  60. really loved the read and a truly interesting perspective!

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  61. They also stopped googlepages...

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  62. Free cheese in a mousetrap !!

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  63. aw I miss google pages. Although to be fair they did replace it with google sites. But google sites is more restrictive. =(
    I can't upload .exe or .html on there unless its zipped up.

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  64. I am coming somewhat late to the party, but I did exactly as you did: I threw my heart and soul to Google. As my account grows with apps, if I lost Notebook, it would be a serious disappointment. Some things, like notes, or conversations I need to remember, are best placed there, not Docs. Also, the removal of tracking by Google Reader turned my blogs inside out! I have long bloglists that updated on their own. Now I had to switch everything to RSS. I even use Chromium, even though if's a bit over my head, the development part, that is. I haven't programmed in over 12 years, and I have a head injury. But I love Chromium; my extensions didn't work in Chrome. But today, I updated Chrome, and I'm considering importing all my bookmarks into Chrome.
    I've been having a terrible experience with Twitter using my identity to sell products. I always read the EULA, but this slipped past me. Because I'm an advocate and activist, I need the social networks. Google Buzz accepted the Twitter "identity theft." So now, we know they keep our data for 18 months (60 minutes show.) And I, too, fear they will turn into Microsoft. I'm so familiar with Blogger, and all the rest, that I don't want to switch. But, I did recently resurrect my Yahoo and Hotmail (now live.com) email accounts. That's what computers have really been about since the late '80's: things change at the drop of a hat. I sympathize. And I'm considering going to Linux, and to hell with Chrome OS. sigh

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