This post represents the first step in the execution of the Google Exit Strategy and is a reaction to many false promises and disappointments from the big G. The announcement of shutting down GooglePlus (G+) for consumers was just the last proof point, that it is now time to rethink my online strategy.
I am not here to complain and to cry about all the bad big internet companies. We just have to face the reality: The days of the nerdy, but cool guys are over. Those companies have evolved to large enterprises, that are fighting the same problems like normal companies do – It’s all about numbers, paired with a lot of politics. Google is no exception here.
The closing of G+ was a logical step for a company, that has adopted a usual “corporate governance” for large enterprises. There is no time for feelings. The platform has simply not met Google’s expectations regarding user growth and the fact, that it had a solid core of loyal users, did not matter. It is also irrelevant, that it was by far the best (and only) platform for the remaining followers.
Mike Elgan, one of G+ most prominent users, has published some brilliant articles in response to Google’s announcement.
I agree 100% with what he wrote and close the analysis with the following statement:
Google removed their tagline “Don’t be evil”
They forgot to add: “You can’t trust us!”
But the purpose of this article is not to join the line of the bashers. I want to look forward and talk about, how I plan to move on. First, to make it clear: I will not stop to use all of Google’s products and services. This would be a total overreaction and childish. But to be honest to myself, I was maybe a little bit of a Google fanboy in the past and therefore an easy target for Google. Whatever Google released, I was all in. This has to stop, because I am at risk wasting my valuable time on a product, that has the same fate as G+ (and so many others in the history of Google). From now on, I will start to pick very carefully the Google products and services I am going to use.
Today, I am considering the following products as strategic for Google:
- Search (drives revenue for Ads)
- Ads (is dependent on Search)
- G-Suite (Drive & Gmail)
- YouTube (only Classic, not Premium or Music)
- Chrome OS
My rule of thumb will be: Everything that is not 100% strategic for Google and has not yet won over the critical mass of users, is not qualified for my usage. In the first round, I will evaluate in the following categories:
- Voice/Video calling
The way I used G+ as my main social network is maybe different to what most people are looking for, when they select their platform. The vast majority of the online community is limited to sharing daily trivialities and showing off their status symbols (my house, my car, my wife, my dog, my holidays etc). And on the other hand, to participate in the lives of others, preferably friends and family as well as celebrities. Even if they share a lot of stuff (selfies!?!), I would not call them content creators. And some people don’t share at all and stay passive, while reading through the life of others.
For me, social means to engage. I have plenty of hobbies, that I like to share and discuss about with people, that share the same passion or interest. That’s how I learned photography: Through social networks (and YouTube)! I also like to exchange opinions about divergent topics and have online conversations with people around the globe. People, that I might not know in person. A good platform provides me with information from a broad and diversified network without locking myself into a filter bubble.
As Mike Elgan analyzed correctly in his articles: None of the existing predefined and centralized social networks will fulfill my requirements. Sharing 4.0 is Blogging. Build your own small world and keep ownership of your content.
“I’ll still appear to be on various social sites. But after they’ve been using me for years, now I’m using them. I’m going to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to drive traffic to elgan.com, and not engage much there.”
What a brilliant idea! I had exactly the same thing in mind, with the difference, that I had to start completely from scratch. While Mike has been using his own blogging platform for quite some time, G + has been my social universe. So I first had to select the right tool and platform. My choice fell on WordPress.com, as it is considered the leading blogging platform and unlike Blogger, independent of Google. And no, I don’t consider Blogger being a strategic product for Google.
Although I have existing profiles on the other popular social networks, they rather served me as placeholders. I was not active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Guess what? I am going to change that! I will use them to increase traffic to this place. I might even open up new accounts on other platforms for this purpose. Engagement/Answers to my own posts will only happen on this site. Thank you, Mike!
As a news feed, I will use Twitter and/or the Google Feed on my Pixel 2XL. That’s it. I am all set in terms of social networking.
I am a passionate photographer and for me, a cloud platform for my pictures must cover multiple aspects:
- Storing and sharing of pictures in original size (100% quality)
- Offsite backup (see storing in original size)
- Search based on AI
- Rich metadata (EXIF/geotag)
- Device independence
I am a hobby photographer and not interested in stock selling (digital downloads) of my work. Simple sharing (and finding my pictures) is my main goal and therefore, Google Photos is a great solution for me. Yes, I am considering Google Photos as a strategic product for Google. First, because it has reached the critical mass of users (I also do know many iOS users, who are happy using it). Second, because it is the ideal playground for Google’s engineers, to experiment with AI. I use this product for some years now and there is no reason to dump it. Nevertheless, I do use a NAS @ home, where I store a local backup of all my images. Did you already forget it? You can’t trust Google!
This is a complicated topic. Can you take Google serious any longer on messaging? They have an amazing track record of failing… By always jumping on the Google train for the last few years, I do have a dilemma in this area. Hangouts has been officially announced to only be a business tool in the future. Allo is in coma modus already, since all development efforts have been shifted to work on Android Messages (or new: Messages). RCS. I got it! Yes, it makes absolutely sense to me. RCS could become the ultimate chat (and group chat) enabler, that works independent of the device and its software client. However, we are not there yet. Let’s come back to my evaluation principles: What are today the leading messaging clients on the market?
- WhatsApp (1’500 mio.)
- Facebook Messenger (1’300 mio.)
- WeChat (1’040 mio.)
- QQ Mobile (806 mio.)
- Skype (300 mio.)
- Viber (260 mio.)
- Snapchat (255 mio.)
- LINE (203 mio.)
- Telegram (200 mio.)
The problem with the actual messaging solutions is, that you need to convince your own ecosystem of friends and family to use a specific messaging client. Some of the above mentioned Apps are only popular in certain regions, such as WeChat and QQ Mobile, which high user numbers are mainly driven by the Chinese market. So my choice should obviously fall on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, as they both occupy the top spots in the ranking. But how can you first rant about Facebook’s data policy and then go: OK, let’s use WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger? That’s pretty inconsistent, not? The reason why I am not using both of theses services today is Facebook. And the fact that WhatsApp will start to show ads soon, does not make the situation any better. From an ecosystem standpoint, I should convert to WhatsApp, because most of my friends & contacts are already there. However, I do not have much sympathy for the devil. Do you now understand my dilemma?
Maybe I have to close my eyes and jump over. I just need a little bit more time… Right now, I am still sticking to Messages. The good thing is, that you still need an SMS client on your Smartphone. Silently, I still hope RCS will move forward a bit faster 🙂
Read more about RCS: RCS – The future of messaging
Unlike Allo, Google Duo seems to have a slightly better user acceptance. I do like the simplicity of the App and it works very reliable. The requirement for Voice/Video calling is not so high, compared to sending messages. I very rarely use video and for the rest, there is still standard carrier based voice calling. At the moment, I am fine with Google Duo. Should I decide to switch my messaging strategy and come over to the dark side (WhatsApp), I might ditch Duo as well.
Yes, I am also affected by the end of Google Inbox. Hey, I was a Google fanboy, don’t you remember? I still have not found a way how to deal with E-mail in the future. I am so much used to work with automatic bundles, that the way back to archaic Gmail will be really hard and stony. The problem is, that there is no real alternative to Gmail (other clients are even worse) and since I am a G Suite user (bundled with my business page for photography), there are no changes planned from my side. The good news: Gmail seems to be (still) strategic for Google.
Of course I am using Google Play Music (GPM)! How could you think, that I am using any other service? Well, you are wrong. In fact, I am using several music services in parallel. As a little side note for you: Music is also one of my hobbies and I use streaming services for many years. It all begun by ripping MP3’s in the mid 90’s. CPU power was limited and storage was expensive back then. Later, I was using all kinds of streaming solutions, starting with last.fm (I am still using the service in the background), Simfy (now redirecting its users to Deezer), Spotify and finally GPM. From an audio quality perspective, Spotify and GPM are very similar. Also the music catalog seems to cover about the same songs. However, I very much prefer the searching functionality of GPM over Spotify. This makes sense, as search is the core competence of Google. All of the popular streaming services are limited in audio quality, because they are not using lossless formats:
- Google: MP3 @ 320 kbps
- Spotify: Ogg Vorbis @ 320 kbps
- Apple Music: AAC @ 256 kbps
This is OK while on the road, but for my HiFi system at home, this is not good enough. Don’t try to argue. It is your problem, if you can’t hear the difference, not mine. I already found a better solution to the above listed services: Roon in combination with Tidal. The nice thing on Roon is, that it has the best metadata and a clean catalog. It also provides seamless integration of streaming services and local files. Yes, beside streaming, I still use file downloads, because some artists and songs are not available as a stream. I have a large collection of some great songs in master quality (DSD or FLAC). Qobuz would be an interesting option, as I think it has an awesome music catalog and a highly qualified editorial service. I already used it in the past and I am still buying some high quality downloads from time to time. Unfortunately, Qobuz is not (yet) supported by Roon, but it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel (rumors have it, that it will be supported by end of 2018). Roon has one important limitation: It does not work outside your home network. Full mobile support is on the roadmap and is hopefully coming soon.
For the moment, I use Google Play Music on the road and Roon/Tidal at home. GPM will soon be replaced by YouTube Music, which is currently not available in my country (Switzerland). I see both, GPM and Youtube Music not as strategic products for Google. If they get killed, I have already an alternative solution based on Roon.
Hardware is easy replaceable, as long as the software supports it. I do use the following Google devices: Chromebook Pixel (2015) and the Pixel 2XL smartphone (running Android 9). I don’t think that any hardware device is really strategic for Google. Just look at the sold unit numbers and the revenue driven by hardware sales. To be frank: It is irrelevant compared to other Google business units. Right now, I am still very happy with both of my Google devices. Should Google decide to quit the hardware business, then there are plenty of alternatives, without having to change my user ecosystem. The reason I am preferring a Pixel smartphone over a Samsung device, is its plain Android (Vanilla) user experience.
My new social ecosystem is born! From that perspective, I am independent of Google already. As you could see in my article, there are other areas to keep in mind. On some particular points (Messaging) I might have to act sooner as I would like to.