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Google Blew a Ten-Year Lead (secondbreakfast.co)
857 points by secondbreakfast 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 550 comments

No kidding. Early adopter of gsuite for domains (work and personal email). The google home devices CANNOT get your calendar from your google calendar. My Alexa device can easily.

The thing of stuff just stagnating and no care to scrub the rough corners is crazy.

They have some things they keep on improving. I think youtube is there (after the dumped plus thank goodness). Chrome seems to be moving along nicely.

I used to push google chat / video hard, including to external business partners. Then - yoink, google duo was hot, then yoing, hangouts? then yoink, hangouts meet? Then yoink, meet. It's honestly mind blowing. So now we are stuck on zoom.

We were making the move to docs and sheets, but it's basically stuck. Now it looks like office 365 is going to be the cloud editing future for word / excel type needs. For those of us who are older this is totally incredible - Office was so anti-linux / cloud it was incredible, and now word in the cloud kinda works!

And yes - when you get locked out of even a paying account because some state machine gets screwed up (looking at you gsuite admin onboarding flow with some kind of zombie state issues) you CANNOT get an actual person who can help.

Android / Chrome are amazing - why not put the execs like this in charge of shipping everything? Instead i keep hearing that google engineers are going on "strike" (ie, getting company paid days off).

> The thing of stuff just stagnating and no care to scrub the rough corners is crazy.

On the outset, you might think with such ridiculously high compensation there would be an expectation of quality, but I think that's an error.

Google operates as an ad-company that happens to employ ridiculous amounts of exhorbitantly compensated individuals to engage in market and technological research, particularly to open or expand markets for their ads.

They didn't create mail, docs, drive et al in order to create productivity apps, they created them to _open a new market_ for advertising, and to gather data for the same. They don't really care what content is in the browser so long as it is browser-based content the user consumes and not native apps. The more browser time spent, the higher the likelihood of being served Google ads, or providing Google with data, and similar.

mail, docs, drive et al ... they created them to _open a new market_ for advertising

This seems obviously false. Google clearly monetizes gsuite as a paid service, and "everyone uses the same service at home that they do at work" has clear advantages, whether or not there is advertising in your gmail. Advertising in (consumer) gmail came long after paid gsuite (or "google apps for domains", as they called it then - horrible).

> Advertising in (consumer) gmail came long after paid gsuite

This is clearly false. The screenshots in this Time article show gmail having advertising from day one.


Completely accurate. The ads were even touted as somewhat of a feature. Something along the lines of "Gmail has ads, just like the other services, but our ads will be relevant to your interests."

It’s accurate and inaccurate. Ads were there but many users saw none for a long time.

IMO ads were a distraction to enable the data harvesting, which drove Adsense targeting. Even today, the ads I see on GMail are pretty low quality. Some lovelorn guy used my email address unintentionally to sign up for a 55+ dating site 3 years ago. The most targeted ads I get are for similar sites.

Of course YMMV.

They actually stopped targeting by email contents a while back https://variety.com/2017/digital/news/google-gmail-ads-email...

My early adopter google apps account is still free and has no ads.

> This seems obviously false. Google clearly monetizes gsuite

It's not obviously false when advertising makes up something like 80%+ of their revenue:


When using GSuite it is used in a browser, and this is key to the Google strategy. The goal is to get more users spending more time in their browsers, in order to funnel them to Google Ads and to serve Google their browsing data.

GSuite exists, at least in part, to break down the model of the walled corporate intranet. There are just too many people behind the corporate veil to ignore; and as a bonus, the browsing and cloud app usage habits they develop at work will tend to translate to their usage habits at home.

Also, as noted by another responder, GMail has had ads since launch. I was a beta user from day 1, and I recall the ads.

Edit: worth noting the historical difficulty of getting open source software into the business environment because corporate purchasers were wary of anything that was "free"; putting a price on something makes it more palatable to corporate adoption.

I can’t imagine that being true. Gmail had “relevant” ads based off their other ad tech from the get go. That was a point vs other majors having banner ads.

Gmail very quickly introduced advertising in your mailbox. There was a huge outcry because they would scan your mails to provide contextual advertising.

This was before other GSuite components even existed.

And the reason they probably want to stay an ad company is so they don't get stuck with IBM sized workforce.

Their lack of customer support is border line criminal.

Lol, no. They have >100k employees.

Google has 118,899 employees.

IBM has 352,600 which is about 3x the number of employees that Google has.

You're comparing a 900lbs Gorilla to a 300lbs Gorilla and sort of overlooking that they're both Gorillas.

I think the argument is that the 300lb gorilla is actually an overweight chimp.

If you count on-site, full time contractors at Google you get closer to 250,000.

Give it time. My guess is Google will be well over 300,000 by 2030.

Imagine all the tech support you could buy with 200k employees.

> _open a new market_ for advertising, and to gather data for the same

Yes, thank you. "When something is free then you are the product". And for the case of Google, someone pays Google shitloads of money to buy YOUR data.

This applies to many companies, but to Google most of all.

Also, the further they keep users away from Win10 (where MS siphons everything) and they keep them locked in Android/Chrome operating systems, then it's +1 for them and -1 for the competition.

> And for the case of Google, someone pays Google shitloads of money to buy YOUR data.

I am a vocal Google critic, but I have yet to see any evidence of them selling my data. Unlike a number of other companies and organizations Google serms to have realized long ago that they are totally dependent on user trust.

I'm not saying they are smart (judging by the ads they have sent me the last 13 years, the killing off of Reader, the nymwars and then killing off Google+ after it turned out to be nice) or nice (the way they keep trying to crush the open web, the "embrace, extend, extinguish" model of pushing Chrome relentlessly until they almost have monopoly, then try to remove the possibility to run adblockers etc etc)

I guess throwing away your key asset is not in the interest of Google or Facebook. I presume Cambridge Analytica only got so far with Facebook because Facebook didn't realize the potential value of its user data till then. Now they'll engage in the same act themselves.

> Yes, thank you. "When something is free then you are the product"

So, when I am using Libreoffice, who sees me as their product ?

It's not a good comparison.

StarOffice was developed by a company that was trying to sell it the old fashioned way but became Open Source because Sun was trying to keep its Unix workstations viable (no way we'd see "Office for SPARC") and also challenging Microsoft with Java.

Oracle bought Sun. Oracle kept Sun products alive because they know one reason people $$$ for Oracle is support.

Once it got renamed and spun out of Oracle, LibreOffice has been kept alive by various stakeholders such as companies that have big fleets of heavily hacked instances, Eurocrats who wish they could break the hold of American software monopolies, linux distros who want another piece of shovelware to list on the box, etc.

A typical end user might not perceive that leaving an issue on GitHub is not good customer service, even if some people enjoy the liberty of fixing things for themselves.


More seriously, Libreoffice is software you run on a computer you control (e.g. your desktop, a cloud server, whatever, ...) Since you are paying for the computer, you don't have conflicts about how generously to provision hardware.

Libreoffice is a ship in a bottle. 1000 years from now somebody might dig up an optical disk from a landfill and boot Libreoffice, but it is hard to believe Google Docs will last that long.

Originally this product knwn as StarOffice ws not free. It only became so after Sun aquired it and reeased it as OpenOffice. This was basically a loss-leader not just fr sun but for other companies as well to break Microsoft's capture of the Knowledege Worker productivity which they leveraged into other areas.

So the idea was you were the product, "sold" to the non-MS-Windows/Intel companies in te hopes of you being retained or transferred to a non-MS stack.

LibreOffice is post Oracle's acquisition of Sun, but the idea is still the same.

Nobody called them “knowledge workers” outside of Page Mill Dr. when StarOffice was made and Sun didn’t compete in that space as much though Microsoft was starting to eat their lunch in other areas, like academia, government, military, and high end computation.

I worked on a Sun at NOAA in the 90s in Hawaii and the computer we used for bathymetry imaging was a Sun and the ships used Suns.

Most of that equipment was replaced with a little Linux and Windows Servers.

Same experience, maybe few years earlier . We all had the Sun pizzaboxes that had replaced Lisp Machines, and 2 years later we all had Mac's and later PC's.

Latex still had it's place in academia, and would continue to dominate academic publishing for quite some time, but for 'ordinary' daily productivity needs first MacWrite and MacDraw, WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and later Word and Excel were becoming the staples.

With both software being ported to the PC/Mac platforms, and Linux starting to make inroads into the Unix compute workloads, Sun needed an answer fast to stop the bleeding.

Their inability to transform their high tough / high margin business model would do them in eventually as the commodity / thin margin model of the PC ecosystem grinded them into dust. But before that, they would try several things one of which was an attempt to 'complete' the offering of a single box solution which would have to include an 'office' package so as to keep the Mac / PC of the desks.

It's a rule of thumb. No, not every costless product is monetizing your use of it. FOSS is especially counter to this rule.

In the case of web-based tools that are owned and operated by big advertising companies, I think it's a fairly safe bet. As always, think critically about each instance and consider the implications of the software and products you use.

For open source, you kind of are in a weird way. Open source projects need contributions, for example in the form of bug reports, feature requests, proof reading and (in the rare case) source code. Many ousers provide these benefits to open source projects, which make them thrive.

On the other hand, looking at the coin from the other side you could also argue you’re paying with your time and effort and not your money.

You're paying for the computing resources to run LibreOffice; it isn't free.

The quote is pithy but assumes some context - the [something] is being provided below the marginal cost to produce and therefore being provided with an expectation of benefit for the provider.

Acquiring LibreOffice is not $0 marginal cost but they have a big "DONATE" button top-right corner of the website and The Document Foundation turns a small profit from donations.

> You're paying for the computing resources to run LibreOffice; it isn't free.

That's silly. Paid office suites use just as many computing resources, and Google docs use plenty resources through your browser as well.

I think the "if you don't pay for it, you're the product" quote is fine. You just have to exclude free and open source software.

Excluding free software from a quote that starts "When something is free..." is equally silly. The quote stops being about anything.

But yeah, good point that my argument didn't make sense.

There is free as in Freedom as well as free as in beer. The quote seems to apply to things that are free as in beer but not free as in freedom. It'd be valid given that distinction.

> The quote stops being about anything.

It is still about stuff other than open source software.

You can't expect some Internet quote to apply universally. Just know the exceptions and use it when it applies.

Who does Google sell your docs and drive data to?

They needn't sell it at all. The important thing is that you're using a browser more often to do things that were traditionally done with native apps.

For using Gmail, Drive and Docs you will have a Google account and you'll be logged in often or all the time. Quite useful for targeting you outside those tools.

they don't sell it, they use it to profile you

From docs and drive? Which stuff?

Everything searchable is indexed. Everything indexed and associated with a user is used to profile that user in order to provide superior search results.

They aggregate what they learn about each user across all their properties. (Their hope was the plus would make this easier). So while I seriously doubt they tell advertisers, “joshuamorton writes about JavaScript, metallurgy and anime”, whatever they learn from the enormous number of places they are collecting info increases the probability that you might see an ad on gmail relating to anime.

And they are quite public about scanning documents written using the free drive service, as they are proud that they take down documents with content they or the government consider inappropriate, as discussed on HN recently.

So your contention is that because they check hashes of documents stored on drive for unlawful material, we'll say, that this proves that Google is lying about how it uses data from docs and drive?

Or are you saying they don't actually share any data learned from docs and drive

Checking a hash of a document unavoidably necessitates reading the entirety of that document.

What does checking hashes of documents mean? Isn’t stuff either encrypted or not?

This might not be a good look for me to be confused by this as a web dev/programmer, but I does that mean they are securely or otherwise hashing everything they store on all users? Drive, Gmail and other Google services have tons of data. After THats they are also still only checking hashes?

how would they check the HASH of a document for unlawful material?

I think the complaint was they scan your entire doc, for all it's content.

> HASH of a document for unlawful material

This is ~super common with things like copyright violations and child porn. You store a database of hashes of copyrighted or pornographic data. And specifically you can use visual-similarity hashing to detect even somewhat perturbed documents.


"_open a new market_ for advertising, and to gather data for the same."

No, I think they wanted to make money from it directly via Enterprise sales.

MS Office is the #1 source of profit for MS for a long while.

In the 2000's it seemed 'everything was going cloud', naturally Google thought they could leapfrog MS into that space.

But it didn't work out.

Well, obviously, if Google was going to have to take an actual phone call from somebody when things went pear-shaped, that was never going to work out.

And that even though MSFT started creating Office Online much later and also had to basically create a whole new product. And yet they now have the by far superior product.

Notice every G product with a decent level of ongoing support & development is in some form or another an ad platform.

To be fair, DFP sucks too.

Tsk tsk. You mean Ad Manager :rolls eyes:

Google didn't create Docs, they bought it.

>Android / Chrome are amazing

Chrome has been deteriorating in performance and power usage - on OSX at least, I recently switched back to Firefox because it was that bad (Safari is a step too far as I want to work on non-Apple platforms). Firefox has slipped from the mainstream and it's very obvious - so many sites I use on a daily basis have almost unusable bugs on FF (I have to hack CSS because token auth popup from my bank is broken, a game related website has half of the scrolling on the page broken, in general so many sites have broken scrolling on FF) - the situation with Chrome seems to be similar to IE.

And the small exposure I had with Android SDK I was shocked at the API design quality, poor documentation. Implementation is ridiculously inconsistent across OS versions and HW vendors - I was trying to create a WiFi management API for some industrial application that would connect to controller specific networks - Android has 2 layers of terrible and depricated API with documentation that was misleading at best, a new API that only worked on 10+ without backcompat, and the actual implementation was inconsistent across four Android devices we tested. We gave up on the project as the Matrix of features missing and hacks needed for every platform we could find was just not practical to maintain.

> the situation with Chrome seems to be similar to IE.

I've been preaching this for a while:

- Chrome is dominant line IE was.

- Chrome - like IE - doesn't care about the standards because they know developers will adapt to them.

- Chrome - like IE - is starting to fail.

Unfortunately, meanwhile Mozilla has been busy tearing apart a number of the things that made Firefox shine, especially the extension API. They've also been busy trying to destroy the massive trust many of us had in them by doing stupid things like injecting a silly ad extension and lying (IIRC) about the Pocket thing (nothing against Pocket, they just shouldn't have lied about it, many of us are looking for ways to fund FF development.)

Edit: I still use and recommend Firefox. For me it is still the best browser out there in more than one way, I just feel it could have been so much better.

Have you tried Brave?

Brave is basically just Chrome with an adblocker, just like edge is chrome with a reskin. Obviously that's a bit of an exaggeration, but they are all chromium at heart.

It's a pretty big distinction don't you think. FWIW I also use FireFox...

> And the small exposure I had with Android SDK I was shocked at the API design quality, poor documentation.

Ho ho ho. You haven't even touched the worst that Android has to offer.

- The bluetooth stack. My god the bluetooth stack. A mix of absolutely awful APIs trying to disguise state machines, APIs trying to simplify GATT (but awfully failing at it), the Android lifecycle making you tear your hair out when you want any kind of long lived connection.

- Camera. Thankfully, CameraX from the AndroidX team makes it much easier. But a few years back? I'll just let Google's very own Camera2BasicFragment speak for itself. https://github.com/googlearchive/android-Camera2Basic/blob/m... . 1100 lines of basicness.

- Well, speaking of lifecycle, here's the Fragment lolcycle: http://boloorian.free.fr/_Media/complete_android_fragment_l_...

- The java.io.File API is basically gone. The reasons themselves are "good". The replacement, SAF is a horrible, slow, inconvenient API that breaks pretty much every file manager.

- Looking at the bug tracker is a whole other level of sadness. What's that, You'd need your testing library to ba able to instantiate a Fragment in an arbitrary Activity ? radio silence since 2019

> many sites I use on a daily basis have almost unusable bugs on FF (I have to hack CSS because token auth popup from my bank is broken, a game related website has half of the scrolling on the page broken, in general so many sites have broken scrolling on FF)

You can report sites that are broken in Firefox at https://webcompat.com/. Mozilla engineers will debug the broken site and try to contact the site's developers. Firefox also ships some site-specific workarounds (such as spoofing Chrome's User-Agent string or tweaking some CSS). You can see the current list of site workarounds in Firefox's about:compat page.

> so many sites I use on a daily basis have almost unusable bugs on FF

I find this really interesting, and would like to hear more. I've been a Firefox ESR user for almost a decade, and apart from some breakage on some videoconferencing sites, and sometimes having to disable uBlock Origin, I've not faced an unusable site. And this is on ESR!

I also use FF on daily basis and I don't remember having such problems. Some webapps like Skype were blocking FF user-agent on purpose (changing User-Agent made it work). Maybe I use different sites than the one complaining but it may also be worth checking addons and considering starting FF in Safe Mode (which disables addons temporarily). Sometimes addons can mess up sites in unexpected ways.

Chrome has recently (within the last year) been repeatedly making me frustrated with its pdf issues. It feels like 40% of the time I open a pdf in chrome, I instead get an error message like "the plugin has crashed" or some bs. The only solution is to restart the browser entirely. Switched back to FF for this reason.

Android feels just as janky as Windows did for years. Everything about the ecosystem shows a lack of leadership. Microsoft did better with dealing with its OEMs in 1995 with WinHEC than Google does today.

I have to say, as a FF user who's never gotten on board the Chrome train other than as a target for dev work (because it doesn't have tree-style tabs), I do not see the problems you're reporting.

> The google home devices CANNOT get your calendar from your google calendar. My Alexa device can easily.

This drove me nuts with my Nest Minis until I tried out Apple's Homepod.

People hate on Apple for moving slow in the "connected home" space, but my Homepod sounds great, can distinguish between my wife and I, and can handle BOTH personal and work calendars for the two of us. I'll take the polish over my actual use cases, rather than rough edges around a wider set of uses, most of which I never will use.

And neither of us use iCloud for email! It blows my mind that a Google can offer email/calendars for both personal and work use can tie both to you as an individual, but _somehow_ can't make your "smart" speaker do the same.

I'm fairly frustrated with siri's voice recognition in general myself as a multi-year homepod user. The amazon echos I had before the homepod were more consistent and google's general voice transcription & knowledge base is still way ahead of siri.

I mostly chose the homepod because of privacy and better sound. If the privacy story was the same on google or amazon, I'd probably be using that right now instead.

> Now it looks like office 365 is going to be the cloud editing future for word / excel type needs

You are in for a surprise. Office 365 (at least Excel and Word) looks like a toy compared to the desktop versions. I'm not talking about niche features or VBA, I'm talking about things like naming a table, which is explicitly only supported in the desktop version. Ah, of course! You need the table's name to use it in their Power Automate platform. Microsoft 365 is a mess right now. I hope it improves.

And yet, for the typical office user, it supports most or all of the stuff they are going to do. It's also fast, reliable, it renders Office files correctly, and the UI matches what people are familiar with.

All told, it's pretty good.

I'm not sure if the typical office user is the same as the casual office user.

>You are in for a surprise.

Here's another Office 365 Web surprise. Last week we had 5 team members working in a shared Word document with track-changes; A) There is no "view final markup" option, and B) after a while the web-app crawled to a halt.

We've had some bugs with loss of recent modifications to some spreadsheets when several users modify it collaboratively (Google Sheets-style). It sucks, unfortunately.

I’m confused. Doesn’t Microsoft 365 include the desktop versions of the product and the ability to update them?

Yes, but I believe that the parent was talking about the web versions, since the comparison was made against Google Suite.

You have all collaboration features with the desktop version.

If you need power features, you should be using the desktop version...

The web version is intended for basic/common use cases, not power user functions.

Except that Microsoft's discourse states otherwise to its business customers :)

> Android / Chrome are amazing - why not put the execs like this in charge of shipping everything

They did. Sundar ran both Android and Chrome, and now he's CEO.

Gsuite/GAFYD domain users (which are a tiny fraction of all Google accounts, for what it is worth) have a special pain with all Google consumer products. Many products and features simply do not work with Gsuite accounts. Why? Gsuite accounts have a different terms of service, and getting legal, privacy, compliance, etc to sign off on launching your feature is a pain in the neck. Also it's possible that some features and products really aren't compatible with the Gsuite TOS. So as an engineer you can choose to just not launch your feature to Gsuite, or you can go through a lot of work to launch it all the way, for which you will gain no marginal users and will receive no recognition or compensation.

> They have some things they keep on improving. I think youtube is there...

I mostly use YouTube to watch series - PBS Space Time, World War Two, Crash Course etc. YouTube is absolutely horrible at navigating through these series - it is difficult to find where you left, it is difficult to find the next episode, there is absolutely no user comfort.

Yes - I find myself navigating Channel pages often, in hopes that the content creator took the time to create an applicable playlist

But then if I quit a video _that I played from a playlist_ and check my history _the playlist itself is listed, and not the actual video_

It is, indeed, a mess

> Instead i keep hearing that google engineers are going on "strike" (ie, getting company paid days off).

That is a really strange false equivalency. Not even the slightest bit relevant, yet it reads as if you believe that protesting for social change is a bad thing.

There are lots of people that protest for social change without the luxury of getting company paid days off!

Chrome? Try Edge. On mac, it's day and night, Edge does actually stop the pages you aren't viewing, bringing battery life and CPU use much closer to battery.

It's like this was a low hanging fruit of finally cleaning up some old mess in Chromium, Google ignored it for years, and MS team just did it.

Google Assistant is a product that relies on cross-learning from large amounts of user data. GSuite is a product that is contractually obligated to NOT doing this. The silos between GSuite and the rest of Google are intentional.

I don't work at Google these days so I can't offer the exact reasons why, but it shouldn't be surprising then that the two don't play well.

Amazon, on the other hand is not contractually obligated to create this silo. For it, your GSuite account is just another third party account, no different from your GMail account.

Yes this is an undesirable outcome, but when business users choose to buy GSuite services with the assurance that the data won't be available to Google for general purpose learning, this is the price they pay for that privacy.

Their focus on monetizing everybody with advertising hurt their products in the long run.

It's like they develop products just enough to get people using them so they can squeeze out some more meta-data and connect the dots back to a Google account, and then they stop development because it's not going to add more revenue.

And if they can't figure out how to push advertising with it, they drop it.

> Their focus on monetizing everybody with advertising hurt their products in the long run.

Absolutely. Just look at Google Maps these days. Google Maps used to be the only map app I'd use for everything. Now it is so littered with ads once you zoom in that I find it useless for anything other than directions.

This is not a new trend for Google, the advertising company that occasionally builds things.

There's also a big problem with accuracy in GMaps. From what I can tell they put some effort in within the US, but in the two countries I've lived in, GMaps is sufficiently inaccurate that I have to use other maps.

For example: About a third of the streets that show on GMaps for my previous town don't actually exist - they're paddocks. Every other map is correct: HERE, Apple Maps, OSM, TomTom, etc. As Google notoriously has no support, there's no way to get it fixed, so I simply had to instruct everyone coming to visit me that they needed to download and use a different map software in order to find me.

OSM is better where I live in the US now when it used to be only better in Europe Edit: google maps is a spatial yellow pages. OSM is an atlas.

O365 live collaborative document editing has been an absolute broken nightmare for us. We abandoned it in favor of Google Docs and everything has gotten a LOT easier.

Our general sense is that whatever MS is using for autoscaling the Sharepoint instances that run the service doesn't work. During busy work days Word loses its connection to the service constantly.

> Instead i keep hearing that google engineers are going on "strike" (ie, getting company paid days off).

This is totally unnecessary. Striking is a serious matter and not just getting company paid days off for some lazy egineers.

While agree with you that google has been dropping the ball, you've got to use the online version of Office 365, it is awful. Like shockingly terrible. Gsuite is 10x better, no exaggeration. Apple's online office stuff is equally a joke. Google blew a 10 year lead but lucky for them, the other possible large competitors are doing even worse.

Although they haven't evolved much in recent years, I still find most Gsuite apps to actually be quite good. What is terrible is Drive itself. File management is just a joke with Drive.

Youtube is a slow boated Javascript mess.

I've been using invidio.us and mpv for more and more of my Youtube consumption, especially after it started becoming terribly unstable under Firefox.

Android amazing?!?

It uses a pseudo-compatible Java 8 subset, with no official roadmap to ever move beyond that, everyone is supposed to move to Kotlin, while they keep fixing the slower developer experience and broken tooling introduced by adding Kotlin support.

NDK requires a great resistance to pain with a development experience that occasionally still makes me miss Carbide/Symbian C++. It took them 10 years to introduce any kind of packaging support for NDK dependencies, there are still no tools to improve the developer experience calling Android APIs, one has to manually write JNI wrappers, or use their unsafe C bindings to APIs that are actually written in somehow safer C++.

I lost count how many stuff introduced as one year amazing IO stuff, is already deprecated the following year. Latest example, all the GUI layout editing tools still being worked on, which will be eventually deprecated when JetPack Composer hits stable.

Critical libraries like Oboe, that are just dumped into Github, instead of having first class support on the SDK and project templates.

Team that puts critical information everywhere on the Internet except on Android's official documentation.

Very small rant, 10 years have a lot of stuff to rant on, so amazing? Not really.

I agree entirely with your sentiment, but this

> now word in the cloud kinda works!

is the overstatement of the century. I am stuck with this horrendous product, with its unbelievably bad live collaboration which constantly overwrites what other people are doing, its terrible SSO implementation, its penchant for presenting the least navigable UI I have ever had the misfortune to experience...

Google Docs has stagnated, I agree, Office is light years away from having its seamless sync.

>And yes - when you get locked out of even a paying account because some state machine gets screwed up (looking at you gsuite admin onboarding flow with some kind of zombie state issues) you CANNOT get an actual person who can help.

Glad you brought this one up. I had an issue with an enterprise account where I was attempting to access work and code I had contained in a doc I created for the client. I was the owner and creator of the doc, but somehow I got stuck in a loop where I had to request permission from myself.

Google "Support" was basically nonexistent - I had to ask our company adminstrator, who told me only they could get access to speak with a human, and even that wouldn't be able to be done immediately.

I ended up redoing all the work. AWS and Microsoft, in comparison, have had excellent enterprise support.

I do find that failure baffling -- especially since it used to work. I don't use voice commands much, but setting reminders while I'm doing something else used to be very helpful. Suddenly last August, it's just "not available for g suite users". (https://support.google.com/assistant/thread/11607814?hl=en)

I get it for free, but g suite is valuable enough to me that I'd pay for it. The thread implies that paying for it wouldn't help.

I'm also an early gsuite user and have the same complaints about assistant integration - but I am 85% sure that I tried to create a new google for business account to verify that it would at least work if I was paying, and it didn't.

Which led me to experimenting with migrating off my legacy gsuite, and with the API rate limiting, it seems it would take upwards of 30 days. I can download that data in 10 minutes if it's unhindered.

MS Office online collaboration still hasn’t caught up with Google, even with Google’s neglect.

Personally, I think web based office is something Microsoft wants to drive subscription revenue, but isn’t something customers want. Office is probably the best and most complex fat client app in the world, why sacrifice that?

IMO, Office will embrace add on supplementation and value add to the Office apps.

The cross-integration docs should have by now and doesn't simply blows my mind.

Like why even doesn't sheets and docs have the exact same table cell formatting options?

Following that, why can't a sheet seamlessly embed to a google doc.

In beta, but FYI you can grant calendar access: https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2019/11/use-google-assi...

I'm using it but the fact the the assitant can only respond for the active google account is driving me nuts.

The Google Calendar app from my Google Pixel merges all my accounts but yet, the assistant is linked to my Google Account instead of my device.

It's useless because I'm using multiple calandars on multiple accounts.

Same issue here. They have features like "okay google dial into my next meeting," however it doesn't work since my phone's primary account is my personal account. Assistant doesn't work with my secondary work account.

> I used to push google chat / video hard, including to external business partners. Then - yoink, google duo was hot, then yoing, hangouts? then yoink, hangouts meet? Then yoink, meet. It's honestly mind blowing. So now we are stuck on zoom.

The Hangouts move is still one of the most infuriating things I've seen in tech anytime in the last decade. Remember how Google was actively contributing to an open and interoperable spec for chat, and then just proceeded to go full Ayn Rand about it?

There's a pretty strong argument to be made that if any major players were still backing XMPP as a standard, we wouldn't all have a bunch of people in our lives who have said some variation of "I would quit Facebook right now if I didn't need Messenger"

> They have some things they keep on improving. I think youtube is there (after the dumped plus thank goodness). Chrome seems to be moving along nicely.

Namely, the things that directly contribute to the ads business.

I can only assume they don't want to make it work for some reason. The best practical answer is to just set up a normal gmail account and a lot of weird google bugs go away.

I have a normal Gmail account, and the last time I checked Google Home could only access my primary calendar. So my imported-from-Outlook work calendar and any other custom calendars are invisible to it. It just just frustrating to look at calendar.google.com and say "there they are, my appointments!" and Google Home cannot read them unless they are on the default calendar.

Strange, works fine for me, you can pick as many calendars as you want in Assistant Settings > Services > Calendar

Yeah, I eventually just created "proper" gmail accounts for the rest of my family that is on a free gsuite.

> Instead i keep hearing that google engineers are going on "strike" (ie, getting company paid days off).

What's that got to do with it? Are you suggesting this is the reason things aren't shipping? I saw the "strikes" as another symptom of a company that is now deaf. Employees can't get their voices heard as individuals anymore.

i think the point is engineers are spending too much time on Twitter and not doing enough actual engineering.

> Android / Chrome are amazing - why not put the execs like this in charge of shipping everything?

Android / Chrome are providing what is primarily a platform, not a product. That's a very different mindset and way of working.

I still don't think you can even use G Suite domains with their voice assistant/home devices. It's beyond absurd.

You should write a know about this.

Google doesn't have time to fix that. They've got top-level leetcode engineers to make a new chat app.

Let's not forget that had gtalk, which could have dominated easily. Over ten year lead wasted on that one.

Gtalk was brilliant! When they launched it my appreciation for Google grew tenfold. It was so un-enterprisey and it just worked! Shortly thereafter they fixed their offering by launching the very Enterprise-friendly Wave.

Mmmmmm, Wave. (drooling dead-eyes Homer impression).

At this point I don't even know what's their main chat/video product. Meet? Hangouts? Duo? I have all three on my phone for some reason but still end up using Zoom and Whatsapp

But first they have to make their own programming languages and frameworks.

and don't forget launching an abysmal cloud gaming service that was DoA!

Goooogcorp: We have seen that you are displeased that we are not supporting product. In response we are shutting this down.


You can even get locked out of your google account by uploading old cartoons on youtube you thought were old enough to not care.

So tell me again why I would use google products when they are all so interlinked that one affects the other? No thanks

I get the desire to abandon google services, and have done so myself for email and search, but there isn't much to this article.

An old gmail account being noisy is probably more a function of it being old than it being a gmail account. I suspect he'd see a great improvement just starting a new email address.

Airtable has some nice functionality, but I don't think it's head-and-shoulders above sheets and this article doesn't give me any reason to change my mind.

Same things goes for Meet vs Zoom.

Honestly, despite Google's history of trashing projects I'd put my money on gmail/docs outliving hey/notion and so he might just be planting the seeds of a painful switch later. When I switched my email I did it with a domain I own so that I can avoid the same fate.

That's not to say google doesn't have problems. Privacy aside, ads as a primary source of revenue can have a negative effect on usability of their products (like search), but I wouldn't call that "squandering a 10-year lead", it's more like "failure to find a second golden goose"

The article rings completely true to me. One simple example: folders in Google Drive.

* It's a constant struggle to keep documents in folders so that you can find them easily.

* Yeah I get that I can do google search and find docs wherever they live. But I can't find docs if I don't know that they exist.

* Moreover, I can't ensure that important documents are reliably stored in folders where everyone else can find them easily as well.

I don't understand why Google does not get how important this is for business documents. It's a breath of fresh air to use Dropbox or Box at this point.

> Yeah I get that I can do google search and find docs wherever they live. But I can't find docs if I don't know that they exist.

To illustrate this point more. I used to work in a company where everyone had to submit their timesheet via docs. And if you did not keep a link or copy or whatever they call it of your own sheet, it's essentially impossible to search for it, because now there are 1000s of identically named documents.

It also happens when legal tries to share a generically named file with you and you lose the link, so you search for it and find a file that looks like it, only to realise that is HR's own special copy.

This. I wish I had thought of your example first.

We have service agreements that go through revisions. We copy the whole directory when there's a new release to ensure we don't lose old templates. At that point search on service agreements brings up a bunch of identically named documents in a listing that does not distinguish the directory location. It's actually caused us to send the wrong doc on several occasions.

Google if you are listening please fix this. Just do what everyone else does. You don't have to be creative.

Docs has revision history.

For several of the concerns listed, I'm surprised to see how people are using the app.

Similar for asking every employee of a company to track their time in same name documents?

Perhaps poor processes and poor tool-to-solution matches contribute?

Arguably then, the documentation needs improvement. Most people learned the ropes on MS Word, and never bothered to unlearn habits/explore whatever else docs has to offer. So whenever docs has a feature that isn't present in word, I wouldn't expect people to know it's there

So they're using it wrong?


I wouldn't call this an issue w/ google docs, just pick a consistent naming scheme like timesheet_john_smith_august_2015. Or even better, just make it so only John Smith can see John Smith's timesheets through sharing preferences.

Fantastic, so we're back from namespaces (directories) to prefixes.

That sounds more like a process issue than a technology issue. The tools to manage this exist in the tech but mixing access, not restricting access, and other issues that persist in file shares, shared email boxes, mirroring AD access for new users, etc are the same issues as an old gmail that gets 1000 spam emails a day; it's a mess that needs to be audited and overhauled which is easiest by jumping to a new system/platform when able.

Can you elaborate more? I have no issues to put files or Google Docs in whatever folders I want in Google Drive, and they stay where they are (after all, Google Drive has local sync. It would be unusable if they don't).

The issue is when there's more than one team that needs access. There are multiple ways to share a document and the links to the original are all different (based on how it was shared: via a shared drive or via a shared folder or via a shared document link). And finding that shared document (if you don't remember how it was shared in the first place) can be a nightmare.

Sometimes you don't have a choice - we are a small team, and we're pretty good about using a shared drive and a shared folder. But sometimes you have to share a document with an external collaborator (or someone in another firm shares a document with you). And if you forgot how that document was shared, then google makes it practically impossible to find the original.

The only problem I see here is that either you guys are not using a file structure that makes sense to everyone or you're sharing links for random things and the people receiving those links are losing/ignoring them. Neither of these things sound like problems with Google Drive to me.

> One simple example: folders in Google Drive.

Tell me about it! The local Scout troop uses google docs for routine stuff like flyers, sign up sheets etc. I continue to routinely see unrelated material there: kids’ homework, doctor’s patient records, once a marketing plan for $BIG_SV_COMPANY etc. It’s not like there are one or two clueless souls: several documents a week show ip from all sorts of different people.

You're not the only one. Organizing documents in Google Drive is a huge pain. When I create a folder, I often want to put multiple existing documents in it. I find the documents by searching, and each time, the "Move to Folder" modal makes me navigate the directory hierarchy to find my new folder instead of having it available as a recently-accessed folder like Gnome does.

Seen that one too. The fact you can't do quick batch operations across many documents makes me crazy.

Google Docs has so much potential. Google should just spin it off into a separate company and let it find its own way. Making it conform to Google notions of search has crippled the design.

I'm confused. Doesn't shared drives solve this problem? You can set up a group, created a shared drive for that group, and then everyone has access to what's stored within it.

Shared Drives are a disaster, because the files in them are removed from your personal drive which makes them less discoverable for you.

They work when highly managed (e.g., our training team for sales org) but not for product development teams in my experience.

The expanding symlink functionality makes everything worse, because people think they're moving folders, but they're not, and permissions don't get rationalized. Ugh.

I don't really understand this sentiment, here's how my drive looks:


does your drive look significantly different from this?

Mine does. I agree wholeheartedly with the parent commenter.

My personal G Drive looks similar to yours. It looks like your Drive is mostly used by you, and not many (if any) other collaborators. The problem is that my work G Drive is an utter clusterfuck because of the numerous different ways that documents can be shared between people/teams. There are shared folders, shared drives, individually shared documents, and probably more. And each one of them shows up in a completely different place than the others.

If you're working with one specific team, you can likely get that entire team to conform to one way of doing things (everyone puts documents in this shared folder). But once you start involving 10s/100s of teams, thousands of individuals, etc... some teams use "Shared drives" (which show up on the left panel under "Shared drives"), some teams use shared folders (which show up in your folders list), some teams use individually shared documents (which show up in any number of random places, with the only reliable way of getting back to it is to find the email where they shared it with you). Some teams use shared drives internally within their team, but because they don't want to share the entire drive with an outside collaborator, they will share only a specific folder/file. The entire sharing mechanism becomes a mess and impossible to track and keep organized.

G drive is nice in many aspects, but the sharing is one in which IMO it allows far too much flexibility. The nice thing about file systems of yesteryear like Sharepoint (ugh, ew) is that they at least said "this is the folder tree. use it, because you don't have any choice" which at least encouraged some modicum of structure. G Drive instead says "here's a sandbox, do what you want" which sounds nice in theory, but in practical use is a mess when you have 1000+ people building their own personal sandcastle.

That does sound awful!

Thankfully we use Box and regular office at my workplace, so I have not had to experience that side of Drive.

Would it be fair to say Drive is very well suited for small organisations, but has trouble scaling?

I think it's great for small teams and small organizations who will likely naturally come to a standardized way of doing things. I think it also can be great for larger organizations as long as that organization has a decent way to encourage (and ideally enforce) a standard way of organizing file shares. It's definitely a challenge once you start losing that structure, though.

Yeah, I think that if there are strong norms or rules on organization and structure then it can work really well for any size team. But as soon as 1 person or project starts to deviate (no matter how good the intentions) it can quickly drop into a mess like any free for all file share. My team at work technically owns this one file server that is open to most of the company and has been an easy duping ground. Like, project X needs a share, stick it on [Server] vs the effort to set up a new share on an appropriate server (there are many others including department specific).

We have a project slated for late this year or early next to audit the file server and shares then permission to begin migrating shares my team doesn't own to other servers. I'm so ready for that.

I have the same problem, but I suspect the true cause is sharing a folder structure with other people, without defining/enforcing any conventions on organization.

Sure, I've got the same buttons ... but I've got >150,000 files in my Drive managed by >2,000 colleagues assembled over 6+ years, including files inherited from colleagues/reports who have left with their own approaches to file management, which turns it all into a massive disaster.

> a breath of fresh air to use {Drop,}box at this point

> An old gmail account being noisy is probably more a function of it being old than it being a gmail account. I suspect he'd see a great improvement just starting a new email address.

Hey's screener feature shows there's a lot of room to innovate on giving users control of their attention beyond the filters and labels that Gmail has deemed sufficient for more than a decade now. Setting up forwarding to use Hey as a read client for my incoming gmail email has shown me that my address being old and public is not the problem.

Inbox had bundling that was a promising direction, but that seems to have been scrapped when they shut that client down. I'm not a tinfoil hat person and don't really mind being tracked, but it doesn't surprise me that a company that makes its living off monetizing attention would never lead on giving control of it back to users.

I watched the HEY video and I don't get it - the screener feature is not innovation - it's a block list with a different name. Gmail has this. The way Jason hyped up every feature and then you realise it's something that already exists with a special "product name" (Imbox, really?). I can see why people buy into the marketing speak but look a little deeper.

Gmail does not have this. Hey inverts the default behavior to one that is consent-based, and things can only reach your inbox if you thumbs up the first time they send something to you. This is not some minor technical point, it is at the core of Hey's value proposition. In Gmail, the default is that everything gets to you and it's up to you to play whackamole with filters and unsubscribes, requiring several clicks each time.

In addition to the simple whitelist behavior, on the initial Hey screening you can (with a single click) route second-tier messages into Feed and Paper Trail, which is a much better UX than what you can build in gmail by creating a filter for every sender that labels + autoarchives.

Look a little deeper. Your "screener" section is an inbox. You can either whitelist or blacklist messages that come into here. In your Gmail inbox, you can also block addresses and never see them again. It is the same interaction - no matter what marketing spin you put on it.

If that's HEY's value proposition, then they're in for a rude awakening. Personally, I think the proposition is simply using something other than Gmail, which is a fine enough reason without needing to put any marketing spin on it. $99 for an alternative though is a difficult ask.

The entire point is that it's separated, that you have two separate inboxes. The underlying mechanism is the same, but the user experience is quite different. In my opinion it's similar to Roam in that the framing leads to a different workflow, even though neither has any truly revolutionary "technical feature".

If you think this is just "marketing spin", I think you're simply not part of the target demographic, which is people that have currently have issues with e-mail.

Gmail does not have something like Hey's screener.

I'm using hey right now as my main email, forwarding from gmail and using the full trial to decide before I buy.

There are a lot of features I like, but I don't really get all the fuss about the screener. You're still getting those emails, they're not getting in your "imbox" but you still have to review them.

In practice it doesn't seem to make a big difference with gmail "mark as spam".

>You're still getting those emails, they're not getting in your "imbox" but you still have to review them.

Sure, but the point is that you can do this only occasionally (e.g. once a day), whereas with gmail they take up space and attention in your inbox until you get to them.

Last spring I sat down to binge re-watch a TV series and just went back through my inbox looking for every mailing list I was on, unsubscribe, and then delete all previous messages. Probably took 8 hours total, but I deleted thousands of messages and now I get about 6 messages a day in my inbox, most of them from humans or services I just recently used. It’s worth my time to look at it again.

I do this every few months and it feels amazing each time. Even if I'm intentional about unchecking the marketing email boxes, somehow I still end up on dozens of mailing lists.

I've recently been bothered because I hate all my email clients (except Outlook, weirdly enough, but I don't want to use Outlook with my Gmail accounts, because tag support isn't awesome...) and realized, of course, half my problem is I'm trying to manage too many emails I have no interest in reading.

There are a lot of newsletters I like, though.. for things related to fitness and outdooring, that are wholly in the "sign up for this virtual version of the event you were interested in!" and I've simply resigned myself to unsubscribing from all of them. I'll figure all this out later, but so much email feels like the parts of the web and RSS I work hard to avoid.

So, unsubscribe it is...

(That said, I've been trying HEY, and I don't like it [Such. Big. Fonts.] but I do like their "bundle" feature, and I wish I could set tags in Gmail to auto-delete after //n// days... that would make some things nicer to live with.)

I have separate folders for these 'someday' mailing lists. It's like your attic. If you really needed the stuff it would be downstairs, but until you run out of space you can't convince yourself to get rid of any of it.

We recently switched from Meet back to Zoom, because Zoom lets you use your speakers while Meet requires everyone to use a headset.

Zoom does some kind of active noise-cancelling where it will avoid picking up whatever the person on the other end just said, preventing the echo effect. Meet doesn't, it picks up everything. So if you use a speaker, everything the other person says gets repeated back at them.

When Meet recently announced noise-cancelling, we got really excited, only to be disappointed when they were referring to cancelling of background noises and not of participants.

> Zoom lets you use your speakers while Meet requires everyone to use a headset

Really? Is that restriction on desktop or mobile? I've been using speaker mode on meet(mobile) for a while now. Or is it implicitly imposed by you due to lack of noise cancelling features?

No this is definitely not correct for mobile or web platforms. You 100% do not need a headset, although you should use one because Meet's echo cancellation is pretty aggressive and causes all kinds of problems without a headset.

It's not a technical imposition, if that's what you're asking. We can use speakers with Meet, but then everyone now hears themselves speaking.

How did you transition your email address? I've wanted to get off, but I can't do that without wiping all of my previous conversations or losing contact with many people.

I still have the old emails in gmail, I just moved to protonmail for new things and put up a vacation autoresponder. letting people know I don't use it anymore.

I might migrate, but honestly I don't go through old emails almost ever, so I'll prob just export an .mbox and deal with importing it sometime in the future if I ever need it.

It is well known the incentives at Google are aligned at working on new features than maintaining them and keeping users happy. May be this is just a natural outcome of that. This is one of the most damaging things Google and the people it influenced did to programming profession. There is a generation of programmers now who can do very well on leetcode, but god help those who maintain that code after them - I know this from personal experience working on projects left behind by people who ended at Google

All organizations that grow rapidly face an "Alexander bias" where the sort of incentivizes, perspectives and people that allowed them to rapidly capture territory cause them to value capturing new territory even when it is no longer possible or in their organizational interest to do so. Even when organizations identify the problem, evolving from the cult of the new to the cult of incremental improvement is always hard.

This may be true, but there have been articles in public since 2010s if not longer, that show general contempt for having clean code and code maintenance, like having clean code is what lesser engineers worry about. I’m saying that thinking seeped into universities where smart kids, who generally imitate the smart professionals in their profession first. Google may not be the only company guilty of it, there are places like Uber where backend code is held by so much duct tape , 3m shares rose up as a result.

That doesn't match my experience at all. If anything, Google suffers from the opposite problem: engineering teams spend enormous resources on migrations and rewrites that make their systems cleaner/simpler/more general, but have little or no business value. There are tons of teams that could be making incremental user-facing improvements, but are instead spending their cycles on projects that are mostly about internal development velocity.

I think it's changed, dramatically. I was there from 09-14 and then just rejoined last week. In 09-10 there was a huge problem of "launch and run" - people would launch, they'd get promoted, then they'd be reassigned to other higher-priority projects to get them launched too, and their previous project would get shut down rather than maintained. Nowadays there seems to be a lot more emphasis on stability and long-term code-health, people are getting rewarded for internal cleanups rather than launches, and many people have multi-year tenures on the same team rather than lots of single-quarter launches.

are they getting _promoted_ though. successful promo packet for sustaining work would be a very big change.

I've seen a bunch of successful promo packets for work on code health, system reliability, etc. - including promos to L6.

The "trick" to successful L5 and L6 promos (and above) for this sort of work is to have credible estimates of the actual impact of your work. Way too many engineers spend quarters or years refactoring or rewriting systems, and then go for promo with a case that's basically: "System X was kludgy, crufty, and engineers complained about it. I designed and lead implementation of a clean-up effort, and now people say it's nicer."

That's generally not going to cut it. You might get lucky, or you might get bailed out by a peer reviewer that provides solid data about the impact of your work, but you can't count on this, and you should be doing the legwork yourself.

You need impact estimates. That generally means you need some measurements, although the measurements don't have to be perfect. What metrics measure the pain that the existing system is causing? Some examples might be:

- Average # of hours required to push a release

- Average SWE-days/SWE-quarters/etc. required to develop a representative feature change

- Average monthly user-reported bugs

Spend some time actually measuring this stuff. Write some queries, run an internal survey of the developers on affected teams, etc. Take it seriously. Ideally, do all this before you've actually started work on the cleanup you want to do. Write a proposal doc, get it reviewed by others, and make sure they find your estimates credible. If the numbers are smaller than you expected, reconsider whether the clean-up is worth the time you're considering investing in it.

After you've completed your project, measure again. If your project is amenable to an experiment-style launch, that's ideal, but pre- and post- measurements are fine too. Share the stats - advertise your team's success! Package them up in a nice doc you can link to in your promo case.

"How am I supposed to find the time to do this while I'm doing my normal job?" This is your normal job. The opportunity cost of your time is $XXXk/quarter. The opportunity cost of your team's time is $X million-$XX million/quarter. The single most important thing you can do is make sure that time is being invested in a high value way. In your personal life, you would look for a lot of data before you invested that kind of money - you should be doing the same at work.

In general, as you move up you should expect to spend a higher percentage of your time figuring out what problems you're going to work on. As a result, the fraction of your time that you spend actually designing and implementing the solutions to those problems will decrease, but it's still a net win because you and your team will be focused on tackling the really important problems.

In summary, it's possible to be really successful and quickly move up the ladder by doing "sustaining work". The catch is that you have to be rigorous about choosing the specific "sustaining work" to spend your time on.

Another ex-Googler here. This seems like a viable strategy, but it seems rather inefficient for the organization, don't you think? E.g.

> Write some queries, run an internal survey

> Write a proposal doc, get it reviewed by others

Even if one could convincingly claim a causal effect on those noisy metrics, that sounds like quite a bit of overhead. IMO the majority of cleanup or bug fixing work shouldn't require any sort of formal planning or justification. At other companies, we would just go ahead and do the work. Then if an IC's work shows a pattern of code quality improvements, the manager should take notice and make sure it's considered in any promotion decisions.

Moreover, the strategy you mention requires a concerted effort to improve the quality of a particular component in a short period of time. Ideally one should evaluate bugs and quality issues as they arise, and most of them should be fixed promptly. But if a Googler is optimizing for promotions, it seems better to let code rot for months or years, then fix many issues in a short sprint to create a nice dip in the metrics.

These "objective" estimates are usually nonsense, or deceptively only show one side of the story. Not everything can be easily quantified.

Sounds like a different symptom of the same illness.

The team rushes at the problem, has a honeymoon period where things look nice and progress is fast but... it all then goes to shit. If your reaction is to blame technologies or the previous generation of staff, dump the code and repeat the cycle, you end up in the same place.

I love the arm chair analysis of every external person here. Code quality is extremely important at Google. That doesn't mean people don't write any features.

each unit of additional reliability and supportability is probably a bigger impact for google than any given user feature.

Google infra is far from duct tape.

You don't know anything about Google's engineers or internals. If anything, people complain more about an anal attitude towards cleanliness. Talk to Xooglers at FB about code quality vs Google.

One of my employers was spun out twice, after having been acquired years ago. It was sort of a joke to tell people who the owners were. It made no goddamned sense. Sure, we had customers in common, but so do Xerox and people who lease out coffee machines. The toner-flavored coffee jokes practically write themselves.

They just got onto a growth tear and bought a bunch of things they shouldn’t, and eventually rounded up all of the vaguely similar ones and divested.

I wonder sometimes if Google would be better off having a system set up for spinning off ideas that are complementary to their business model but distracting, or not high volume enough. Not every idea has to be a billion dollar idea, and a one time cash infusion to five $200M ideas would be a pretty small opportunity cost for them.

The fact that such ideas are not a direct competitor also achieves another goal of overly large employee pools, which is to choke off the supply of talent to upstarts.

> I wonder sometimes if Google would be better off having a system set up for spinning off ideas that are complementary to their business model but distracting, or not high volume enough.

Is that not what Alphabet is?

That's what I was hoping Alphabet would be, but it seems like this bit is still a sticking point:

> or not high volume enough

Kind of a let-down

Does “sign up for early access” just mean get sneak previews, or that this is a new thing?

If the latter, then good for them but another thing they should have done ten years ago.

I like the "Alexander bias" term -- is that yours, or are you quoting someone else?

What does "Alexander" refer to here?

'And Alexander wept, seeing as he had no more worlds to conquer.'

Attributed to Alexander the Great.


"It is reported that King Alexander the Great, hearing Anaxarchus the philosopher discoursing and maintaining this position: That there were worlds innumerable: fell a-weeping: and when his friends and familiars about him asked what he ailed. Have I not (quoth he) good cause to weep, that being as there are an infinite number of worlds, I am not yet the lord of one?"

Alex's Alexander the Great, who was great at conquering but not at administrating.

Probably Alexander the Great.

Yet Microsoft, Amazon and Apple continuously diversify. Google still gets most of its profit from ads.

How does this apply to all the chat apps? Google chat was great, wouldn't redoing the tech and making apps for all platforms have captured more territory than changing every couple years? When you have network effect, it's just crazy to try to rebuild that network every couple years if the point is to grow.

It's not about capturing marketshare for the company, it's about capturing bullet points for your resume. Working on new stuff is valued much more highly than fixing old stuff, and you naturally move much faster with more impressive sounding accomplishments in the early days of a product.

I think the premise is that the culture/behaviors/tactics that allowed Google to capture new territory early on are hanging on past their usefulness, not the actual capturing of territory itself. Growing existing products wasn't the important thing before, so _now_ the incentive structure at Google is mis-aligned with capturing territory in that way.

I was listening to an interview from a manager at GCP on the “Screaming in the Cloud” podcast. He had written a great cost calculator that would show how much money that someone could save over AWS.

But because he couldn’t convince corporate to adopt it and when it became a feature it fell under the reliability guidelines, they canned it even though customers liked it.

So there are at least a few things here:

1) A 'cost calculator' will be a hugely sensitive product, that is absolutely in the domain of sales, it has nothing to do with dev. So many sales issues around that - this will be the primary issue with such a product.

2) Just because some people like it doesn't mean it's worth maintaining. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Paradoxically, because it was such a marketing/sales focused product, it's possible the Eng. driven culture didn't really understand it's value and thought it was maybe to simple of a product. Arguably, it's hardly a product, more of a marketing feature.

I suspect if sales was pushing hard for it it would have happened.

If you are trying to get enterprise customers, do you really want to be known as the company that drops features at the drop of dime?

AWS has a number of services that have been deprecated for years but it still supports like SimpleDB and running an EC2 instance outside of a VPC. Heck they still support transferring files from S3 over BitTorrent in older regions.

> 1) A 'cost calculator' will be a hugely sensitive product, that is absolutely in the domain of sales, it has nothing to do with dev. So many sales issues around that - this will be the primary issue with such a product.

I can't tell what you're alluding to with "hugely sensitive", and "many sales issues around it". Could you clarify a concrete example these fuzzy expressions describe?

Very few products and services in this world are commodities to the point wherein you just 'add up the cost'.

In fact, I can hardly think of a serious product or service quite like this. Not even cars are like this. You have maintenance, resale, insurance and financing to consider.

This idea of an easy, objective way to 'calculate costs' is never really quite possible.

There are usually going to be some degree of Apples-to-Oranges comparisons, situations wherein small issues make a big difference. You want a sales person to be there to make sure that your potential customer is aware of the options.

In addition, there is of course the 'Total Cost of Ownership' - meaning that much of the 'cost' of something is not apparent in the calculation. Training, support, etc.. On the far end of that spectrum you have the strategic issues such as vendor lock-in etc..

So, even just trying to establish a fairly objective 'true cost' calculation will be hard.

Next, you have the fact that most enterprise sales are not 'off-the-shelf' - pricing is subject to negotiation, which can vary a lot. This makes it difficult to set price.

Then, you have communications issues around a sale - these are complicated products, the last thing you ever want is for customers inputting some information, and getting the wrong numbers back, or the wrong impression. If there is any money involved, it's worth the time to talk to a sales person to smooth over issues.

Finally, is of course the sales organisations ability to pitch, sell and spin. Of course this includes the shifty areas wherein the team will want to sell a service even when they know they are not the best option.

So a 'raw cost calculator' is possibly just a big, risky bit of possible misinformation and lost opportunity to make a sale.

The 'technical' aspect of making a 'cost calculator' is completely mundane to the point of being irrelevant. In fact, Google Engineers might be too overqualified to even do such a thing.

I see a 'cost calculator' has having two completely different roles:

1) As a 'sales lead' - something new customers can input information into, which is going to almost assuredly give them a good perspective, but wherein the true and only purpose of the calculator is to generate a lead, so that a sales person can chime in.

2) A customer-centric calculator, for established customers that is tuned to their account status and discounts and let's the IT manager or business lead do projections on the service.

Thank you for the thorough clarification! I don't know much about sales, so the previous comment was pretty opaque to me.

I figure they thought they weren’t going to be always cheaper than AWS

Nope, we will.


For an anecdotal counter-example, the habits of code maintenance I picked up at Google are 10x better than anywhere else I've worked at. I've worked at small and medium-sized companies (and my current company is research-focused enough that a lot of people don't have a strong engineering background), but this is also what I hear from my Xoogler friends at (eg) Uber and Airbnb.

I'd be surprised if this tendency had anything to do with Google exporting its culture.

I haven't moved beyond Google yet (I want to, though, who is hiring... :-) ), but yes, to be honest, better code cleanliness, testing, style conformity, and good code review ability are the major things I've learned in the 8 years I've been there. Most other skills one picks up at Google are not transferrable outside of Google.

My company (Amazon) is hiring fast right now. Somehow I feel like you aren’t going to consider us because you think we are inherently inferior engineers though!

Personally, I have no reason to believe Amazon engineers are inferior, but I've been hearing bad things about how they're treated for almost a decade now. That isn't to say I absolutely wouldn't consider Amazon without trying to look into it more, but I definitely know people who, for that reason, don't consider Amazon when planning a move to a bigco.

Exactly. And some of the company's recent moves re: labour practices etc. have also been questionable, or up for debate at least.

What I also hear about Amazon is that the experience varies wildly from group to group. That's not a gamble I'd be willing to take. Google is not nearly so balkanized; there are fairly consistent expectations across the company in terms of what is acceptable manager behaviour.

I am not happy at Google. But if I were to jump ship it would be to a small or medium sized company that is more agile and internally cohesive and where things move quickly, not to another BigCo with all the excessive bureaucracy and politics that goes with that.

I miss the teams I worked on where there were less than 30 or so engineers in the company.

Exactly. And some of the company's recent moves re: labour practices etc. have also been questionable, or up for debate at least.

The only reason that you don’t hear as much about labor practices with the other tech companies is because they outsource all of the low skill employees that make their products to China. Google has a lot fewer physical products but the people who make their few hardware products are treated worse than any Amazon employee. Yes the same applies to Apple.

I’m not making a value judgement. Just calling a spade a spade.

You’re really just implying that if the experience is worse and we are treated badly (aka no company paid off sites to Hawaii or seasons working remotely in Tahoe) the only people at Amazon are there because they aren’t capable of getting better offers.

That I doubt very much. They're there because they're motivated by different things. I wouldn't last at Amazon, from what I have read. But some people thrive with different motivations. The most satisfied Amazon engineers I've spoken to spoke with pride about the pace and intensity of development. Goes for Apple, too. Those people would not be happy at Google. Things move slow there, and most people have little control over tech stack or many design choices at all, TBH. I hear that's better at Amazon.

The era of Hawaii offsites at Google is long over.

Of course. It’s the same code words people use when they describe neighborhood schools while avoiding race.

“Wouldn’t consider Amazon when planning a move” seems to have the same tenor as “Wouldn’t consider moving to a less white neighborhood”

Your engineers sound very impressive. Too bad about the management.

>It is well known the incentives at Google are aligned at working on new features than maintaining them and keeping users happy

I'm not so sure that's the case. It seems like historically certain products are starved of feautures and resources while other products are made a priority, and it also seems like these priorities can shift pretty rapidly.

In the Google+ era for example there was the concept of "more wood behind fewer arrows" and a ton of money and resources went into plus to the detriment of other products (some of which were outright cancelled) and now obviously plus is no longer a priority.

Hangouts was developed (iirc) for plus to attract users for a social network then eventually became Meets which seems to be attached to Google Apps as a business offering to attract paying subscribers. Which on some level makes sense but from the vantage of the actual product leads to some wasted effort and changes that seem arbitrary to users. There doesn't seem to have been a clear incentive to put features into Hangouts/Meet; instead the incentive seems to have been to grow the distinct platforms the product was attached to as a feature of those platforms. (Hence Duo as a separate product, it is attached to yet another platform, Android). Meanwhile Zoom, by staying focused on just the actual product of videoconferencing software, left Google's offering in the dust.

Are there as many people working on features at say Blogger as there were 10 years ago? I doubt it. I'm not even saying that's wrong just that it contradicts the idea that Google can be said to incentivize features in the arbitrary case. I think it's clearly only for blessed products and that set of products that are blessed will change over time.

I don't understand this "leetcoders produce bad code" meme. Is there something about being good at whiteboard interviews that makes you bad at writing clean code?

Outside Google, I've seen plenty of terrible code by people who would fail FizzBuzz.

Within Google, I've seen way more attention paid to code quality and system design than at any other place I've worked at.

I think it just comes from the fact that solutions that come up in leetcode/HackerRank discussions are often unreadable gibberish.

The "new features" ethos is really harmful in business apps.

Business users want focused things like accurate budget vs. actuals reports where you can flag and fix deviations quickly. There's an overall design--of course--but great enterprise software is the result of attention to very granular features related to specific work practices.

In this case the devil really is in the details.

It boggles my mind to imagine how many verticals in the technology space have been kneecapped because of google. There could be so many companies that could offer amazing services but they just can't compete with a half-assed "free" service made by Google, which is just a temporary cost center for all the ad revenue they don't know what to do with.

>A limit price (or limit pricing) is a price, or pricing strategy, where products are sold by a supplier at a price low enough to make it unprofitable for other players to enter the market.

>It is used by monopolists to discourage entry into a market, and is illegal in many countries.[1] The quantity produced by the incumbent firm to act as a deterrent to entry is usually larger than would be optimal for a monopolist, but might still produce higher economic profits than would be earned under perfect competition.

wasnt this the main issue with small startups and Microsoft 'embracing' them with half-assed projects back in the day. some would even say that this was the main cause of dot-com bubble. thats when VCs realized that Microsoft cant touch these web based companies so now they can finally invest in these emerging businesses, thereby triggering a goldrush.

as always govt has failed everyone by failing to prosecute these big behemoths where the only 'innovation' they do is centralize and capitalize on an already emerging solution from the rise of internet and computing.

what we need is a philanthropic fund that funds startups like craigslist & does it completely open sourced from the getgo.

Yes, there was this "but what if Microsoft releases a competing product?" typical VC question in the 90's that became "but what if Google releases a competing product?" in the 2000's and early 10's.

You’ve just made the core argument of anti-trust legislation, which is far broader in scope than discussion of monopolies and far subtler. At root, monopolies are easy to detect, and it follows fairly uncontroversially from basic economics that’s been agreed-upon for centuries that if there are no (potential) competitors than there is no competition, rent-seeking/profit-gouging behaviour ensures by the incumbent, and capitalism basically dies. Anti-trust, however, it a great deal less clearly defined.

Let’s imagine a firm, and let’s call it Adobe. Adobe makes Photoshop. Photoshop has a full set of features and is sold for a high price to a market segment comprised of professional users who need the features provided by Photoshop, and are happy to pay the price since it enables them to make a decent living even once the cost of the tool is deducted. Adobe gets a decent revenue that allows it to cover expenses, capital costs, and develop future versions.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Microsoft. Microsoft ships Paint for free. Paint has very few features, but it covers some (mainly ironic) usage cases, and it gets used by those who wish to manipulate images but have no need for the complex features of Photoshop. Sure, some people who wish to do high-level image manipulation but cannot afford Adobe’s asking price for Photoshop are not well-served by this arrangement, but hardly anybody would argue that Microsoft’s inclusion of Paint would be anti-competitive towards Adobe: it’s not worth adding all the features of Photoshop to Paint only to give it away for free (and the argument that you would give it away for free only long enough to bankrupt Adobe and then start charging for Mega-Paint might be profitable, but it’s uncertain and depends on costs of capital and expected rates or return, plus the costs of an almost certain lawsuit).

Nor can Adobe be anti-competitive against Microsoft: dropping the price of Photoshop to zero just to stop people from using Microsoft’s own free product would be... pointless as it would zero their revenue.

These are two extreme cases, and it’s easy to just think in these dualistic terms and come to the wrong conclusion (or wonder what I’m getting at with this bizarre and apparently off-topic rant).

Now to tie it all together, introduce a middle-ground player such as Affinity. Affinity makes Photo, a product that is midway between Paint and Photoshop both in terms of price and features. People who need the full features of Photoshop (including those not present in Photo) will still choose Photoshop, which might slightly dip Adobe’s revenue. Microsoft’s will however remain stationary at zero. Affinity has captured the market of those who are defined by Paint being unsuitable but who do not wish to pay Photoshop’s full price (because Photos contains all the features they need).

Now, finally, the final step: say Adobe turns a blind eye to piracy of Photoshop. It still gets paid by its professional customers so it’s revenue remains unchanged. However, people who found Paint to be frustrating are now faced with an interesting choice: steal Photoshop (which has all the functions they could possibly want, and is free) or buy Photos (which has all the functions they want, albeit a subset of those offered by Photoshop, but does so for a higher price).

This is one obvious case that comes under the broad rubric of ‘dumping’ (selling at prices that damage one’s own short-term interest in order to damage one’s competitor and increase one’s net long-term advantage) but there’s plenty others where that came from. The tech industry is rife with them. Mainly, lack of successful prosecution is probably due to regulatory capture by way of lobbying.

This is a great summary! The thing I see Google doing that I believe is even worse is that they swoop in early on in an innovative space and get their subsidized free offering on the market first or early. This seems to prevent these tiers from forming entirely, since even if a competitor can beat "free" they have to constantly be looking over their shoulder to make sure Google doesn't give away their killer features, so no one ends up even playing!

They can't be broken up fast enough.

yes, we'd all be better off if we had to pay for our email accounts.

I don't know if this is sarcastic or not, but I believe this.


Can you please not post in the flamewar style to HN, regardless of how wrong another comment is or you feel it is? Perhaps you don't owe it better, but you owe the community better—we should all be posting in a way that protects the container for future discussion. It's fragile, and it's under more pressure than ever these days.

A better way to respond to that one might be by saying something about all the people who can't afford to pay for email, who benefit from the free services we're talking about.


You might be too young to have experienced this, but this is literally how things used to be, and they worked pretty ok.

When you payed your ISP for internet service it used to include an email account with it.

Not that I necessarily agree with the GP commenter, but this doesn't address his point. Things "used to" be this way during a time period with a billion less Internet users, who've come largely from the poorer parts of the developing world. The claim is that a high-quality free email service doesn't matter as much to someone with lots of disposable income in the first world as it does to people who aren't as fortunate.

I don't know what to say. I don't claim to be an expert on what life is like in the developing world, so I'll have to defer to people like missedthecue and yourself to tell me what it's like there.

I thought the whole point here is that we don't like walled gardens?

As long as you can email anyone with your ISP's email, it's not a walled garden.

Yes, it sucks for poor people but it's true.

You're better off paying for your email - if you don't want, or can't, you just have to pay with your privacy.

There was some point in the past year I read a comment here about the problem with Google is that when people wants to get promoted at Google to a senior or Staff (PE?) position they need to invent those big changes or projects. It results in adding bloat into existing software or abandon one. I am having that feeling at this point in my career. Without a moonshot project I wouldn’t expect to get pass an assessment committee. It’s sad.

One of my colleagues working for Netflix tells me that they don’t have any fancy titles except senior SDE there. They pay you more if you’re that worthy, though. I can’t stop wondering what if tech companies follow this practice. Then, people would just focus on making stuff better instead of chasing the carrots waved in front of them.

> Then, people would just focus on making stuff better

And yet, Netflix had autoplaying videos at full volume that didn't even show trailers, but some random snippet from the movie/show

I actually close Netflix because of this.

However, Netflix is full of smart people, so I have to assume that they've tested it and it increases engagement. Perhaps we're the outliers.

Netflix is well-known as a very data-driven company, so you can assume almost any change is backed by data. But solely data-driven decisions can be a bit myopic—You're likely to end up in a local maximum.

For example, Netflix selects the "optimal" categories to display on your home screen. For several years, "My List" and "Continue Watching" were part of those categories, meaning they would change position and sometimes not show up at all, with no way to access them. It drove me crazy that I specifically chose shows I wanted to watch and Netflix would sometimes choose not to show me them.

FYI: You can turn it off in settings.

But it took them a long long time to add that setting.

> they've tested it and it increases engagement

That's the key: engagement. Which is basically "how many times a user interacts with objects on screen". This says nothing about whether a product is good or bad. In case of Netflix, no doubt, engagement was through the roof as users scrambled to mute, pause, or move to the next screen.

For Google Translate you should check out DeepL https://www.deepl.com/translator

It's absolutely insane, blows GT right out of the water with its accuracy.

> blows GT right out of the water with its accuracy.

For general vocabulary, very likely. I believe Google Translate's competitive edge comes in the form of figuring out translations for jargon, slang, etc. from equivalent-corpus context.

I like to think of Google Translate as a keyword extractor on steroids. It doesn't necessarily give you the right prose, but it does better than anything I know of at giving you the right bag-of-words for indexing a foreign-language document in English.

(I hypothesize this to be Google Translate's real driving purpose, and the reason it still sees regular updates after all these years: it's used to index foreign-language web pages, books, and videos so that there can be a single TF-IDF token in Google's backend for each language-neutral conceptual category rather than distinct token for each language-specific word.)

Don't know about slang, but I recently translated some technical documentation from German to English. I was surprised how many specific terms deepl knew, and even if it failed at that the grammar surrounding the offending term was still mostly correct. It was night and day compared to Google. Bag of words describes it well.

I just pasted a few conversations from whatsapp in portuguese and at least for that language google translate was 10x more accurate on the meaning of the very colloquial words used, mixed with English etc.

Edit: thanks for the link though, I'm saving it and trying from time to time, we use translation a ton in my household (everyone is learning English after moving abroad)

I immediately checked it, it has good translation for some languages (specificaly German), but definitely does not blow GT out of water, it is on par at best for a few languages for translation quality. Besides,

- It has only a handful of languages

- No OCR / photo support

- No speech / conversation support.

IMO, as is, it is way inferior to GT. But it is good to have competition in this area as there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Being in a relationship with a English/French language divide, DeepL was a total game-changer. I can't attest to its abilities in other languages, but it is obviously superior to google translate on correctness and "natural" translations for our use-case.

I recommend WordReference for that case also. That website has been essential in my relationship (language divide also).


It detected my Bulgarian (Cyrillic alphabet) test sentence as English:


That's because DeepL doesn't support bulgarian yet.

For Japanese Deepl leaves GT in the dust and I've found myself using it more over the last few months.

I've often seen GT get the basics dead wrong - for example formal greetings Japanese people have been using in formal correspondence for hundreds of years. When it gets things right it's often fleeting, a week later it gives you something different.

It supports considerably less languages though.

I'm curious to see how many of my friends will stop using Google Translate on their phones and just go with Apple's new translation app coming in iOS 14.

It probably will be like Maps where the first year or two were just a joke and then  Maps became faster, easier to use, and just as good as Google Maps.

I was recently translating a French tweet to English that happens to mention the title of a French book. I was very surprised to find that DeepL kept the book title in its original French instead of translating it. It suggests to me that DeepL seems to have more "understanding" of the text, if deep learning algorithms can be said to have any understanding at all.

  Translation to a single language back and forth seems to be really really good. 

  Although quite impressive, it still suffers from the same problem that most other translator service have if you keep translating the same text between random languages.
I translate the following text from English to various other languages (without going back to english) 6 times and then I went back to English.

  The original text is
I wonder if the test you gave me was biased. My belief is that because I'm an elf, some questions are inherently biased. Water dwarfs would not have a problem answering the question: Are unicorns wet? But elves do.

The final English text is I wonder if the test they gave me was biased? I guess being an elf, there is a bias in the question. I'm sure the water gnomes would have no problem answering the question of whether the unicorn is wet. ? But the elves.

  Notice how drarfs became gnomes. The last sentence is not a sentence. Various other problems like a "?" by itself etc. 

  Translation to a single language back and forth seems to be really really good.

This could be considered a "feature" if used for comedic effect. Anyone who has young children that are into Disney movies should check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bVAoVlFYf0. This woman runs "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen through Google Translate a bunch of times and then sings the result.

You might also be testing the inherent difficulty of lossless translation between many languages.

It would be interesting to see the same tasks with professional translators. I'm guessing some of the errors might still be there at the end, like the gnome one, whereas the last sentence would probably be folded in the previous sentences.

Do you remember which 6 languages you went through before going back to English?

When I was in Russia, Yandex's image translation was miles better than Google's. Maps, too.

Lack of languages, for example Czech. But definitely nice to see a viable competition to GT.

Bing translator works really well honestly and using it as my standard translator

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