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The Day Google Decided HttpWatch Was ‘Unwanted Software’ (httpwatch.com)
194 points by httpwatch on May 16, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

>Simtec: How come there isn’t one here? https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/browser/desktop/

>Google Support: Lol

>Simtec: No really?

>Google Support: That’s a great question

This is the most telling part of the conversation to me. Not just for the hypocrisy others have mentioned, but for the attitude of the Support rep that it reveals. The rep feels so powerless and so disconnected from their own company that a resigned laugh is their first response to an inconsistent rule.

The few companies that manage to have mostly excellent support folks are the ones that:

1. Keep the support guidelines clear and sensible, and more importantly 2. Give the support folk the power to make internal changes (or at least to start discussions) when they aren't sensible or consistent.

Amazon has done very well along these lines, while Google apparently still doesn't trust Support enough to do this.

If that's a full and accurate transcript; then there's a lot of things deeply wrong with that.

If you pay a company over a million dollars in advertising fees, you'd expect a phone call prior to service cancellation. And you damn sure wouldn't expect a chat window analyst to say "lol" to you when you pointed out their own hypocrisy. I know they like young employees there, but are they staffing their customer support team with teenagers now?

I get sense of humor, but there's a time and a place. A customer just had their account blocked, now's not the time to be anything but apologetic. Customer Service 101 stuff here.

I thought the "lol" was one of the first things that support guy did _right_. They demonstrated a disturbing lack of empathy with the rightful outrage of the client. The "lol" was the first point in that conversation where you see the support staff essentially saying: "I think you have a point".

> If you pay a company over a million dollars in advertising fees, you'd expect a phone call prior to service cancellation. And you damn sure wouldn't expect a chat window analyst to say "lol" to you when you pointed out their own hypocrisy. I know they like young employees there, but are they staffing their customer support team with teenagers now?

The great thing about Google is that they don't just treat the end users with contempt - they treat the paying customers with the same contempt!

(seriously, try getting support for a paid-for GApps problem)

Same stuff goes with Google Cloud which Google advertises as “business oriented”. We had a $20/month project that for some reason its billing account became invalid. It was the first week of the month, billing is at the end of the month, they could just ask us to fix the issue.

Instead they chose to suspend all our projects on Saturday morning, despite paying them more than $10,000/month for the rest of the projects —which had no billing issues.

We found out when all our external service monitors went crazy. Google emailed us a couple hours later and didn't restore our projects until Tuesday.

Extra credit should be given for when they informed me that they turned my personal, non-commercial / developer account to a business account because “google cloud should only be used for business”.

Side note: clicking on the download button on that page reveals the EULA which the user must accept before downloading. I agree that the support agent probably shouldn't have responded "lol", but Google's download page is up to their own requirements.

The support agent points this out:

Google Support: Ah okay, So if you click the download (for Chrome) there’s a popup with the TOS

Because Chrome is using the many of the same tactics and methods as the malware that Google supposedly hates.

- constantly running in the background

- autoupdates

- annoying ads to install it everywhere

- comes bundled with various freeware and checked to be installed by default

- constantly phones home by default

- consumes lots of memory, eats your battery life, eats a lot of disk space and generally makes your computer less efficient

Well, you actually got a meaningful question/answer back/forth conversation going with support at Google. Congratulations. I'd say you scored.

Sorry, my experiences have been far worse to the point that I am actively moving away from all things Google.

Not that it will register one iota on their corporate landscape. However, it will make me feel better and work better. And that's what matters.

Microsoft could win big here just by answering the phone.

We don't have the whole conversation. How do we know that the author didn't selectively show us his conversation with Google? Let's not jump to a conclusion.

The author did selectively show us his conversation with Google. The author mentions this:

> Here’s a subset of our conversation with Google Support:

(emphasis mine) My reading of it was that the author appears to further denote where the conversation is snipped with ellipses:

> Google Support: Unfortunately I don’t have control over that right now but I can look into it for you

> ….

> Google Support: I looked through this, and it seemed that one of the issues was a lack of an End User Agreement (EULA)

Regardless, the blog author is trying to make a point. Removing irrelevant content is something the author should do (in my opinion), to keep the post to the point. Besides,

> How do we know that the author didn't selectively show us his conversation with Google?

…we of course have no way to verify that this is the actual conversation that took place. We assume, on good faith, that it is.

Nothing would ever get done if nobody jumped to conclusions.

This recent Google "crackdown" was making rounds in shareware circles.

Basically, a shareware vendor will have their AdWords account suspended with some harsh wording and the stated reason would be that the website doesn't have either (a) uninstall instructions next to the download button (b) terms and conditions next to the download button (c) the software is of "unwanted" type (d) some other random thing (that was A-OK before) not being quite up to sniff. All in all, it looks just some random nitpicking that will go away only if the matter is escalated, which takes several weeks to process. The general sentiment seems to be that Google no longer gives a flying f*ck about smaller AdWords customers and/or some run-away manager is basically having a field day with enforcing arbitrary clauses of their AdWords T&C.

What's going on in reality - nobody knows because of how "open" and communicative on the issue Google is.

Before Google's new terms for software AdWords, it was extremely common for scumbags to wrap freeware or OSS in spyware and buy ads for the software's name. Users would click what looked like the first result, land on what looked like a legitimate download page, and end up with something ugly like Conduit.

I'm the "computer geek" for some friends and family, so I've fixed up a good number of PCs, and AdWords has been by far the #1 vector for malware. A lot of people in my position just started installing ad blockers on every PC they work on, to save trouble later. Google's new approach has a lot of problems, obviously, but they're not just power-tripping.

So instead of punishing the people who eg wrapped vlc in spyware, they decided to screw over good actors? I think the clear difference is the wrong thing was easy for google to do (though unlikely to actually help at all -- nobody reads eula or uninstall directions), and the right thing -- directly targeting the bad actors and booting them from adwords -- would have taken work and money.

Yet another reason google is untrustworthy.

The spyware ads have disappeared for me. Do you still see them? Google's actions were too broad, but they seem to have been effective.

Given the fact that Google don't follow their own guidelines (I checked their desktop and android download pages) it would be interesting to hear the EU competition commission's point of view given their current objections to Google's behaviour regarding adwords.

I just checked the Chrome desktop[0] and Android SDK[1] download pages, and both do follow the guidelines - clicking on the download button reveals the EULA which the user must agree to prior to downloading the software.

[0]: https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/browser/desktop/

[1]: https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html

For the Android page, however, you could argue that they don't follow their own guide lines.

Click "Other download options". The EULA dialog only appears if the user clicks the link with his left mouse button as it seems to be a purely client-side interception. Should he, however, use right-click->save as or open in new tab he is not presented with the dialogue.

Perhaps it's because Google is not advertising on those websites?

They are. The first search result for "google chrome" is an AdWords ad that links directly to the download page.

Oh okay, I misunderstood the rules. I thought it was about displaying ads on the website itself, not ads that link to the website.

I'm actually surprised they ended up getting a successful outcome, given the hostile tone they took with the support person. Being hostile is usually a great way to get a "sorry, can't help you" response.

That doesn't sound like a terribly hostile tone. Yes, there was a little bit of hostility, but nowhere near the level that would lead a support person to give up on helping you.

Remember, people in support are used to a somewhat hostile tone. People get in touch when something is wrong, and so it's fairly common for people to be frustrated. If they just responded with "sorry, can't help you" to every support query with a slightly hostile tone, they wouldn't be providing much support.

And yes, it is also good to try and assume good faith and not vent your frustration at a support person who had nothing to do with whatever issue it is that you're frustrated about. But it's a fact of life in support that you'll have to deal with some unhappy people, so you need to be able to deal with it.

> Remember, people in support are used to a somewhat hostile tone.

My experience is that support personnel often get worn out by so many hostile interactions and become more reactive to them.

and that's the difference between someone good at the job and someone average.

I’m surprised anyone even takes Google seriously with the rules they try to enforce – for example the "specific uninstall instructions", even if it follows the OS standard procedure. (Tbh, I’d have just put a link to the Microsoft Knowledge Base and the Apple Support site there).

Or the fact that you have to show the EULA before the download – which is also not really helpful in any way.

These rules don’t really help either side (as people producing malicious ads can still do so, but people doing honest ads have to comply with rules that don’t help at all), but add more stress for both sides.

> I’d have just put a link to the Microsoft Knowledge Base and the Apple Support site there

Links to separate Web sites?! Better brush up on your Google policies. That'll get you banned.

Okay, iframes then ;P

Yeah, it's missing the "Hi", "Thanks"... Mistakes are made, support people are usually not the one responsible. I've a business that > $1M with Google too and I aim to be kind even if they screw up and even if it's a lot of money.

That's said Google is going down hill for a while now.

I re-read the conversation after reading your comment, and find them assertive but not hostile.

I'm surprised by (in my opinion) mostly neutral tone, when service they paid so much for is cancelled without warning

For future reference; being a dick to the guy in support trying to help you doesn't really do much to help the situation. It typically only results in you getting less help - nobody has the desire to go the extra mile for someone who starts out with that kind of tone.

I get you're mad at "google", but taking it out on an employee tasked with helping fix your issues is kind of like being an asshole to a waitress...

Of course it does no good at all to get mad at the rep.

But I think it's pretty reasonable that someone's going to be upset after receiving a no-notice suspension e-mail after spending a million dollars with a company. It's pocket change to Google, sure, but that's a lifetime's income for a lot of us.

Speaking as someone who worked in AOL's billing department in 2000-2002, I can say that we all know very well not to take this stuff personally. It's just what the job is, and it's not for the feint of heart.

I'd love it if everyone were nicer too, but I can easily put myself in their shoes in cases like this.

Now the people that were 100x ruder to me on a personal level over a $20 charge on their dialup account that was (often) their own fault? Not quite as much sympathy there :P

But you have to realize that at Google, that person is your only point of contact.

Making your displeasure known to at least 1 person who works there gets your message across better than sucking it up and letting them think it isn't really such a big deal.

That's only if the support rep has any way of passing the information that the client was displeased up the chain. I find that unlikely.

Unlikely is better than nothing, that's my point.

This kind of stuff could easily be resolved by including a specific and complete list in the first place.

Telling someone they aren't presentable isn't the same as telling a mostly well dressed person that the host wants them to wear dark socks with their dress shoes instead of white socks. (Hopefully this analogy is fitting.)

Fashion is a matter of taste, isn't it, and ultimately as void of real meaning as the renderings of the "Opinion of Google"? I suppose perhaps your analogy fits more well than you perhaps expected, but not in Google's favor.

Yet another sign that Scott Locklin was dead-on about Google having become Fat Elvis:


And yet, none of the contenders for the throne can deliver the same level of search quality.

I find this frustrating because I hate Google for its A/B testing and blind-allocated mediocrity, and yet, everything else continues to be worse. It's like being married to someone you truly despise (at least for me, your mileage may vary).

I really don't get why no one can disrupt them. But clearly they can't...

> And yet, none of the contenders for the throne can deliver the same level of search quality.

YMMV, but I have been using Duckduckgo exclusively on my desktop and smartphone for half a year or so and the rare times I used Google (with "!g" prefix) during that time, I could not find better search results there either. So for all common purposes, DDG fully replaces Google for me (and I'm not a novice user who cannot tell, I've been using the web obsessively for ~20 years [and yes, AltaVista before Google]). Perhaps you should dare switch to DDG for a while and see if the illusion, that Google works better in some unspecified way, disappears.

I so wish DuckDuckGo were a viable replacement for Google's search results because I love the concept, and you're right that it is for simple queries, but my main use case for google these days is naively pasting long error message sequences from compilations gone bad and reading the relevant stackoverflow questions that lead to the fix. DuckDuckGo chokes on this stuff.

If you just want to search SO, use the "!so" prefix in the Duckduckgo search prompt...

Well, you don't need Duckduckgo for that. You can set your browser to search SO directly if you type "!so <query>". The point of an internet search engine is to search the entire internet and give you the best results.

I've got 2 problems with DDG:

1) The results I get in DDG are the same results I get in Bing - which means that DDG is for me just a shell around Bing. And even though DDG is not sending to Bing any cookies with my ID, well, being a power user I can and do use the Incognito/Private mode of my browser. Furthermore, your interests can function like a digital fingerprint, so if Google or Microsoft want to identify you without any cookie whatsoever, they can and DDG does not help.

And the bang shortcuts of DDG are also provided by my browser. I mean, if I'm concerned with privacy, why in the world would I want to send my Google searches to DDG's servers?

2) People saying that DDG's search results are just as good are probably living in the US. Outside of the US, like in Europe, non-Google search results get to be like really, really bad ;-)

> DDG is for me just a shell around Bing

I can't comment on that because I don't use Bing. Perhaps Bing would suffice as a Google replacement then? The "instant answer" type results from DDG probably do not work with Bing.

> Furthermore, your interests can function like a digital fingerprint, so if Google or Microsoft want to identify you without any cookie whatsoever, they can and DDG does not help.

How would that work if GA is blocked and "!g" is used only rarely? Also, I use Tor and DDG is the only search engine that doesn't annoy me with captchas (Google's seem totally broken, often I need to solve multiple captchas for a single query - I wish people would stop linking to Google searches...).

> People saying that DDG's search results are just as good are probably living in the US.

No, I live in Austria. I recall complaining about search results about the time the "filter bubble" experiment by DDG ran, but the situation has greatly improved since then.

I have been using DuckDuckGo for more than 4 years now. I would use google only if DDG does not provide a good result. In the last one year, queries that went unanswered on DDG did not turn up a good result on google either. So for me, DDG has not completely replaced google.

Also, I am not living in the USA.

Try Yandex.

Interesting. I have it setup on one of my machines as the default and catch myself typing "!g query" by instinct because that's what I need to type most of the time.

Maybe Google has adapted to what I look at, but to me it seems Google is way better as soon as a term has multiple uses (like something is a. a normal household word and b. a library/programming language/...), presenting answers for both, vs. DDG which seems to latch only on the most common meaning.

it's not that ddg can't index the pages you're looking for or connect your query with those pages. it's that google knows so much about you they skew the results heavily.

I just read that article and I've lost at least 10 minutes out of my life that I'll never get back. It's amongst the worst links I ever followed on HN.

Agree. I agreed with the first few paragraphs of the article, but when they called autocomplete and Gmail retarded I could barely keep reading. They went on to defend content farms, claimed that they're useful, and noted that any sensible search engine algorithm should be able to avoid them. The article sounds as if it's written by someone who operates a link farm, uses AOL for email, and has no clue how web search works.

The imagery of Google as Fat Elvis is enough for a good chuckle, though.

Gmail is an atrocity of a once great service, possibly the easiest component of Google to disrupt (all IMO of course)

I am on a 6 Mbps connection and I regularly have to kill my Gmail window or else it hogs the bandwidth, memory leaks until it crashes my browser (Firefox), or slows the entire browser to a crawl for any other window. I see no such issues with facebook, twitter, or any other web site I visit regularly. Then there's all the weird javascript idiosyncracies when one wants to reply to a message and the compose window won't appear unless I open a new tab. Sigh...

And don't even get me started on the abomination that Chrome has become, possibly IMO, because so much of its original team has long since left Google (ex-googler myself who knew many of them).

I agree -- gmail has become crappy, and their recent changes on mobile suck. eg shrinking inbox view from 8 messages to 5.5 on my nexus 5 (fuck the jerk who decided to do that.)

That said, how can one compete with them? I just switched to fastmail which is very ok at best -- I have a list of bugs, and their web client is very half assed. But I don't know that I believe there are enough people who want a good gmail and who are willing to pay eg $40/year for it to make a business if you don't have search ads making money rain out of the sky to subsidize everything else...

If you pay for Google Apps, then they don't show you any ads, as Google Apps is not subsidized from ads.

It is subsidized -- the development costs were largely born (I think, but at minimum partially born) by the public ad supported version. It's perfectly possible that it would not be profitable to run it solely as an ad-free business, but once you've already built it the profit is largely incremental. Don't ignore their strategic reasons for building it either, ie cutting the legs out from under microsoft's most profitable product office: it's quite possible google apps is not particularly profitable and the value is largely strategic.

Would you say Chromium is in bad shape too?

Every other search engine is worse because they are simply following Google.

Every existing search engine that I'm aware of is essentially based on the PageRank algorithm, an innovation which Google created.

At the time it was created, it was not obvious that it was the best option - only that it was better than AltaVista's algorithm and Yahoo's curated portal model that were the options in 1999.

Why are search engines not innovating? Or, if they are, where are they?

I would say that it's because search engine ranking is good enough. At the very least we are in the domain of diminishing returns.

In terms of innovations, there was a weird and misguided attempt to integrate "social search" into your results, which thankfully seems to have disappeared.

There is also Google's Knowledge Graph, which is a promising idea but doesn't work well yet. Search for "calories in a cup of corn" and Google's answer is wildly off. Or try "activation fee" and find out that it's $40 (huh?). It remains to be seen whether this feature can be rendered trustworthy and relevant.

My Google results are noticeably worse for me logged-out (or through DDG) than logged-in.

This suggests that search is in fact such a hard problem that my search engine literally needs to know more about me than I know about myself to do a good job for me.

Which explains why Bing has such a hard time unseating Google - I'm always logged into GMail, so Google has known it's me doing my searches for the past eleven years.

Same reason everyone stays on Facebook even though the experience is terrible. It's like there's only one bar in town and it's a hideous dump, but it's the only place you can be sure to catch people.

I wonder if Google takes reports about Google pages not following their polices seriously. Also I wonder if the same guidelines apply for major software websites, I don't think download.com follows most of these requirements.

Submit your report to the european anti-trust commission.

The funnier part: Google is listed as one of their customers on their home page! http://www.httpwatch.com

I find the hypocrisy especially interesting given that a few years they demoted Chrome for breaking a paid link rule. It certainly seems like this is another blatant broken rule by the Chrome team - not that it's their fault because they were probably never told about the rule either.

couple of years back, adwords suspended my account.

the only response i wrote back was, I have no intentions either, of paying my money to a company that has little to no respect to its customers.

I got back instant response and got my account reinstated, but, still I didn't agree, I asked him, I need written apology from the head manager, the support person apologized for this, and said the head manager is traveling overseas. So I accepted.

I never asked the reason why they did it in the first place. I was just furious, you don't say fuck off to your customers, without first talking to them.

Those Adwords support folks make like $10 an hour and are employed by third parties.

I'm surprised you had a good resolution.

A great example of Google "Do as I say, not as I do."

Re "How do I uninstall this?" Google Cloud Print appeared to be, at least on Win XP a couple of years ago and when set up to share a non-Cloud-Print-native printer, a one-way process. That borked non-Cloud printing (how the printer used to work; functionality that was desired to continue) pretty thoroughly.

I like a lot of things about Google and their products. However, lack of communication on topics such as these more than borders on arrogance.

P.S. OT, but: And where is Lolipop for my 2013 Moto-X (then a Google product) from Verizon. I bought it in good part because, unlike other Verizon mobile products, timely updates were "promised" strongly as part of the marketing and promotion. (And yeah, I need Verizon for specific reasons...)

Now? Bupkiss. With the better part of a year left on my two-year contract (that I entered hesitantly but again, at least with this "promise" as some comfort/reassurance).

Google is enormously selective in their "support" and not infrequently refuses to go out of their way when it does not support the initiative du jour.

(E.g. but not only nor primarily, insisting the pressure stay on Verizon to apply these updates.)

I have a rather ominous feeling that the removal process was triggered by automated scanning picking up certain keywords like "sniffer". In today's environment of security paranoia, unfortunately it's not hard to imagine something like that being interpreted the wrong way...

Also, I think "unwanted software" is a bit opaque; what they really mean is software Google doesn't want, not necessarily the user.

From the title I expected a piece about how this affected their business. Graphs showing downloads before, during and after; etc.

Any kind of monoculture is simply a terrible thing.

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