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Cyberdude: The Problem with Google

Google has a major amnesia problem which the media has so far largely ignored. The problem is it has a knack for launching applications with a bang. Thereafter they end up with a whimper. Puneet Mehrotra tells us...

india Updated: Jan 07, 2008 13:59 IST
Puneet Mehrotra
Puneet Mehrotra

Google has a major amnesia problem which the media has so far largely ignored. The problem is it has a knack for launching applications with a bang. Thereafter they end up with a whimper. It remains the darling of the media and the masses due to which its major shortcomings are ignored.

Earlier this week, we did a feature on Web Apps of 2007. Google too figured in it. On 2 counts in the coolest apps of 2007 (Google Sky and Google Gears) 2007 and on one count in the worst apps of 2007 i.e. OpenSocial. Noteworthy is when the same application i.e. OpenSocial was launched three months ago I had written a story titled "OpenSocial: A Masterstroke by Google". So what went wrong in three months time?

When in October 2007 OpenSocial was launched, I had mentioned "Google is back with a bang would be an understatement seeing the impact its new application can create on the internet especially on social networking sites and maybe even deciding the future of the world wide web."

Microsoft had just a month before this invested in Facebook and OpenSocial was simply too strong a statement by Google to tell Microsoft to layoff its domain. For starters, OpenSocial is a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web on important social networking sites that matter besides Facebook like MySpace, Bebo, iLike, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Oracle, Flixster, RockYou, and Slide and more. So theoretically speaking through OpenSocial an online marketer could build a great, viral social app with little to no serving costs. So what's happening with OpenSocial now?

Venturebeat recently commented "OpenSocial is half-baked and Google execs don't seem to care". Noteworthy is the would be loser, Facebook, gets a valuator in and its apps get a grand valuation of $372,240,400. This video titled "OpenSocial Sucks" will get a better idea of its perception amongst developers. A review in Oreillynet had this to say "Google's much hyped OpenSocial API finally appeared. For the most part it is "Yet another GData API." Which is good, and bad. Good in that people pretty much understand it. Bad in that it seems really half-baked."

Notice the "baking" part. This isn't just a problem with OpenSocial alone Google has a major problem baking many of its cookies. Take a walk down the Google hall of innovation in Google labs. Undoubtedly Google has created some really cool apps there. (For some strange reason one of its best apps, Gmail, still seems to be in beta mode) What about the rest? What about a half baked messenger like GTalk.

In fact at it's launch there were rumors about how GTalk was Google's foray in TCP/IP based advertising and about how this would turn Google into a major communications and media company etc. Nothing of that sort happened. What was launched was a primitive avatar of instant messaging. At the time of their launch this was mentioned on their website. "Additionally, we will evaluate other protocols as appropriate, to continue to deliver on our commitment to open communications." Its 2008 compare Gtalk with any other messenger and it has more no's for most functions even now. It is primitive as an application in 2008. What happened to Google "commitment to open communications?"

Or does anybody in Google bother to care why it's Page Creator get comments like "try it and forget it feature for many users, a spammer's heaven, as well as a free web storage area for geeks." In an RSS age Google Mashup is seen as "The least popular of all three Web-applications (i.e. Yahoo Pipes, Popfly) It's still buggy, it returns a lot of 'system error' messages and it's very slow". Undoubtedly like any other laboratory Google Labs can't be expected to deliver a bestseller after bestseller but the point is does anybody out there care that apps like OpenSocial, Gtalk, Mashup and many more such apps matter in the world of today.

Interestingly not everything is stagnating at Google. In some areas minor innovations do seem to be happening. For instance on Friday Google Docs added some new features to its Web-based Presentation software: slide shows that you can embed anywhere on the Web. According to Wayne Crosby, Robby Walker and Google Docs Engineers on the Official Google Blog "It's been two months since we launched Google Presentations and already we've got new toys!" They go on to add "We are releasing some top user-requested features that we've been working on for several months (yes, even over the holidays)"

The Last Word

A rejoinder to the above. Let's hope their hard work "even over the holidays" pays dividends. It would be nice if their colleagues also understand their "toys" need care and support. Reprise Media recently commented on the "cool" Google Mars "Martians have declined repeated attempts to sell them adWords." A few earthly applications with better support may do the magic for Google. This year Android (the much hyped Google Phone) is expected. Let's see what Google has on offer this time.

Puneet Mehrotra writes on technology.