Google is taking over my data

Competition is awesome. I applaud the innovations evident in the Palm Pre despite owning an iPhone because I know that the Pre’s existence will challenge Apple to make better products.

Google is a bit scary, not simply for how big they’ve become, but for how many of their products are simply the best solution available. There are a number of very worthy competitors that I’ve attempted to stick with through thick and thin, but slowly they’ve fallen from my bookmarks toolbar like some sort of Web 2.0 natural selection.


The latest casualty: Netvibes. I’ve been using the service for roughly 2 years, during which time I recommended the service to many. The single biggest caveat of the service is simple yet overwhelmingly irritating; it rarely remembers which items in a feed I have or haven’t read. When navigating dozens of feeds, this feature isn’t just useful; it’s essential!

As of Tuesday, I’ve switched on over to Google Reader. I had some problems with the UI, but many of those were solved by installing an excellent OSX-inspired theme. I’m also quite smitten with Reader’s snappy iPhone interface which is both easier to navigate and faster than Netvibes.

To make matters more alarming, Google Calendar and Contacts have finally invaded my iPhone. It’s all explained in this ginchy video:

[youtube Kt_-qHczCMg 480 295]

I’ve heard a few users have had problems with syncing, but mine went off without a hitch. And with that, I’ve surrendered to Google even more of my personal information.

Why do we let this happen? I think there are a few key ingredients to Google’s success in owning our brainspace:

  • Reputation for simplicity. Google is synonymous with simple and easy search, and has delivered that so consistently that we expect the same easy-of-use from all their products.
  • Shared login. Even though we constantly absolve ourselves of more and more information, the obstacle of creating an account is only encountered once. Want to try out Google Reader? Just use your Gmail credentials.
  • One big platform. Google services look like each other and often talk with each other. As such, we trust Google like we do an operating system to organize our information and present it to us in as unified a way as possible. Signing up for Google Calendar is less like buying OS X as it is firing up iCal for the first time.
  • Exit signs are clearly marked. Google products typically come with multiple solutions for exporting your data, which makes them appear trustworthy. With the ability to pack up and hit the road any time you want, it feels more like lending your information than giving it up.
  • Conforming to our needs. Google does an amazing job at growing with meeting the needs of power users while catering to beginners. IMAP in Gmail allows someone like me to use my beloved Thunderbird and custom domains on my iPhone; typical users won’t even see the option, hidden deep in their settings menu.
Ultimately, all of these observations boil down to a simple, overarching theme: no obstacles. As I said in my Google favicon post, the company excels at making every process, whether it be finding an email, making an appointment or searching out an image online, as painless as humanly possible (hence the lack of shiny, pretty things to distract you).

So listen up, competing services (I’m lookin’ at you, Netvibes and Zenbe): I want to like you. Please alleviate obstacles. And while you’re at it, make it look pretty, too. Thanks.

“Don’t try to be original, just try to be good.” - Paul Rand