I'm taking a big risk today because Google is a behemoth of a corporation--multi-national mega-corporation. They're huge, they're powerful and unfortunately, I've come to find over the last several months, they're no longer the community-minded, granola-crunching "campus-style" company they were when they opened. Nope. Google has gone the path of every other Evil Empire--and they are worse than Microsoft ever was with the Anti-Trust lawsuit of days gone by!
So I'm going to blog on Google services in general, spurred on by the extremely negative experience I've had with the new Google Plus network. Click through the jump-break if you're interested in why I so dislike Google.
Memories....The Way We Were
Back in the 90s, I jumped on board the Google train--eagerly. I made it my default search engine like millions of others and was so excited that some "real people" were going to give Microsoft a run for its money luring away all of those Hotmail users into Gmail accounts. I happily created free email accounts, one after another, embedding my life in Google because they were focused on being a search engine and free email service to put Hotmail and Microsoft's invasive, controlling methods out of business. In fact, we all eagerly anticipated seeing the Evil Empire taken down by granola-crunching kids in Mountain View, California.
That was then. This is now.
Flash forward to the future, welcome to the 21st century. Google has successfully expanded into photo-sharing (Picasa), blogging (Blogger) and mapping (Google Earth is still an unparalled application), not to mention the GPS apps on the mobile platform (GoogleNav is the standard, built-in app on the Android market). In fact, Google is the standard, built-in "solution" to everything you could possibly need. Or so Google would have you believe.
All you have to do for this great "life solution" is to give Google permission to constantly monitor your location, 24/7, and send it out to their servers every few seconds. Oh and allow Google to monitor your online activities--everywhere. Don't you remember how the "fun" the Gmail Lab called Goggles was? It was an optional add-on to your Gmail account where your email message's content was scanned and analyzed by Google to determine if you might possibly be drunk. Goggles is still available through the Mail Settings menu--that is, if you want Google reading your private email messages.
Note, there is another Google app called Goggles for your mobile device which automates the "secure" login process. That is, if you want to trust Google to control your accounts completely, giving it full access to your mobile phone, too (you have to be logged into Google from your phone and leave yourself logged in at all times if you want to use the QR login Goggles instead of typing at a public terminal--it's safer to type and then log yourself out because Google Goggles does not log you out and it does keep monitoring your account while you're logged in).
The invasion of privacy doesn't stop there. Google tricks you into granting permission to data-mine your personal data--that Gmail account of yours isn't as private and protected as you might think even if you don't have use the Goggle Lab Goggle app on your phone.
GoogleAds started becoming targetted to the content of your email messages several years ago and Google AdWords still target the content of the page they're on. If you think Google's not indexing and data-mining the pages it scans for purposes of selling GoogleAds and AdWords, you're kidding yourself. Of course, they are! Who throws away perfectly good data? And the Terms and Conditions of Google services grant Google permission to mine it. If you didn't realize this, then you were just being naive. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but sometimes it's necessary to really slap someone in the face and snap them out of the passiveness into which they've been lulled.
The worst offender on the invasion of privacy front is, of course, Google Plus, the new service intended to give Facebook and Twitter a run for their money. I'm going to start calling Google Plus instead Google Minus because it's Google, minus all the good stuff you thought you had--that is, minus all the security you thought they guaranteed and minus all the options and user customization you thought you had a right to insist upon. It's Google Minus you. Google taking over your online life and "guiding" you to do what they want you to do instead of you telling Google what features you want to see.
Did you know that hashtags--the single-most powerful networking tool on Twitter--were user-created? Did you know that Twitter users developed new methods of using the Twitter service and the service accommodated the users--not the other way around?
So why doesn't Google maintain their community-minded roots? Pretty easy to guess. It's not as profitable to give users what they want when you can get users to do what you want instead. User data and demographics are incredibly valuable. If Google can get that data free and voluntarily, why wouldn't they take it?
Mashable is one of my favorite tech news sources but I'm sad to say they're very pro-Google. I don't know if it's Pete Cashmore, himself, or a general consensus to be docile and bow before the giant but it's pretty clear that on the question of the Great Divide in social media, Mashable has chosen to side with Google. They did a great article describing how Google has made private user data searchable but instead of calling it an invasion of privacy, they're calling it a Plus+ (not!)
For those who read the linked article and don't see it, try this article from LifeHacker, which explains it thusly: Google Plus users will have their profiles scanned and searched--and shared with their "Circles"--whenever they perform a search. Allegedly this makes your search results "more customized" and presumably, "more relevant," as though you're only interested in looking through your own pockets for data you don't have? It doesn't even make sense.
What's really going on is that Google is tracking what searches you conduct, what data you already have and what data you add as "relevant" upon search completion. They're tracking you and your online behaviors. And you're letting them.
No Ethics :-(
In fact, even when you're not granting permission for Google to data-mine your private information, Google is lying, cheating and stealing it from you!
The Mocality bruhaha apparently went on without my hearing about it. Certainly, it never made a blip on Wall Street nor did the negative behavior have any monetary repercussions on Google's stock values--and that's the only real result that would have communicated how wrong this behavior really was. It's a little technical but read the entire article on the Mocality blog, as well as some of the 500+ comments.
The long and short of it is that Mocality bought Google services which gave Google access to Mocality's private business database of customers. Google then proceeded to go through Mocality's customer list and contact them--personally, with human operators--attempting to lure Mocality's customers away from Mocality. Google operators resorted--on tape--to defaming the Mocality business ethics and urged Mocality's customers to leave and buy Google services instead.
Mocality got an apology from a local Google team lead but words are pretty meaningless now that hundreds--or is it thousands--of Mocality's business customers have been lied to with defamatory remarks. It literally blows my mind that Google would resort to such incredibly unethical business practices. This company was a community-centered granola-eating "campus" that reviled the Evil Empire in Redmond (Microsoft).
Google wants you to believe that you have no choice or that their services are so vital, there are no alternatives but to succomb. I'm a customer. This blog you're reading is hosted free of charge on Blogger and my @webbiegrrl Twitter account is tied to a free Gmail account. In fact I have nine different Gmail identities. (let's see if they notice that ;-)) I'm totally embedded in the Google Life. I don't like it and I am definitely considering the alternatives. Here are a few to consider:
Android / Mobile Access to Social Media
I have an Android phone. I want an iPhone just to get away from certain Googleisms. For instance, they claim you must set up your new Android phone with your Google account----or create one--or you'll live to rue the day. I'm not convinced there's no alternative to GoogleNav but I have to admit the Plan B app sure sounds handy. I use the similar app MobileMe for my iPad. I'm still not sure I'd find it "vital" to set up all of my Google accounts on my Android. In fact, I keep location turned OFF and deliberately only have 1 of my 9 Google accounts even identified (with updates and synch turned OFF). I use Hootsuite for accessing Twitter and Facebook on my phone and I use its sharing facility to share pictures via email. I don't have my Gmail accounts set up but can browse to the Gmail site and log in--as though it's a separate service.
The problem is, once I do this from my phone, the next time I log into my Gmail account from home (on the laptop) I'm harrassed with this pre-login screen asking me to enter my mobile phone number so Google can "helpfully" set up my phone. No thank you. If I'd wanted to do that, I'd have done it from my phone! But thanks for the proof that you're data-mining my account and tracking my activities.
Blogging alternatives are abundant. My #1 choice after Blogger is Wordpress. I haven't really found the theme I want or mastered all of the nuances of installing and using Wordpress but I like the way it can be customized and made more versatile. There were security issues the first few years but those have actually quieted down as the Wordpress community has developed more and more security plug-ins you can add on. My favorite copywriting bloggers, Copyblogger, did a nice presentation on how to customize your Wordpress blog and they sell a variety of services from migrating to Wordpress through customization and monetizing your blog.
If Wordpress is too daunting, another alternative to Blogger is TypePad. It's as "pretty" as Wordpress and can be customized like Wordpress by adding in plug-ins developed by the TypePad community. The catch is it will cost you money to host a blog with TypePad. You will, however, get awesome tech support for the paid service. TypePad's been around longer than Blogger, by the way, they just are kind of quietly successful.
The most popular alternative-to-Google's-Blogger service out there right now is Tumblr. Similar to Picasa and Flickr, Tumblr is designed for photo-sharing and blogging but the blogging aspect has really picked up lately, probably due to smoother integration with Twitter. Tumblr is the Next Best Thing. For a longer list of alternatives, click here for HoneyTech's list of 10 free blogging services.
As noted, Google has the Picasa service and there's Yahoo!'s alternative, Flickr (which is where I have an account) but you can also use Tumblr and more people are doing that today than ever before. Another alternative for image-sharing is PhotoBucket. Also totally free, PhotoBucket has been around a long time and has a good set of tools. it's also fairly well integrated with Twitter and Facebook though not quite as thoroughly as Tumblr.
I highly recommend the free Flickr
account. I've had one for years and have never had any security
issues--nor have I ever been hassled to "upgrade" to a paid account. I'd
like to see Google resist trying to sell me something -- and
resist the urge for almost a decade. I might have my complaints about
Yahoo! hosting spammers but at least the host itself doesn't spam me.
Okay, not on its attendant sites, just on the news/search/email servers
If your primary interest is to share photos on Twitter or Facebook, you can use TwitPic free of charge and find it fully-integrated. It's not much of a photo-hosting site, though, and is really intended for the mobile user sharing pix on social media.
Mapping / Nav
There are literally thousands of alternatives to GoogleNav. You just have disable Google and install one of the others. Be sure you disable GoogleNav first though or its bulldog attitude will prevent other apps from working correctly. In true Microsoftian dominance fashion, GoogleNav will actually allow other apps to open but then sabotage their functionality and intervene with a helpful suggestion that you switch to GoogleNav instead. Ugh. I'd rather be lost.
News / RSS Feed Reader
The very idea that GoogleNews or your Google HomePage (iGoogle) is the best place to read news or RSS feeds is offensive to even suggest to me. Google is so late to this game, it's not funny, and their iGoogle solution doesn't actually integrate with anything except GooglePlus. No thanks. Microsoft already has the monopoly on my computer--and I cannot wait to migrate to MacOS!
A great Google alternative is the Thunderbird client if you'd like a standalone news reader. If you want something fully-integrated with your OS and daily life, even Microsoft allows others to play nice on their desktop. I like the News Ticker widget from Yahoo! but you have to allow Yahoo! to install software on your computer. It doesn't seem to track anything private and I've used it for a number of years so I'm fairly confident it's not mining me the way Google does.
Alternatively to the Yahoo! alternative :) you can try Softpedia's TickerTape 2.0.0. Also free and seems to be popular.
There are other Google services for which you might not immediately realize there are alternatives, but chances are, there are not just a few but a lot of alternatives. Google isn't the sole source of Web 2.0 life; they're just the biggest, most-invasive and have the highest visibilty in the news. Google has the most hype. Are you buying into it? I'm not.
This week I've finally gotten back into editing and am actually starting to make progress again, though it's very slow-going. I did manage to write a huge amount of new material on Sunday and Monday, but upon reflection, I believe I'll be culling most of it out again. It's good stuff, definitely, but I need to be deleting not adding material. I lost sight of that, so this weekend, I'll probably snippet some newly-deleted stuff (haha). See? I lose, you win.
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