Paying For It

I just read an article by a fellow SysAdmin and blogger about Google's tendency towards abandonware, the fact that Google's users are not its customers, and the fallout of all of this for him personally, particularly in light of the recent killing of the beloved Reader.

Divesting In Google
And then, the thing I didn’t think would be killed was. Reader is the third Google product I depended on the most, and knew the most about me after Search, and Mail. But for Google that’s not enough. I was mad, but that’s just silly, so I’m not mad anymore. Like others are saying, it’s going to unleash a wave (pun intended) of new products in the Atom (and RSS if you must) parsing space. I’m looking forward to that.

But it is the stark reminder I needed again that I can’t depend on Google for anything that I want to keep around. I’m not sure you can depend on anyone’s technology/service or anything that’s not an open standard and that you run yourself, but still, I don’t want to run everything.

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This is a great take-apart on why you really shouldn't — and, believe me, you really shouldn't — entrust your world to Google. I never used Reader, but I've been skeptical of Google for a while, because the fact of the matter is, in the grand scheme of things, you the user, are not Google's top priority. The same thing goes for Facebook. And Twitter. And pretty much any other service you use online for free.

And as I use online services more and more — even this blog is now completely hosted via an online service — I become increasingly aware of who the customer is. And I become more willing — and I think it's more important — to pay for those services. Paying means that I'm the customer. And being the customer comes with a certain import and cachet amongst decent companies, ostensibly because they value their customers' business.

Of course, this isn't always the case. But at least if a company treats you like shit you're free to contact them and complain. That's not true of Google. You're also free to use another company, and exercising that right directly takes money away from that crappy company. Being a customer gives you some degree of power and control. And when it comes to my data, that's extremely important.

What surprised me most in my fellow blogger's post was this:

So personally, I’m done. Google has lost my investment. I get my Mobile OS from Apple, my desktop OS from Apple (for now, and that’s as much Apple Hardware and Lightroom as anything). I’ll get my maps from Apple on mobile, and just as often as Google from Microsoft on the desktop. My work browser stays Chrome, my personal browser is back to Safari (for now). My feeds I control, for now from Fever, but I’ll write my own reader, starting with Sam Ruby’s Mars - or one of the twenty bajillion readers that will come out of the community or the market now. Opera Software/Fastmail gets my mail. My google spreadsheets get replaced with Numbers sync via iCloud. My bookmarks and notes are in Pinboard and Evernote (though Evernote makes me a little nervous long term as well). Google analytics for my personal sites, gone (I’ll replace it with Gaug.eswhen the time comes that I want analytics again).

Particularly that bit about mail. Opera Software/Fastmail gets my mail. Wow.

I have nearly 18,000 Gmails.

I have nearly 18,000 Gmails.

My positive feelings regarding Gmail are pretty well-known. Right now Gmail in the browser is, for me, the best user experience going in email these days. It's also got a ton of features I rely on and it's extremely secure. But email is a big deal. I keep everything in email. Including the gargantuan history of my email. I've been depending upon Gmail for just over ten years now, and increasingly so. I now use it for all my email — work, personal, website, everything. It's just that good.

Still, that nagging voice in the back of my head just doesn't trust anything I get for free. So I've often wondered about paid email services. And this is really the first person I've known of to switch to one. I'd be really curious to hear how it works out for him. And, despite being a decade-long Gmail lover, I'd be pretty curious to try it out myself.

In any case, it's good to see someone — or maybe I should say, someone else — take the plunge. I think, for anyone who's more than a casual user of email, this should be a concept that's revisited from time to time. Email is a big deal. We store a huge amount of the details of our lives there. Having an email provider that's on my side is extremely appealing. It's also something that's certainly worth paying for.