Wednesday 25 April 2012

Oh Google, why did you stop being sexy?

[Image by Exey Panteleev]

Born out of a tweet from Tom Raftery, who pointed me to Google's Terms of Services concerning their latest love child: Google Drive

I waved at Google Wave, Buzz didn't thrill me other than enabling the opt-out in Google Mail, and I jumped onto Google+ as soon as I could but the effort I put into it (and the goodies I got from it) went downhill fairly soon after.
I skipped Google Drive. I have a fully mirrored NAS meaning I don't care if a disk breaks, I can access it from anywhere in the world and the fast-moving docs I have on my laptop and phone as well, as I have to be able to work offline anywhere, for any duration

So, I didn't read their Terms of Service - but someone else did, and it looks awful

ToS's have always been fluffy and hardly legible and some do a worse job at it than others, yet that's not my point for this post.
The point is, that this pretty much kills or at least severely hampers the bandwagonness of Google Drive (making up words as we go here). And that's not this post's point either. The point of this point is:

Why does Google fail to attract? Since when?

I used Yahoo mail and MSN mail until Gmail came along - I loved it right from the start. Free from clutter, ads (yes, that was my experience!), lean and mean, quick, and so much storage that some people even thought it was ridiculous, or obscene.
I moved my MSN and Yahoo accounts to Gmail, started checking them on a monthly basis only and half a year later I slowly let them die - all decisions made within a week.
Then, Google Docs drew my attention, and it was excellent to share docs with colleagues all over the world across all "IT security" boundaries - even enabling us to work simultaneously on the same documents. W-O-W!

I've pretty much "grown up" doing hardcore Integration in the B2A area, straight from one backend into any other. My favourite industry? Logistics. Fast-moving goods, slow-moving ones, but especially raw materials, intermediate goods and finished products (the lifecycle of a product) and their various itineraries have always drawn my attention

Gmail launched as a finished product. It hasn't changed since, nor will it - nor does it need to.
Goodle Docs launched as a finished product. It has changed a wee bit since, but that hasn't altered the core benefits.
Both were simple, brilliant concepts: Gmail with its lean and mean design, fast performance and magnificent spam protection, and Google Docs with its ubiquitous access and superb simultaneous editing. Dazzling and sexy from the start

Google+ launched as a finished product - but it was a complex one. Introducing the great concept of Circles wasn't enough, it mixed tweets, updates, blogs, commenting, liking and / or hiding any of those, video conferencing for the masses, importing any contacts or friends from anywhere to populate G+ itself, and the list is endless really.
It's proven too much too handle for me. I spent so much time trying everything that I found it to be quite a lot of work, rather than a lot of quiet (business) benefit

I really would have liked G+ to start as a bit of raw material, with Circles as the Big Benefit. Then, slowly, witness it upgrade to include other functionality over time - weeks and months, like e.g. Yammer has done.
Build up the momentum, please the users with something new every so-and-so period, listen to their suggestions, mix those with your own, peel off a layer of clothing every now and then Google - learn to striptease

In stead, all of G+ was released to a selective audience, and when that audience started to show to lose interest a bit, the flood gates opened and no one really knew to whom they should hand out their invites. Yes, that's a form of peeling off layers of clothing, but it's pretty much like Leslie Nielsen undressing in the Naked Gun, taking off his entire suit with one finger within one second - hilarious, but certainly not sexy

Google Drive launched as a finished product. Of course it allows you to "Google Docs" your Drive content, and is available on PC as well as Mac. It offers full search, even OCR's your images into text while doing so (unsure of the "while" here, my own word), and there's an Android app of course - while working on an iOS one.
Showing some leg there, promising an Apple app, Google? Oh my. Fortunately, your "This is just the beginning for Google Drive; there’s a lot more to come" keeps me in exhilarating breathlessness though. Oh the promises, the vision, the road map, the joyful invitation to all people on this globe to share their ideas, please, hand me my inhaler!

Then, the ToS truck hits them. In all fairness, it's as garbled as the usual ones, but in all fairness (bis) it does a far worse job at making things clear. The end result? Reasonable doubt, or rather: the general public will find them guilty (yes I know that's supposed to work the other way, but it hardly ever does, now does it?).
Why? I mean please, hardly anyone reads them. I know I do, every single time I decide to sign up for a service - but then again I'm an exception to the rule there.
Why not just state, like Dropbox or SkyDrive, something along the lines of "You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below"

That would greatly lubricate adoption, wouldn't it? Just stating that right at the spot where it matters? How much ink would that cost? Maybe that would make your ToS redundant up to that point, but it probably is at a few dozen others too. Why not tell the lawyers to rephrase their anal terms in a way that it doesn't cost you clientele nor revenue, not only not in the future, but especially not right now?
I mean if you're really evil, you can always change the ToS afterwards, even fewer people read it at that point (I'd consult with Twitpic first though)

Listen, Google: you got to change. Abandon the path of copying what the competition invented earlier, mixing that with all you have, and presenting that on a silver plate as a finished product that is frozen stiff.
Study the product-cycle, watch some striptease vids, learn how to lure and bait, skim the market layer by layer, piece by piece, and control yourself - don't give it all away mere seconds after you've made an entrance.
You're in the fast-fashion business whereas you should be in the slow-fashion one, dear Google. You have the money, the power and the glory to walk the catwalk - and keep or push every one else out. But when was the last time you did that?

If you're really sexy, Google, you just OWN the stage, even if it's not yours. Yet the last time I checked, you fell off a long time ago. Why don't you try the subtle approach: works for most

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