Leaving Google seems almost the hipster thing to do these days but the more research I’ve done the more it seems as though the power users and geek users out there are opting to move to paid email platforms or open source alternatives rather than relying on the big G as they once used to. Just look at the recent backlash from many Nest users when Google spent $3.2 billion to buy Nest. Many people were turned off by the potential that Google would be gaining even more information about them.
Though this probably won’t be something that affects Google any time soon in terms of raw user numbers the thing that should worry them is that those were the very same users who helped Google in their rise to prominence. The geek elite are the ones who lead the charge when it comes to embracing new ideas and approaches on the web and if you don’t have them looking out for you then it’s going to be hard to gain any traction.
Google’s not too worried though as they’ve already managed to wedge themselves into the average user’s daily life in a multitude of ways. From the billions of YouTube videos being shared to the uncountable web searches done everyday we rely on Google to such a huge degree that it’s almost impossible to imagine surviving online without using their services.
While I’m in no way a code money or one of the geek elite I’m a user who realizes that I want control over my own information, and it should be left up to me who can use that information and for what purpose.
If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.
The above quote from a user on Metafilter is what finally made me realize that relying on free services means giving up any claim to control over my information. It allows a company to use me as a product rather than treating me like a valued customer. This is why Google has no qualms about shoving Google+ into all their users’ faces and forcing them to user it whether they want to or not. This is why they can start serving ads as emails in Gmail and not bat an eyelid. This is why they can make introduce a new commenting system on YouTube which only makes the comments worse than they were before and not be too bothered about it. This is why they can take one of their most beloved services, Google Reader, and shut it down. Don’t even get me started on their supposed IMAP support with Gmail!
Have you ever as a user tried to actually contact Google for support? The numerous times that I’ve tried to request support for issues I’ve experienced I’ve received automated responses and no further feedback. Google has become too big and disinterested in the users like me who were all too eager to use their services from day one.
Surely we are better than that? We’re not mere products. We’re people who are entitled to keep our information private and only give it to those people we trust!
This is why despite having been a Google fanboy in their earlier days as they released pioneering products I made the decision yesterday to transfer more than 10 years’ worth of emails from my Gmail account to FastMail, and it’s also why I’m not shedding a tear at saying goodbye to a service I once loved and embraced wholeheartedly.