Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kissing Google Calendar Goodbye

Kissing Google Calendar Goodbye

Life is short.
With Google, life is even shorter.

It's Dead, Jim

My calendars are all dead.  This just happened.  (Not even sure "Jim" will find this article on his own, so I'll have to point him at it.)  My calendars are on Google.  I haven't been paying close enough attention.  Google had a plan.  I didn't know.  Now I know.

Comedian Pete Holmes put it well, saying about Google, ...

It's worse for technoids.  We don't know that Google is ruining our lives.  (Actually, we do know, but we don't care.)  To ask Google instead of having to "ask real people" is ... umm ... helpful.

I've always said: I use Google, but I don't trust them.  And when I outsourced my domain to Google's "Apps for Domains" I held back just a little.  I expected it would not last forever.  I expected Google would eventually serve Google's own needs and would not longer suit ours.  So I prepared for an exit.  I hope I prepared well enough.  Did not expect to leave quite so soon!

Geeks Go Gaga

Google gets it.  About advertising?  No no.  Consumer services?  Not that either.  Enormous volumes of data?  Not even close.  Google knows how to seduce.  Specifically, Google knows how to seduce geeks.  Seduce ... such a powerful word ... so seductive all by itself.  But seduce is exactly what "they" did.

They drew me in like they drew in thousands of other nerds.  They appealed to me with technology.  They spoke my language.  They used my protocols.

Today (the latter half of 2013) boring things like Internet standards are not as well known on the Internet.  Today the transition from technical playground to transport for Twitter is complete.  It doesn't matter today whether we use the "right" tool or service or protocol.  It doesn't really matter if things work!  It only matters if the users can be herded before the advertisers.  (The law of unintended consequences fits here.)

You Had Me at :-)

The seduction starts with just a word.  GTalk impressed me.  Whatever other channels GTalk may have used, it used XMPP.  (Since ours was an open relationship, I didn't care.)  XMPP is the Internet standard protocol for chat, originally known as Jabber.  Using XMPP was the right thing, better than AOL or Yahoo or MSN.  Using XMPP was moral.  I could see that Google was appealing to us geeks.  I thought their commitment to the protocol would last.  They were the guys who said "Don't be Evil".

So I started using GTalk.  Then I came to prefer my GTalk ID over other IDs available for chat/IM.  Then I learned that GMail also used Internet standard protocols, specifically IMAP, so I started using GMail over other mail services.  (You could actually get better-than-basic service from Yahoo but they charged real dollars for that.  Not much, but non-zero.)  From there the addiction grew:  Google Calendar spoke CalDAV, and Google Docs could translate into several formats.  (Not Internet standards but industry standards.  I lost focus a bit.)

The beauty here is difficult to explain to a non-tech.  When using standard protocols, I can use other tools to work with my stuff.  I can use Pidgin for IM, Thunderbird for email, and the Lightning plug-in for the calendar.  In fact, I can use any of several groupware packages, even pick-and-choose specific apps.  Subtle advantages arise, like the ability for me to move the stuff where I want it.  Normal people (that is, you non-techs) don't care about this quite as much. 

I thought that Google, being geeky, would continue to use the standards.  While I knew there would come a change, I expected it to come from another direction.
 It's Just Business

Business is not evil.  I am a firm capitalist.  Google's bottom line is [drum roll] their bottom line.  Google as a company exists to make money.  I am a capitalist, and I am an engineer, so I understand the need to optimize.

The popular danger of our time, in business and in engineering, is too much optimization.  Cut some fat but leave the steak flavorful.  Exercise to get lean but don't driver yourself gaunt.  Google has been optimizing.  They said they were going to drop CalDAV, and they did.  It wasn't personal.  It was just business.  But it's personal to me.

Understand that Google has not locked "us" out of remote access to calendars.  (That is, we aren't limited to web access.)  What has happened is that the widely used calendar protocol has been quashed in favor of Google's own API.  They are similarly moving away from XMPP for GTalk, replacing that standard for IM with Hangouts and another Ghougle-ish API.  Like that great Internet hero before me, Al Gore, it's time for me to go.

I will gladly pay real money for an "Apps for Domains" like service that speaks standard protocols.  Having second thoughts about snubbing Yahoo mail?  You betcha.

There Went the Neighborhood

Back to that law of unintended consequences.  "We" wanted the Internet commercialized.  We wanted it accepted.  And now it is.  So we have people in the driver's seat who don't know how to drive.  Oh, they can press the accelerator.  In fact, they really like that pedal especially.  But not knowing the value of the brakes, they overshoot many destinations.  Not knowing how to steer, they miss many a turn (and take out a few pedestrians along the way).

It's not actually the new neighbors that are the problem.  It's the home owners association, ignoring well thought community governance, adding senseless deed restrictions, and neglecting the common grounds.

And, yes, this rant on Google brought to you by Google, who provides the Blogger service you're presently enjoying.  (But it is copied to another medium, while that capability persists.)

-- R; <><