A Glut of Web Services: Google

The last several years I’ve spent many hours signing up and trying new web services from Google. Some good — others complete shit. Google mail is one of those not shitty ones. I have gone back and forth between email hosting services before. Back in the 90s it was Hotmail (before Microsoft bought them) and then later on I moved my life to Gmail. Yet again, just a couple of years ago, I moved from Gmail over to a Google Apps Business account. Google Apps is pretty powerful, however I decided this week to make a huge change. A lot of the services that I use on a daily basis rely on Google: this primarily includes email and the Google Reader API for syncing RSS feeds on my Mac and iPhone. I spent the past few days exhaustively researching various email hosting services, and finally settling on Hover. Hover is my domain registrar, and they were extremely helpful in setting me up with a great email package for the various domains I needed email on. I think the only feature I’ll miss from Google Apps is push email, however I’m willing to live without that and simply fetch email every 15 minutes. The impetus for this decision was simple. Over the course of the last year, Google’s products and services have been expanding and have been getting progressively more bloated. Just look at how the Google search webpage has evolved over the years. Another example that comes to mind is the recent inclusion of the very controversial “search, plus your world” stuff. > We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships. I simply want the search engine to do one thing, and one thing only–find high quality results from the queries I give it. > Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page; > – Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and, > – People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community. None of this crap interests me. Luckily all is not lost and we all have choices. I have decided to switch my default search engine to Bing. I have done this on my Mac as well as iPhone. Bing has come a long way since its inception. It actually produces very good results, offers those results at great speed and is pleasant to look at. There are a few things I like better on Bing: like image search. I personally think image searching in Bing is prettier. If Microsoft can keep improving Bing’s search results–without adding unnecessary features–I think it’s going to do well. Google has been pouring a lot of their resources into building Google+ into something that has a chance against competing with Facebook. Regardless of what Google may want to admit, make no mistake, Google+ is certainly fighting to steal away users from Facebook. Google is poised to acquire more and more users, as many who already have Gmail accounts can very easily activate Google+ and jump right in. With people storing their contacts in Gmail, it’s extremely easy to scrape that data to offer suggestions on whom you should Circle. One of the things that really irked me about Google+ when I was using it was this: after spending a significant amount of time adding people to different Circles, I discovered that Google+ thought it would be great to add those people as contacts. I store all of my contacts with Apple in iCloud, so I ended up deleting all of the contacts that ended up in my Google Apps account. It gets worse though. The next time I had checked Google+, all of the people I added to circles were deleted. This kind of user hostile behaviour is exactly what pisses me off about Google. This was enough to make me want to ditch my Google account. By shutting down my Google account, naturally I had to figure out what I was going to do about RSS syncing. Unfortunately there isn’t a syncing solution that comes close to Google Reader; not yet that is. Google allows users to export their subscriptions in the widely supported OPML document format. I exported my subscription list as an OPML file and imported it into NetNewsWire 3. Since the Black Pixel people took over maintaining the app from Brent Simmons, I have started using it again. While NetNewsWire isn’t as pretty as Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder, it’s extremely powerful and has nice features like user configurable stylesheets. I can get it to display RSS content in the exact way that I want. Perhaps NetNewsWire is not the perfect solution to RSS reading, however, I have used it in the past and continue to use it now. Until a better solution comes along, I see myself continuing to use it for the foreseeable future. As an addendum to this whole RSS reader syncing stuff, I’d love to see a new Mac and iOS app that could import OPML files from Dropbox, yet sync your feeds with iCloud. This would allow me to start catching up on news while sipping on my morning coffee, and then later pick up where I left off–either on my iPhone or iPad.