Over on Google+, my social network of choice, the cancellation of the Reader service by Google has generated an online debate:
- Camp #1 says Google has damaged its reputation by showing it can’t be “trusted” to deliver products and services that people can rely upon.
- Camp #2 says people “whining” about Reader’s cancellation should just shut up about losing a free service that can be easily replaced with something else.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t use Reader and am acutely aware that relying too much on Google’s “free” services can be problematic, which I discussed in Google Reader: Act First, Apologize Later. At the same time, whining too loudly about the loss of “free” services shows some immaturity about how the web operates.
But I do think Google needs to be concerned about this “trust” issue. Some of the problem has to do with Google’s lack of transparency. In the past Google could rely on the tech community and developers to establish and manage a friendly ecosystem. Now that they continue to grow their influence with attractive products that are available across a variety of platforms, especially mobile, their attempts to maintain control through a “walled garden” built around Google+ and Gmail — products that I use and love — appear ham-handed and capricious given their lack of openness about their plans.
In a way Google is a victims of its own business model. By being closed about strategy they reduce trust when they cancel a product like Reader. At the same time, were they more open about their intentions they probably feel they are giving away the goods to partner-competitors like Samsung, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft.
Where this might all come crashing together is with Glass which I wrote about here. Even if Glass succeeds technically while failing commercially, it’s going to be more serious than Reader’s cancellation and a public relations black eye that competitors will take advantage of, just as might have been the case with the Apple Maps situation. Who wants to give over free access to every scrap of online behavior to a single company that “can’t be relied upon” to maintain the key value-generators of their infrastructure, especially since so much of their product offerings are subsidized through advertising sales? The inevitable question is, when will wider awareness of this “trust” situation start to impact Google’s stock price?
Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in digital strategy, project management, and technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. His experience includes government contract research, software and database product development, system integration and consolidation, and IT strategy consulting. Contact Dennis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 703-402-7382.