I've become increasingly put off by the blatant Google worship that seems to have completely overrun the press these days. I'm mostly pointing this criticism at mainstream press outlets, but I feel like many of my fellow bloggers are guilty of the same thing. There are a few notible exceptions, such as, 37 Signal's post on the Google Web Accelerator.
First, let me just say that I really respect a number of things about Google. They've become successful by building a better search engine, and it warms my heart as an engineer and computer scientist to see that building a better mousetrap still matters. They've attarcted a large number of very talented professionals, many of whom I know personall from either Cornell, Trilogy, or Microsoft. However, Google has introduced a bunch of follow on products that are not really up to snuff (e.g. web accelerator, gmail, etc.) in a number of ways, but no one seems willing to say anything about it. Perhaps this is a result of Google's willingness to black list those in the media that cross them ( e.g. the whole we won't talk to CNET deal).
Let's take the Google Reader as an example. Once I learned that Google released an RSS feed aggregator I began using it to determine if I should switch over from My Yahoo, and make Google's Reader my default reader experience. I was so incredibly disappointed with what I found. How bad is the Google Read, let me count the ways:
1. Terrible performance loading feeds. Wait, let me rephrase that, the performance was so bad that I found the Google reader unusable and I finally gave up on it.
2. Importing feeds using OPML is broken. If your OPML file is reasonably large, you are pretty much out of luck.
3. RSS search isn't particularly relevant. This is just one more example that the algorithms useful for web page search do not directly translate into the most relevant results for RSS search
4. Poor overall user experience. Even if you discount the performance issues, which I consider to be one of the greatest possible user experience sins, the rest of the user experience is poor. Yes, they used Ajax to provide some "wow" factor, but the rest of the user experience is poorly thought out. For example, s ubscribed feeds display the prepended text "You have recently subscribed toâ€¦", which takes up so much room in the sidebar that the feed title is frequently truncated and not displayed. Did anyone really look closely at this? I know it has been launched as a "beta," but Google has redefined expectations for what that means by leaving services in beta for extremely long periods of time. Frankly, I don't think the Google Reader deserves designation as a beta in it's current condition.
What amazes me is no mention about this in the press. All I read about in the press is how Google will dominate the world and Microsoft is dead, how VCs won't fund any start ups that might compete with Google. Hey, like I said, Google has done some nice things and I'm a fan. However, I'd really like to see some balanced reporting. The reports of Microsoft's demise have been greatly exaggerated in the past and I'm going to have to see a lot more from the "GoogleBot" to feel comfortable anointing it as they next ruler of the industry (or to believe it's $100B market cap is justified). It is time to get real and hold Google accountable for it's foibles in addition to praising it for it's strengths.