Google Cloud provides a mannequin for repairing Google’s popularity as a product killer
Enlarge / Google Cloud Platform, no longer constantly under construction?
Google’s reputation for aggressively killing products and services is detrimental to the company’s brand. Every new product launch by Google is no longer a cause for optimism; Instead, the company is faced with questions about when the product will be retired. It’s a problem that was entirely created by Google itself, and it’s another barrier that keeps customers from investing (either time, money, or data) in the latest Google thing. The widespread public skepticism about Google Stadia is a good example of the problem.
A Google department with similar problems is the Google Cloud Platform, which calls on companies and developers to develop a product or service that is based on Google’s cloud infrastructure. Like the rest of Google, the Cloud Platform has a reputation for being unstable thanks to rapidly outdated APIs that require that every project hosted on the Google platform be constantly updated to keep up with the latest changes. However, Google Cloud would like to address this problem with a new name “Enterprise API”.
Enterprise APIs are basically given a roadmap that promises stability for certain APIs. Google says: “The burden is on us: our working principle is that no function can be removed (or changed in a way that is not backwards compatible) while customers are actively using it. If a setting or a fundamental change is inevitable, then the burden is on us, make the migration as effortless as possible. ”
If Google needs to change an API, customers will now receive at least a year in advance along with tools, documentation, and other materials. Google continues, “To ensure that we follow these principles, any changes we make to an API are reviewed by a central body of product and development managers and subjected to a rigorous product lifecycle assessment.”
While Google is one of the largest internet companies in the world and essentially defines the look and feel of a modern cloud infrastructure, Google does not do very well in the cloud infrastructure market. The analyst house Canalys places Google with 7 percent market share in a distant third place behind Microsoft Azure (19 percent) and the market leader Amazon Web Services (32 percent). Rumor has it (according to a report by The Information) that Google Cloud Platform has a 2023 deadline to beat AWS and Microsoft, or it risks losing funding.
Ex-Googler Steve Yegge outlined the problems with the Google Cloud Platform in an article entitled “Dear Google Cloud: Your Deprecation Policy is Killing You” last year. Google’s announcement seems to hit most of what is highlighted in this post, like lack of documentation and support, an endless treadmill of API upgrades, and Google Cloud’s general disregard for backward compatibility. Yegge argues that successful platforms like Windows, Java, and Android (a group that Yegge says is isolated from the larger Google culture) owe much of their success to their commitment to platform stability. AWS is the market leader in part because it is considered much more stable than the Google Cloud Platform.
Google Cloud gets it
Minutes reported that during the announcement, Google VP Kripa Krishnan was asked if she was familiar with the “Killed By Google” website and Twitter account, both of which are run by Cody Ogden. The report said Krishnan “couldn’t help but laugh,” and she said, “It was pretty clear to us from many sources on the Internet that we were not doing well.”
Google Cloud Platform’s awareness of Google’s reputation, its steps to limit disruption to customers, and its communication about which offerings are more stable than others has created a model for the rest of the company. Many Google products suffer from the specter of short shutdowns, and that’s enough to force customers to look for alternatives. The primary solution to the problem is simply mitigation – that is, stop shutting down so many things all the time. But second is communication – just let your customers know your plans for future support.
Google doesn’t seem to have a problem with offering a public roadmap for the software it ships out on hardware devices. Pixel smartphones and Chromebooks both have public support statements for their software that indicate a minimum date for which the devices can count on support. For example, we know that a Pixel 5 will continue to receive updates until at least October 2023.
Google can’t immediately dissolve its reputation for killing products and services, but communication can help allay some of the reluctant users and businesses to invest in a Google product. If the company doesn’t intend to kill a product for a long time, it should say so! Google should tell users and corporate partners which products are stable and which are fly-by-night experiments.
Of course, for this idea to work, Google must meet all public obligations so that people can be confident that it will be followed. The company hasn’t done this recently. It promised three years of support for Android Things, the Internet of Things version of Android. Instead, Google stopped operating system updates after just a year. If the company really wants to improve its reputation for instability, it has to prove itself to customers over time.