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Thoughts on Google Drive

Google Drive - On the road to worldwide domination
Google Drive – On the road to worldwide domination

Yesterday, the worst-kept secret in technology came out with Google’s new “Drive” product.

I am not going to review the product per se, there is no shortage of reviews on the internet.  See http://mandatory-tech.com/2012/04/24/google-drive-is-here/ for a friend’s initial take on the product.

To clarify, I will not be using this product at all.

Google’s quest for worldwide domination of data knows no boundaries.  The only safe haven has been your personal data, stored locally under your watch in your home.  So what does Google Drive do?  Well, it gives Google what they ultimately want which is more access to your data.

Think Google won’t be indexing your personal files?  Take a look at their new unified policy:


“We collect information in two ways…information you give us…information we get from your use of our services.”

While Google has specific product practices for Google Plus, Wallet, and Books, there was no update yesterday to clarify their use of your data on Google Drive.  I find their silence to be deafening.  Their privacy policy still has not been updated since the March 1 roll-out.

This is what I find so incredibly mystifying about Google.  I don’t believe Google is in any way a technology company.  They are an advertising company, first and foremost.

There has also been a lot said about Dropbox, the market leader on the consumer side.  Google’s pricing structure appears to be aimed straight for Dropbox.  While Dropbox’s CEO say he isn’t concerned (See Here), I sure am!  Google has dropped very tough to match pricing on the field.  While Microsoft was able to restructure pricing for SkyDrive, I haven’t seen any changes in the last 24 hours from Dropbox.

While I completely support a market and competitive economy, I feel that Google can afford to drop their pants for storage pricing because they will leverage the data you provide to advertisers.  Google does not have a search or web-ad monopoly, but they command an overwhelming and dominant market share that is not going to change dramatically very soon.  To me, this smacks of a company using their dominance in one industry to take over another.  Remember that company that had lots of court time with the DOJ and EU (hmmm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft and hmmm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Microsoft_competition_case)?  I hope DOJ and EU are taking a close look at Google’s online storage intentions.

I have never seen a Google product I found to be intuitive or easy to use.  The people I know who are big Android supporters talk constantly about “rooting” their phone…it sounds so much like a Linux desktop support group.  My experience with Google products is that they are difficult to use, clunky, and awkward to navigate.  Because Google Drive appears to just be window-dressing for Google Docs, I will relate to that experience.  Yes, you can play around with a Word Doc or Excel spreadsheet, and yes, two people can access at once, but I find it to be an awful tool to use full-time.  I appreciate the changing paradigm, from desktop-centric software to app or cloud applications, but I still don’t think the chicken’s been cooked to 160 degrees yet.

Is Dropbox perfect?  Heavens no.  I wish the sync speed for multiple files was faster, and up until this week I could only share an entire folder with another person, not a single file (disclosure:  I have not used the new ‘Get URL’ featured rolled out on the 23rd, will soon).  I also wish, again because personal data is so important, that there were more sophisticated encryption options (Spideroak is the new player on the street and they are touting privacy as their most important feature).  Dropbox’s own privacy policy is extremely vague regarding the information they share with 3rd parties (see https://www.dropbox.com/privacy).  Not to mention that their data retention policy is also worrisome.  I may very well move my data to Spideroak as a result.

So what is the difference?  Well, the difference of course is Google’s track record of being completely evil when it comes to the privacy of their users.  From Google Buzz, Street View, Logging Wifi data without disclosure, the examples of Google hostility to privacy is well-documented (See here for more examples:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_privacy).

And let’s face it, I want to see the little guys make it in the technology field.  Microsoft proved why a homogenous technology field is bad for consumers.  Yet here we are, not too far in the future and while the market is becoming more and more heterogenous every day, it still seems like Google, Amazon, and Apple are swallowing the entire market.

Competition is great.  Having more than a couple competitors is even better.

Let’s all hope the Dropbox’s of the world don’t become the next Netscape.

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