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Platform Hygiene

Yesterday, Google's Vic Gundotra proudly exclaimed that "I'm not interested in screwing over developers" as he piled on top of Dalton Caldwell's post accusing Facebook of being naughty on the platform front.   I'm not here to defend Facebook or Twitter or anyone else who takes lumps in Dalton's blog, but Vic's opportunistic post warrants a little scrutiny, as I always worry when people in power positions go over the top to proclaim what they're *not* doing (Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton come to mind).   I rather hope Google can back up the claim going forward, because it certainly hasn't in the past.  To be specific, I'm talking about things like ...

  • Google deprecating its SOAP Search API in favor of the more restrictive AJAX API ... see here
  • Google deprecating its Translation API ... see here
  • Google deprecating Tables and Records feeds for the Spreadsheets API ... see here
  • Google, well, just deprecating lots of APIs in general ... see here ... and then trying to pacify developers with  pitiful 1-year support commitments
  • Google jamming the websockets protocol onto developers before it was actually done, in a fiasco that was well-chronicled ... here was our take on it
  • Google head-faking web devs with Gears ... in 2008, Chrome + Gears was supposed to be the new desktop, but in 2011 Gears was pulled out of Chrome ... see here
  • Google marshaling the developer community around Open Social, only to put it out to pasture later ... see here
  • Google marshaling the developer community with an API for Google Buzz, only to pull the plug later
  • Google marshaling the developer community with an API for Google Wave, only to pull the plug later
  • Google doing next to nothing to solve the Android fragmentation conundrum for developers ... see here and here
  • Google making late payments to Android developers in Europe, exposing a number of other developer support pain points ... see here
  • Google welching on its promise to Mozilla to remove H.264 support from Chrome in support of their WebM science project, effectively forcing Mozilla to reverse course on H.264 ... see here

The list goes on and on.

Now, to be fair, Google is no different than any other platform provider, in the sense that we've all (including Microsoft), at one time or another, changed/reversed/adjusted course on a number of things over the years, either because of developer community feedback, technical strategy course-corrections, competitive pressures, "the world has changed" scenarios, etc., but a little humility goes a long way, and Vic's post, which All Things D describes as having a "sense of delight", contains none of it.   Ten-year support commitments are always helpful, too, but I'm not sure Google's big on those, either.  Maximizing the amount of developer investment in things like skills and code that come forward into new technologies is another piece that we continue to work hard at, but Google seems more inclined toward making a clean break with these sorts of things (and I'm being polite here).   Enough with the compare & contrast ... the point is this: opportunistically taking advantage of an anti-Facebook meme to grandstand about how Google+ is somehow the shining beacon of platform goodness just feels oily.  But more importantly, it deserves some proper context ... the reason Google is or isn't holding back on a write API for G+ is irrelevant ... this is about taking a humble tone in the wake of a dubious track record.


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  • jeff shueyjeff shuey

    Great post Tim. Every platform provider has the right to change things up. However, they should keep their history and track record in mind when throwing stones. I like Vic (I used to work with him at Microsoft in the DPE org) and I understand where Google is coming from, but I also find myself taking a more skeptical view of what he and Google is saying vs. what they are doing.

  • RE Google gears, funny how our views on this differ so much. I consider Google's decision to drop gears as one of the wisest decision of a tech company in recent years. Had Microsoft done the same in circa 2000, when SVG became a w3c standard, and dropped VML, the web would have been better off. Same for its nonstandard event model.

    Gears was a Google project, predating widespread HTML5 conformant browsers. It was a project design to push the web forward. And the web did go forward as we all know. Once HTML5 included most of what gears was, what was the point to continue with it? To create more misery for developers and the web?

    Microsoft stood before decisions like that many times. And it always chose wrong. Microsoft and its so-called web-developers never dugg the web. That's why they created IE6-only monstrosities claiming to be web-sites.


  • XNA for Windows 8 or you are hypocrites!

  • @fanbaby: I think you missed the point. Tim clearly says later on that every platform provider is guilty of pulling APIs and services for numerous reasons, including reasons most would consider valid. It doesn't matter why Google pulled Gears, the fact is, they did, so they have a bad track record here. More importantly, Vic's post is just a veiled swipe at a competitor, one that's actually in kind of poor taste. I'm not at all sure I believe that the reason a write API hasn't been released is because they want to "get it right" first, but if that were the reason they should have conveyed this information without the attack. After all, there really isn't any real comparison between the Google+ write API being ready or not and Facebook's predatory actions w/ regard to Dalton Caldwell. This was nothing but an opportunistic mud slinging campaign.

  • To be clear, though, I feel this post is a little bit of mud slinging as well. At least Tim isn't promoting (directly) some Microsoft product here, like Vic did, but I still felt a bit slimy reading this.

  •  It's so plain and simple. Developers need the API's. Consumers need the solutions built on the API's. If you can't provide the API's, maybe you shouldn't be developing software or cloud services at all. Period.

  • NerdasticNerdastic

    An opportunistic post on another opportunistic post. huh?

  • AlexSorokoletovAlex​Sorokoletov

    Am I only one who thinks MS behavior is pretty much same as other

  • FernandoFernando

    Classic VB, Silverlight, XNA, LINQ to SQL, Windows Phone 7, just to name a few where all promoted as the future, and that developers should commit to these technologies because it where Microsoft was going... Then Microsoft changed their mind and left us in the dark. So I see no difference between what you're saying about Google and what MS has done recently.

  • Am I only one who thinks MS behavior is pretty much same as other

    Obviously not. At least two other people made that observation before you in this thread. Wink

    It's not precisely the same, but it's close enough to be creepy.


    I think you may be missing the point of Vic's message. I think he may be talking specifically about Google+. He may actually want to try to change the way Google has handled things in the past.

    I can see not wanting to release an extensive API for a product that really hasn't decided what it want to be yet.

  • ahad porkarahad porkar

    nice article man

  • @EES: You're missing the point of Tim's post. Even if you believe Vic's reasoning for not having a write API yet, it has zero relationship to what Dalton was taking Facebook to task for, and thus Vic's post was nothing but opportunistic bashing of a competitor.

  • JasmineJasmine

    Google take a humble tone? I think you ask too much :)

  • Anonymous CowardAnonymous Coward

    Like, for instance, docs not yet knowing where it's heading, right? Many developers wait for a decent API to drawings and text documents since ever.

  • AntonAnton

    Nivd article
    Google's Vic posted a simple rant against facebook
    Both Facebook and google are equally bad and anticompetitive
    Google shut down products ov almost every startup it bought
    They do not have API for google ux because they want to own impressions of content to advertise on top of it

  • EShyEShy

    Sure, Google's track record is really bad here.
    The real problem though is that at some point, they'll probably make changes to the G+ API as well. Companies don't do that out of hate for developers. you do that to clean things up and move forward.
    After writing a post like this, you look much worse when you do that

  • To be fair, I think Google honestly thought that it could convince Microsoft to ship Gears as a default plugin with IE, to get the adoption level of Flash; it only got the HTML5 religion the way it did when it realised that wasn't going to happen (there is a superb exchange between the Gears team & a member of the IE team at a Google IO session on Gears on how privacy fails in Gears would prevent this, that might still be on YouTube). I'm sure that like Microsoft and APIs it's deprecated, Google thought that many of these products would be successes that made it worth keeping the APIs around for ever, but Google doesn't give much notice when it kills things. And pointing out that Google jumping on the Facebook bashing bandwagon is sleazy doesn't feel nearly as sleazy as Google doing it in the first place.

  • Classic VB, Silverlight, XNA, LINQ to SQL, Windows Phone 7, just to name a few where all promoted as the future, and that developers should commit to these technologies because it where Microsoft was going... Then Microsoft changed their mind and left us in the dark. So I see no difference between what you're saying about Google and what MS has done recently.


    I simply couldn't agree more. Silverlight was the last pounding I took from microsoft.

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