Thursday, March 14, 2013

Leaving Google

My oldest email account is my Hotmail account; I opened it before we signed up with our first ISP. But I abandoned ship for Gmail's promise of easy organization and near-infinite storage back when it launched. Funny how things have changed - now I'm returning to Microsoft's open arms.

A few months ago Google announced they were turning off Exchange ActiveSync support for all but paying Google Apps users, a move primarly hurting Windows Phone users like myself. Fine, I said; I'll be OK because I added my device before the cutoff, and eventually Microsoft will implement a permanent solution. Companies make changes, and sometimes they're not in my favour.

Yesterday, however, came the announcement that the CalDAV interface is being deprecated as well, barely 6 weeks after it was endorsed as the go-to solution for the woes they created. And I'm sorry, but you cannot convince me that this is either necessary or smart. Maybe they can save licensing money by cutting EAS. I honestly don't know. But removing a perfectly-functioning, open API that they were recommending wholeheartedly just two days ago feels almost openly hostile. And no matter their motives, it's their users who are going to be hurt the most.

It's commonly assumed these moves are aimed at Microsoft, and I was inclined to agree. But if anything, Google has backpedaled on these issues for no one but Microsoft. Only Windows Phone got a stay of execution on the EAS issue and at this point Microsoft is reportedly still allowed to use CalDAV. I don't know why they're doing what they're doing, but never mind how disappointed I am; their motives aren't why I'm leaving.

No, I'm leaving Google because these changes mean their products don't work for me anymore. Push notifications no longer work properly across my devices with Gmail - when I read an email, notifications linger everywhere, no matter where I've read it. If I can currently get my multiple Google calendars on my non-Android devices, there's no telling how long it will last - and at least for Windows Phone, it was an unnecessarily ugly process to enable it when it worked. Speaking of ugly, the last major Gmail interface update was a big turnoff for me; Outlook.com is significantly easier on the eyes. But the biggest issue is uncertainty: who knows when Google will decide to kill something I rely on next? Because they're on a roll lately, culling products at their users' expense.

Fortunately, Microsoft has been doing the opposite. They have added EAS to their free email products. It only supports one calendar on Android - but the Hotmail and Outlook.com apps will sync all of your Microsoft calendars to your device. Push notifications work flawlessly, the way Gmail used to. Storage is uncapped. They even added an "Archive" button to Outlook.com after users said they missed the feature from... you guessed it. Gmail.

So I'm done. New accounts will, for the first time in probably 5 years, go to my Hotmail, not my Gmail. My calendars have already been migrated. Existing email accounts are next; forwarding will be set up in the meantime.

We need some time apart, Google. I'm not ready to call it off entirely. But I'm moving in with an old friend. Call me when you grow up and start caring about your users again.

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