Google’s duplicated services will break your heart

Google this week revealed it is killing Inbox by Gmail in March 2019 and killing Fabric in mid-2019. Both announcements were made on Apple’s iPhone day, largely burying the news.

Coincidence? I think not!

Google is often criticized for offering too many duplicative apps as well as shutting down beloved products. It’s a running joke in the tech industry: Don’t get too attached to any Google service you love.

And while there’s no way of predicting what Google will ax next, there is one way to minimize the potential impact on you of the inevitable fallout: steer clear of any duplicate Google services.

I never committed to Inbox by Gmail because I knew Google was going to kill it. Well, that’s not entirely true: There was a time when the plan was to have Inbox replace Gmail, but either way I knew both couldn’t coexist forever. I have two personal email addresses, an unused personal Gmail account just for my Android devices, and a work Gmail account I can’t avoid. I use the desktop Outlook app for two reasons: I prefer desktop software for one, but it also means I’m not affected by any Gmail user interface changes.

For Allo, almost everyone saw the writing on the wall from the very beginning. No support for text messages or video calls? Useless, no matter how nifty some of the features were.

The Fabric and Firebase example offers another suggestion about what to look for: If features from an app or service are getting ported over to its counterpart, be extremely cautious. Sometimes you don’t even have to wait for the features to appear in your workflow: The hints often come in beta releases and leaks.

Chances are Google isn’t doing all that work just to make your life easier. The functionality is being moved over because the company is trying to gauge how useful the other service really is. It happened with Allo, it happened with Inbox, and it’s going to happen again and again.

From a business perspective, it makes no sense for Google to keep two or more of the same app or service around. It launches them to experiment, test, and iterate, but eventually there has to be a last man standing. Or sometimes, like in the case of Google Reader, no man standing.

Hell, Google probably would have killed Gmail if it couldn’t figure out a way to monetize it with G Suite for enterprises and ads for consumers. Like every other company, Google is a business at the end of the day.

I could say think twice about using Google services, full stop. But that’s another story.

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