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May 16, 2013
13:08
What's next Google? Dropping SMTP support?

A company that was the cheerleader of the open web is rapidly turning its back on every single open standard they once championned. Their latest move, announced yesterday at Google I/O, appears to be closing XMPP server-to-server federation

 

It is only a natural next step in a process started a while ago. Here is a quick, and probably not exhaustive recap:

  • Google+ has no open RSS output, hence no PuSH support, no write API, in fact it has absolutely nothing open
  • Google Reader is scrapped, along with RSS support within Chrome
  • WebDav CalDav for Google Calendar is dropped in favor of their proprietary API
  • XMPP is dropped, while 3 years ago it was at the core of their Wave efforts
If they continue with this trend, then why not drop support for SMTP (and thus email federation)? When @aaronparecki.com posted the following picture a few months ago, I smiled. Today I wonder if this could actually ever happen.

This is what email would have looked like if it were invented in the Web 2.0 era. By aaronparecki.com


The good news is, we do not need Google to build the open web for us. We are developers, and hacking the future is what we do best. So, time to wake up and start building alternatives. For those interested, the following movements are worth a look:

And beyond these movements, a lot of really cool open source projects which can become real alternatives to some of the Google monopolies.

Don't hesitate to comment, share your thoughts, or a link to an open project you are working on.

 

Update (May 19th 2013)

 

1) Two additional movements worth having a look at:

2) It seems RSS in Chrome is back and that was a mistake. In addition, some users argued that CalDav support is not dropped but replaced by an "OAuth enabled" version and that it should not be a cause of concerns for third party developers. Not sure about that last one.

Comments

Ploum Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 11:29 CEST
The question we have to ask ourselves is "Why?". Answers assuming bad intentions are missing the point.

There's a deep reason why email is the only successful decentralized network. And also the worst regarding tho spam, ease of use and problems.
eschnou Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 11:33 CEST
My point is not that they *do not* but actually are changing course, and reverting support of things they once championed. That is the scary bit.
tomasz kubacki Gravtar
tomasz kubacki
on 16 May 13 at 11:58 CEST
i think it's all about GOG vs MSFT:
a) MS do not allow GTalk = Skype
b) but MS wants xmpp to talk from Outlook to GTalk to promote Office 365
Ploum Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 11:59 CEST
Changing and admitting failure is part of Google culture and, for me, the biggest reason of their success.

We can say that they honestly tried. They tried really hard.

But it is simply not working. They are limiting themselves, they can't evolve the way they want.

I'm not saying that it is "good", I'm just saying that it is understandable and very predictable. I remember saying in one of my conference where someone told me that "XMPP was successful at taking over MSN" : "It's not XMPP, it's Google. The day Google drops XMPP, we will discover that only a tiny minority cares about XMPP."

I wish I was wrong…

(preparing a long blogpost on the subject ;-) )
zaidira Gravtar
zaidira
on 16 May 13 at 12:10 CEST
"The good news is, we do not need Google to build the open web for us. "

If that's true, than I don't understand all the whining and crying is all about. Yeah it sucks when a service is closed down but that happens everyday. Why is it such a big deal when Google happens to do it - since *we* don't need them anyway.
Peter Gravtar
Peter
on 16 May 13 at 12:23 CEST
@zaidira I think the bitterness comes from the perceived movement in google's culture. A move from their hacker origins to a corporate culture where the masses dominate. Time to move on I guess, but the effort required to replicate google's quality products is a little daunting.
Dave Cridland Gravtar
Dave Cridland
on 16 May 13 at 12:26 CEST
Seriously, they didn't try very hard.

The XMPP community did, bending over backwards to accommodate them. A vast amount of serious effort has gone into reworking S2S authentication, for example, specifically to address Google's requests to make supporting Google Apps domains securely simpler for them.

Jingle was initially designed by Google, but yet they never implemented the latest standards as they were developed - and yet this was their area of greatest interaction.

I've even heard that some of PEP - another set of XMPP extensions they never bothered to implement - was guided by Google so they could deploy it.

Google have been known to use open standards, but they're rubbish at contributing to them.
Mike Chaliy Gravtar
Mike Chaliy
on 16 May 13 at 12:31 CEST
The day Google drops XMPP, we will discover that only a tiny minority cares about XMPP.

MSN was actually XMPP without federation
Facebook uses XMPP for messaging
Thomas Gravtar
Thomas
on 16 May 13 at 13:13 CEST
That picture looks a lot like Facebook email today
Matt Lee Gravtar
Matt Lee
on 16 May 13 at 13:22 CEST
Don't forget http://autonomo.us/
Dave Cridland Gravtar
Dave Cridland
on 16 May 13 at 14:04 CEST
Mike, only a tiny minority care about SMTP, too.

But federation and interop are important, just as Larry Page said, and users will be feeling that loss - and are already.
fjpoblam Gravtar
fjpoblam
on 16 May 13 at 14:39 CEST
Google has always said the competition is just a click away. Time to click away, no? I think Google should not set the standards for *my* web activities, anyway. I hope others remain and evolve.
boris Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 15:00 CEST
I'm curious if anyone is interested in proof of concept of federated twitter like open source project I've created some time ago: http://dotmesh.org
mikemike Gravtar
mikemike
on 16 May 13 at 15:04 CEST
God, I hate Google. We should stop using them. They're terrible and evil, and are slowly ruining the Internet. Anyway, I'm off to Google News to see what's happening.
ßingen Gravtar
ßingen
on 16 May 13 at 15:17 CEST
Don't forget identi.ca and joindiaspora.com
Engineer Gravtar
Engineer
on 16 May 13 at 15:29 CEST
Google has never cared about the "open web"... it cares about Google being able to access all information out there. It doesn't give a damn-- and never has-- about other people being able to access information.

It's sad that a generation of people have been deluded into thinking google is somehow a force for good. They are blatent patent trolls-- suing Apple (via Motorola) for standards essential patents, which started the whole patent war (Apple sued them in defense)... which is pretty ironic given that android is a ripoff of Apple's IP... all the while Google's publically running an anti-IP campaign (Because as an IP theif they want to get away with it.)

Yet people ignore the fact that Google is the patent troll that started the whole thing and delude themselves into thinking that Google is "right" ... becuase they want to own an android phone without guilt.

At this point, I have no sympathy for people who are so deluded that they think google is anything but evil. They have been evil (and uninnovative) for a long time.

This is not surprising given they make their money by violating people's privacy.

But the deluded fools think "oh this service from google is free, they must be benevolent!"
Chris Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 15:44 CEST
I look at this as a golden opportunity to re-make the services they are dropping, and then sell them back to them for a nice few million bucks in a year or two. Cheers Larry!
michael pearson Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 16:01 CEST
There's not a whole lot of transparency from Goog as to why they make these decisions, so I can only imagine that as they've evolved into a purely commercial company supporting and championing interoperability has become a cost center that runs against some walled-garden vision. Who knows, but I think its sad. If anyone is interested, I'm developing an open-source+hosted API/transport pipelining system, reach out if you want to jump into the code its not released quite yet but happy to open the repo to collaborators... https://bip.io

Ian Moss Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 16:56 CEST
Hey,
For email I really enjoy using fastmail.fm
Only $30 a year for having your own domain's email, else free.
Hope that's a useful tip for people.

Ian
Jacob Cook Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 17:00 CEST
Thanks for the post! Google is certainly making many strange decisions lately, I think looking elsewhere for the services we get from it is essential before it is too late.

I am working on a system to easily self-host all the services you might need from your own home on a Raspberry Pi. All this with a simple graphical interface, making server management available for the masses. Check it out at https://ark-os.org :)
fjpoblam Gravtar
fjpoblam
on 16 May 13 at 17:51 CEST
Yeah, ßingen and Ian, *lots* of alternatives out there. (I have a website and use domain-managed mail. Doesn't cost as much as you might think.) For those of us who wear tinfoil hats and don't care about the laughter behind us, read Brad Thor's "Black List". (Just because yer paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.)
Vint Gravtar
Vint
on 16 May 13 at 19:02 CEST
Ploum said: "There's a deep reason why email is the only successful decentralized network."

Are you nuts? Lots of our most successful networks have always been decentralized! You can't seriously be suggesting that systems like Usenet, IRC, Bittorrent, XMPP, or the internet itself (!!) aren't successful.
Jeena Gravtar
on 16 May 13 at 19:03 CEST
I am working on a Feed reader which works with the open (and open source) API provided by TinyTinyRSS http://jabs.nu/feedthemonkey and on a Twitter-like client for the Open Social Tent Protocol (https://tent.io) http://jabs.nu/bungloo
Daboo Gravtar
Daboo
on 16 May 13 at 19:17 CEST
""Changing and admitting failure is part of Google culture and, for me, the biggest reason of their success. We can say that they honestly tried. They tried really hard. But it is simply not working. They are limiting themselves, they can't evolve the way they want.""

I think the problem is not that Google is abandoning these protocols. (Lots of companies never bothered to use them in the first place, and we're not complaining about those guys.) The problem is they're talking out of both sides of their mouth.

From one side: open is great, Google is open, Google is better than our competitors *because* we're more open. From the other side: we're abandoning a bunch of the most popular open protocols because they're just not working for us (you claim).

I think it would be drastically different if they had said, hypothetically, "CalDav isn't flexible enough for the needs of Google Calendars, so we're proposing a new open standard, SuperCalSync, and inviting everybody to try it out with us". That would show that the existing protocol sucks (well, it kind of does!), but that they think openness can work. But they're not doing that.

I would *love* for Google to put out a press release that said: "We tried open source and open protocols. Nobody cares, and it holds us back. We're going to do everything behind closed doors from now on. Deal with it." Then at least they'd be honest.
pavan Gravtar
pavan
on 17 May 13 at 9:32 CEST
Great analysis. this article is good. thanks for posting this article..!
Johannes Ernst Gravtar
Johannes Ernst
on 17 May 13 at 14:23 CEST
We need personal clouds http://personal-clouds.org/ to restore control to us and give us a say in the features we like to use.
Bens Gravtar
Bens
on 17 May 13 at 17:33 CEST
Open is awesome as long as it works in my favor
David McElroy Gravtar
on 17 May 13 at 18:40 CEST
It's amusing to me that Google's apologists defend the company for almost any action, even when they would be howling if a similar action was taken by Microsoft of Apple. For some reason, there's a portion of the tech crowd that's bought the insane notion that Google has everybody's best interests at heart, so we can trust them. I appreciate and use some of Google's products, but I trust the company less and less — because their actual track record is nowhere near the record of altruism that Larry Page and his supporters would have you believe. (Just to be clear, Google isn't supposed to be altruistic. I'm just sick of the hypocrisy and the dishonesty about it.)
Daniel Bond Gravtar
Daniel Bond
on 17 May 13 at 19:57 CEST
So, when someone defends Google's actions, it may be assumed he also believes Google to have everyone's interests in mind.

I didn't see that assertion in these comments.

Fortunately, I haven't yet seen the "Google is just an advertising company" gem. There's still time, people!
Borja Marcos  Gravtar
Borja Marcos
on 17 May 13 at 19:59 CEST
Great idea. They can drop SMTP and go with X.400 instead!!!!
fjpoblam Gravtar
fjpoblam
on 17 May 13 at 21:13 CEST
Here, Daniel: "Google is just an advertising company." (Hope I got that in, in time.) The Gorg isn't operating pro-bono. Employees gotta pay the rent and put bread on the table, so to speak. Guess where the bucks come from.
Eric Gravtar
Eric
on 17 May 13 at 22:12 CEST
To believe the core of Google's business is anything but advertising simply means one is not paying attention.
airmanchairman Gravtar
airmanchairman
on 17 May 13 at 22:56 CEST
"We at Google believe in freedom of speech, and that anyone who says otherwise should be locked up indefinitely"
Warmbowski Gravtar
Warmbowski
on 18 May 13 at 4:37 CEST
You should see the three year ling thread of comments begging them to add caldav (and carddav) support to android. http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=7639

This is something that has been in iOS for a long time. This underscored, for me, that Google's business model is not very conducive to open protocols in the long run.
Drew Gravtar
Drew
on 18 May 13 at 8:43 CEST
Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.
Mike7b4 Gravtar
Mike7b4
on 18 May 13 at 14:34 CEST
Thats why we should avoid android to and use alternatives like jolla sailfish on our smartphones.
Pete Gravtar
Pete
on 18 May 13 at 21:49 CEST
"We at Google believe in freedom of speech, and that anyone who says otherwise should be locked up indefinitely"

"We at Google believe in freedom of speech, when you let us speak on your behalf"

Peter Kasting Gravtar
Peter Kasting
on 19 May 13 at 7:27 CEST
Accuracy check: The Chrome RSS extension was taken down by mistake and was subsequently restored weeks ago. The status of RSS support in Chrome hasn't changed.
Andreas Kuckartz Gravtar
on 19 May 13 at 8:56 CEST
The W3C Federated Social Web Community Group is missing in the list of "movements":
http://www.w3.org/community/fedsocweb/

It is the fifth largest W3C Community Group and currently is concentrating on developing a Best Practices document for the Open Social Web.
Arek Dreyer Gravtar
Arek Dreyer
on 19 May 13 at 14:29 CEST
Thanks for the summary. Change developpers to developers.
xmfan Gravtar
xmfan
on 19 May 13 at 19:55 CEST
I wish Mozilla adopts XMPP for their FireFox OS chat and messaging. Mozilla are the only real champions of user privacy and the open web.
mxmla Gravtar
mxmla
on 20 May 13 at 16:25 CEST
'Mozilla are the only real champions of user privacy and the open web'

Yep. And we should all thank whoever is funding them!
Frederico Gravtar
on 21 May 13 at 13:53 CEST
Another great projects for an open web are Friendica (http://friendica.com/) and Zot protocol (https://github.com/friendica/red/wiki/zot).
Kin Lane Gravtar
on 22 May 13 at 1:25 CEST
This reminds me that we can't rely on corporations to move forward the open web.

We have to make sure we, as individuals are pushing too!
MxxC Gravtar
MxxC
on 25 May 13 at 22:41 CEST
Don't forget about Google's switch to Blink rendering engine. It's less about being better and more about pissing in Apple's soup.
And their half-assed "open source" approach to Android. Only giant corporations get access to the newest versions of Android.
June 16, 2011
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14:32
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09:51
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19:05
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April 6, 2009
12:49
Shared the story Twitter Wouldn’t Sell For $1 Billion

The interesting question is at the end of the post. Imagine Twitter licenses the firehose to Google, how much should they charge for it ? What is the value ?

"A real time feed of Twitter posts would negate much of the head start Twitter has in the nascent real time search space. It would be a coup for Google to get the Twitter milk without having to buy the cow. The real question is, does Twitter fully understand the value of this feed?"

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January 19, 2009