A freetard apologizes for Google

(For those not familiar with the term “freetard“, it is a derogatory term that Fake Steve Jobs coined for free software fanatics like myself.  I’m reappropriating it here.)

A friend of mine posted a question on facebook about backing up his Mac, asking what would happen if he decided to switch to Windows later.  Instead of answering his question, I picked up on the bit about photos and failed to respond to his question with the following bit:

Give your life to Google. My phone is my camera and it syncs all photos automatically to “the cloud”. Everything is on the web, of course, and sometimes Google will surprise me with bits of scrap-booking that its bots send me.

For example, here is a movie made out of one of the breakfasts we had in London a few weeks ago.

And here is the “story” Google’s bots made of our whole trip to London.

So, yeah, Google is a multi-billion dollar corporation, but so are Apple and Microsoft. The difference is that Google’s doesn’t care if you are on a Mac or a PC.

But they would prefer you to use an Android phone, I’m sure, instead of an iPhone. Even there, you have more options because, like Microsoft, Google isn’t focused on controlling the delivery of their software to the same degree that Apple is.

This means you can have a crappy Android device, just the same way you can have a crappy PC. So, yes, there is a higher chance you will be dissatisfied, but it also means that you are less limited than you are on an IOS device and that, as a result, more people will be able to contribute to providing you with a better experience via software or cloud services because Google (like Microsoft on Windows) doesn’t exert the same control over the Android ecosystem that Apple does on the IOS ecosystem.

8 thoughts on “A freetard apologizes for Google”

  1. Give your life to Google

    Whoa. Unrelated, but I would feel somewhat violated by Google’s free, unasked for “scrapbooking”. Like having my self-storage company show up at my door with a wreath it had kindly made from items in my craft bins.

    Google seems kinda scary to me. It knows too much and has too much power.

    Or maybe I listen to Jeremy too much and he’s always quoting Bruce Schneier types (though for all I know Bruce loves cloud storage and I’m just personally paranoid).

    /post hijacking attempt

  2. Bruce and Jeremy are right. The “cloud” knows too much.

    Ideally, we should be able to host these services for ourselves or at least put them through systems we have some control over.

    And even though I think framing this as self storage is amusing, I think the better analogy (at least in my case, since I have my phone set to automatically upload photos) would be to say that my robot butler that a huge corporation is letting me use for free, for some reason — since I run AdBlock — occasionally surprises me with cute compilations of my pictures.

    Now, whenever I use a browser without AdBlock, I am kind of shocked at how much visual spam is out there. If I were reminded every day about Google’s purpose via ad placements by their DoubleClick subsidiary, I would be more wary of what they’re doing.

  3. “…free, for some reason…” [repeated in an ominous tone, scary music sounds faintly…]

    I tried to be super-geeky for Jeremy’s last birthday and bought a raspberry pi ’cause I saw some fun-looking “create your own cloud” projects. Or is it too much trouble since he hasn’t done it yet? [Back to neckties. Oh wait, Amazon culture is all about jeans and a buttondown now.]

  4. Agreed, they’re tracking my movements. Or, at least, they know about them. One day, maybe they’ll use that to show me ads as I walk around. Or maybe they’ll get little ad-bearing drones that hover above me and randomly blare exhortations to purchase a candy bar.

    Raspberry Pis are very interesting. A lot of things are possible with them. And if he hasn’t done anything with it yet, well, I can’t blame him. I have a pluggable Linux box that I wanted to set up for a home server and I haven’t done that yet. I am still hoping to have a good Freedom Box soon.

  5. The difference is that Google’s doesn’t care if you are on a Mac or a PC.

    As long as you’re not on Windows Phone. Google doesn’t provide official apps on that platform and it aggressively prevents distribution of third-party alternatives. For instance, check on youtube story. That makes Google online services the least cross-platform solution. It also tells a lot about new Google’s attitude.

    How I see it, there is a shift from old-school Google, which offered quality, client-agnostic service on the web and via open protocols (Gmail, Google Talk, and even Wave), to contemporary Google which is mostly about vendor lock-in. APIs instead of protocols, and crippled APIs or no API at all for the most important services. Consider that Google+ API is still incomplete (and we don’t see a wave of third-party clients). New Hangouts uses a proprietary protocol, no API at all, and I believe that whatever interoperability with XMPP remains, will be dropped. Every Google+/Hangouts user is forced to use only Google proprietary apps on platforms approved by Google. Google now is all about controlling what code we run. They want us to rely only on Google proprietary code.

    Google isn’t focused on controlling the delivery of their software to the same degree that Apple is.

    I don’t think so. Almost every Android manufacturer has to sign a secret agreement to install Google apps. They’re available only as a all-or-nothing bundle. The OEM bundle also includes an officially sanctioned root-kit, also known as Google Play Services. Almost every Google app depends on it. Check its permissions page and you’ll be surprised. It can do just about anything, and then it can elevate its permissions if necessary. It updates itself too, silently and automatically. Oh, I forgot, any manufacturer who distributes this bundle (read: any Google app at all) has to give up on idea of forking Android.

    Bottom line: modern Google is evil. It’s all about vendor lock-in, controlling delivery, running their proprietary code on the client and taking control over devices.

    As a free software enthusiast, once I recognized how Google strategy is shaping, I shy away from Google cloud services, unless technically unique or necessary for collaboration. Rejecting their services completely may be impractical, but using only a “good” subset of them is definitely possible. So I avoid using the new generation of their completely closed products (Hangouts, Plus). I downgraded Google apps to their factory versions on my old Android phone (pre Hangouts and Google Play Services). I replaced them with open source alternatives where possible (like K-9 mail instead of Gmail app). I don’t buy books and music in their store. And I do not recommend Google services anymore.

    My current rule of a thumb for choosing centralized online services is 1) prefer companies which do one thing well and charge for that; or 2) check if Linux and Windows Phone are supported to keep my options open. That said, I believe your friend can do better with Dropbox (more expensive) or OneDrive (cheaper), than with Google Drive to keep photos and backups online without hassle, and being able to access them on any phone, Mac and PC.

    1. You’re right, of course. 10+ years ago, Google was a very different company than it is now. “Don’t be evil” is laughable, and, as you point out, they’re trying hard to exert control over the Android-branded platform.

      Still, I’m pretty freetarded — I just turned down a consulting gig because, in part, of IP restraints in the contract — and I like my Android-powered devices. Maybe that’s just age catching up with me. Or laziness. Probably both.

      1. I may be defined as a freetard too. And that’s exactly why I think that Google ecosystem should be avoided (to counter your thesis “Give your life to Google”). Google Android (not AOSP) is probably the most unfree mobile platform today.

        It’s built around services which are accessible only through proprietary software which runs on only two proprietary platforms (and on the web from the desktop, they’ll fix it). One is too expensive to be an option for everyone, another is under tight control of Google. And that proprietary software is available only as a all-or-nothing bundle, and it’s default everywhere. For an average user it’s an opt-out experience. Note there is no way to disable individual app permissions, and it’s intentional.

        I don’t see much difference between how Microsoft used Windows monopoly 10-15 years ago and how Google uses Android platform today. OEM agreements made the open source nature of AOSP a non-issue.

        I speak about freedom to choose what code runs and never runs on my device, and freedom to switch platforms. Modern Google denies us both. As a user experience it may be satisfactory, and there is nothing wrong about liking Android devices and Google services. I just point out that vendor lock-in is now obvious. I don’t understand how a freetard may promote a service (G+) which still doesn’t have an open source client. And given some Google decisions and actions, I don’t want to live in a world where Android and Google is the only option.

        1. “Give your life to Google” was tongue-in-cheek, of course. I wouldn’t seriously recommend anyone let any corporation have control of their life.

          I don’t see much difference between how Microsoft used Windows monopoly 10-15 years ago and how Google uses Android platform today.

          Agreed. I at least hinted at this when I said Google was acting like Microsoft. The post was initially made in response to my friend asking about being locked in to Apple’s platforms. When it comes to openness and control, Apple is the worst of the three.

          We agree that neither Google nor Microsoft have business practices that are especially friendly to free software advocates. But both have done some good things for Free Software when it was in their interest. I have a post pending about the student I mentored in Google Summer of Code, for example.

          I don’t want to live in a world where Android and Google is the only option.

          Agreed. I’m hoping for good things from Mozilla’s mobile efforts.

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