It hasn’t been that long since I switched our “home” phone service to using an ObiTalk and it already looks like the rug has been pulled out from under us. Google recently announced that anyone “making unauthorized use of Google Voice” will be booted off by May 15, 2014. I held out some hope that maybe this means Google is going to provide an avenue of authorized use by third-party applications and developers, but ObiHai dashed that to the ground with their announcement that they’re out.
The technical details are that Google has, for some time, been supporting the open XMPP standard for chat. This included their voice calls within Google Talk. Their reasoning for leaving behind XMPP support is that the G.711 audio standard isn’t good enough for their uses. It’s obviously a load of crap since they could very well support XMPP interoperability with outside providers while using their own standard internally.
This is just another opening in Google’s move towards walled gardens. Instead of making the services we all want to use and having us voluntarily stick around, they’re opting to start holding us hostage. While our actual costs will increase only slightly ($4/mo for all of our inbound calls, plus $0.01/min for outbound), it’s hugely inconvenient to add more moving parts to what has been a very seamless experience. The change is baffling, though, since they don’t really get anything they didn’t already, yet it causes more inconvenience for me.
Google has steadily moved me to ditching more and more of their services where practicable. I’ve also moved my primary email to an alias on my own domain that can be easily re-pointed to another mail host. All of my passwords are stored in KeePass instead of inside of Chrome. Google’s efforts to keep me in their walled garden have, ironically, given them significantly less access to my monetizable data.
Will I still be using Google services? Where there isn’t a good alternative, yes. They’re still the best at search, Google+ is a useful curated layer on top of that search, and nothing beats the Hangouts/Drive combination for real-time collaborative work. Android is a great handset platform, Gmail is the best way to keep my email in sync with a good webmail interface, and my wife and I would lose track of what we have planned without Calendar. But you’d better believe that if a just as good alternative came knocking, I’d ditch Google in a heartbeat. And it’s only getting easier to do so.