A product designer at heart, Cody has been crafting experiences for the web since he was ten years old. He’s best known for his open source website and its cheeky Twitter account, Killed by Google, which Fast Company called “an informational fever dream,” and one netizen praised as “an ignorant meme.” His project tracks news of Google’s product decisions until they are laid to rest in the Google Graveyard.
Cody works remotely as a software engineer at Cannabiz Media. He's a fan of hard cider, winters in Minnesota, and sees himself moving into a product design role at some point in the future.
- Twitter: @killedbygoogle
- LinkedIn URL: https://linkedin.com/in/codyogden
- Personal site: https://codyogden.com
- Company site: https://killedbygoogle.com
Corey: Hello and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, cloud economist Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.
This episode is sponsored by AWS Solutions, which is the exact opposite of AWS Problems. AWS Solutions are vetted technical reference implementations that are designed to help you solve common problems and big faster. They themselves are free, though occasionally some of the products they stand up are not. But it's a great way to click a button, wind up receiving a technical solution that's implemented that ideally solves a problem you have. Visit snark.cloud/awssolutions. Again, that is snark.cloud/awssolutions. And my thanks to AWS for their generous sponsorship of this episode.
This episode is sponsored by AWS Solutions, which is the exact opposite of AWS problems. AWS Solutions are vetted technical reference implementations that are designed to help you solve common problems and build faster.
They themselves are free, though occasionally some of the products they stand up are not, but it's a great way to click a button, wind up receiving a technical solution that's implemented that ideally solves the problem you have. Visit snark.cloud/AWSsolutions. Again, that is snark.cloud/AWSsolutions. And my thanks to AWS for their generous sponsorship of this episode.
And this episode is sponsored by InfluxData. Influx is most well known for InfluxDB, which is a time series database if you need a time series database. Think Amazon Timestream except actually available for sale and has paying customers. To check out what they’re doing both with their SaaS offerings as well as their on premise offerings, that you can use yourself because they’re open source, visit InfluxData.com. My thanks to them for sponsoring this ridiculous podcast.
Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I am Corey Quinn. I'm joined this week by Cody Ogden who, among other things, is the Mortuary Assistant at Killed by Google, that is killedbygoogle.com. Cody, welcome to the show.
Cody: Thanks for having me, Corey.
Corey: Well, thank you for what you do. For those who have never heard of it though, let's start at the beginning. What is Killed by Google?
Cody: Killed by Google is an open source project that tracks just kind of the status of Google's product history, and keeps track of current products and products in the future that may end up being deprecated or killed.
Corey: It really drove home to me that when I first pulled the site up months and months ago, where it has this counted list of all the various services that Google has announced an end-of-life date for. Maybe one or two are questionable on this, but the last time I counted it was over 180, wasn't it?
Cody: Yes, I think we're up to 190 now.
Corey: Which means that Google has announced more products that they are end of lifeing then AWS has launched, period.
Cody: It seems to be true.
Corey: It's always interesting because Google has sort of built up this sort of reputation now, where whenever they announce an update on fill-in-a-service-here, the immediate response from the entire universe is, "Oh, crap, they're turning that one off too." Whenever I make that observation on Twitter, I don't know if you've seen any of it, but I periodically get, well actually get to death by a whole bunch of Google fans and oh, that's not true. It's only consumer stuff that gets turned off, it's for the better, yada, yada yada.
There's always the same lines that get trotted out, but I don't necessarily agree with the criticism in that it's building an expectation that when Google releases something, its days are inherently limited, so fun and jokes and poking large companies with sticks aside, where do you tend to fall on the Google-has-announced-a-thing-How-long-is-it-for-this world spectrum?
Cody: That's a great question. I think for me personally, I've grown much more skeptical about adopting especially a new software service that Google puts out into my daily routine, especially if it's something that's very like productivity oriented. Because if I get so used to having it in my life as a piece of me that really helps me do something in my life, there's no one to guarantee it's going to be available to me down the road.
Corey: The problem that I've always had is it does definitely color my opinion of the company. The notable starting point for a lot of this and most people's consciousness was Google Reader. It was for those who weren't around then or weren't paying attention or simply have better things to worry about than shaking your fist angrily at something years old now, Google Reader burst onto the scene and more or less eviscerated an entire nascent industry of RSS aggregators because it did it so much better than the rest of these and it was free.
You could just shove all your various RSS feeds into Google Reader and it was glorious. And in the meantime it also wound up put this eviscerating a decent portion of the market for companies that were already playing in this space. But these things happen. It was amazing and I recommended it to people left and right, and I used it more or less for my entire news outlet.
That was where all of the, I guess, things I cared about would show up. I would muscle memory, type it into any browser I was in idlely, when I was waiting for something else to show up. And then they announced that they were end-of-lifeing it. And there's some... I've heard different stories about why: some said that it was because it was running on a bunch of legacy systems, that once this was removed, they could finally turn them all off. Cool.
The other was that they were building Google Plus as their new social network and wanted to clear the way with anything else that vaguely resembled a social network. Awesome. And so they announced this about six months in advance or so, and people built a few replacements that are mostly there. I use Feedly; everyone else is using something different, but it's not the same. And that was the first indication I really had brought to my attention that suddenly this thing that I'd built my workflows around, this thing I built my digital life around wasn't guaranteed to be there in coming years.
So anything I started using online should have a backup plan and I started going down that path pretty easily and okay. Now, as a result, anything that I tend to use for the most part, I have at least an alternative, if not as good, will at least get the job done. And I do credit Google with helping teach that lesson though. I don't think that's the lesson they were trying to teach the world. What are your thoughts?
Cody: Yeah, my experience was similar. I was a Google Reader user myself, and when it disappeared, I was very upset. I had invested a lot of time and really fine-tuning my set up in that one piece of software, and when that service just wasn't available to me anymore, I had to go searching out for alternatives.
For me as a developer, I really leaned into things that are more self-hosted, so I spun up my own RSS aggregator that was like open source and you could self host yourself and I've been using that ever since just because I didn't want to take the chance that relying on another company that could be acquired or go under or just have their product shut down or make a pivot would affect me again with my fine-tuned set of news, things that I want to have access to in the future.
Corey: It's one of those stories where the old Baader Meinhof effect is the term for it where once you see something, you hear a new term or learn a new concept, suddenly you start seeing it everywhere and or the easy non tactical example would be, oh, if you're considering buying a particular make and model a car, suddenly you see them on the road everywhere when before you'd never notice them.
And once it started happening, I started seeing more and more products that Google had released or acquired suddenly being turned off with little to no warning and some of these mattered way less than others. One that I thought somewhat recently was interesting was their Hire by Google product. Do you care to tell that story?
Cody: Sure. Hire was a pretty interesting product from an external standpoint. They'd really paired it. They're ripe the set to create products that are focused on enterprise users, especially for that small to medium business range. You can't afford to invest in those, like a large applicant tracking systems that are already available.
And they are ready to disrupt the industry. So they launched Hire back in, I want to say like 2017 or 2018 maybe and they quickly got a lot of the early tech companies, a small startup tech companies onboard, which of course creates word of mouth. And then they decided to shut it down. They announced a one year for their SLA, they announced that they would shut it down a year from the 1st of September. So next year for 2020 it will be going away.
And I think that puts a lot of weird tastes in the mouth of people who may have been considering or still use Google's G Suite Platform because those were heavily integrated pieces of software because they really combined G Suite into hire to make it a product that really worked proactively for that hiring process. And now they're forcing all of these companies to finding an alternative to figure something else out. Go back to spreadsheets possibly.
Corey: Yeah. And it was not cheap either. This required some work for companies to integrate with. And once you went through the pain and hassle of doing this, suddenly whenever someone randomly would search your company name and then careers boom, right there were all your job postings at the top of Google's organic search results, which is incredibly powerful for how most people look for jobs these days.
But also kind of damning in that you're telling me that you can effectively get top placement above ads and still not find a way to make money out of this thing. And it seems like it really cuts against a lot of their own stated value propositions. And that in turn you have these companies who have paid the money for this, who've invested in it, and that really sort of takes the wind out of the counter argument of Google launches and kills consumer things all the time. And that's fine, but you absolutely can trust Google Cloud and anything enterprise because it's always going to be here. Well, that's sort of a thing that was aimed as solely at companies and look where we are.
Cody: Yeah, I agree and I think it's important to also realize that the people who follow Google product launches, they're probably not your average consumer. They're probably more tech minded or they work in an industry where they work adjacent to the industry. These are people that are going to be eventually making the decisions about what platforms to adopt, what services to buy into building that reputation, especially at the enterprise level, but also at that prosumer level. I don't know, it feels like that the opportunity is just being missed to build a decent reputation there.
Corey: It is because you have to increase the only disambiguate between what is the product name that starts with the word Google that I can trust and build a business around versus what product, starting with the word Google, would I be a complete moron to trust? We'll still be here five years from now. And the answer to that always presupposes that someone has an in depth knowledge of Google's organizational structure. I don't.
Cody: Yeah, same. It was interesting I was preparing for this, I was reading back through their letter to investors when they did their IPO. I found it really funny. One thing that they called out was that they want to think long term but then they quantified long term is three to five years.
And I found that interesting because the people who've looked through this lesson don't run some interesting calculations from a data they've found that the average for those products is about four years. So if one term is four years, like I just think there's a disconnect between what Google might consider long term as far as the tech world and what the rest of the world considers long term.
Corey: I’ve frequently said that multi-cloud is a stupid best practice and I stand by that. However, if your customers are in multiple clouds and you're a platform, you probably want to be where your customers are unless you enjoy turning down money. An example of that is InfluxData. InfluxData are the manufacturers of InfluxDB, a time series database that you'll use if you need a time series database. Check them out at influxdb.com.
Our biases tend to inform how we wind up looking at different tools and how they might factor into our own use cases. So rather than continuing to assume that everyone would use a time series database like I would, because I have assisted in background, what kind of customers do you have? What are they doing with a time series database that isn't, for example, just monitoring whether a computer is up or not?
Corey: Personally, if I take a look over the AWS side and do a comparison here, there's a very clear differentiating line where AWS will announce something that is absolutely ridiculous. Its Looney Tunes come to life and I may think it's ridiculous. I may think it has no market. I may not understand its target market, but I would not hesitate to build a business on top of it simply because they don't turn things off full stop.
And on the consumer side, sure, the Amazon fire phone for the longest time I would be getting boxes shipped to me by Amazon prime and they had the fire phone tape on it and it was always this moment of sheer terror. Oh, no. Has someone sent me a fire phone? I don't want one of those before they blissfully killed the thing.
They don't do that over in the AWS world. They'll call something classic like EC2 classic or ELB classic, which means it's not getting new features, but you can still use it. And simple DB was one of their first products. You can still use that you probably don't want to, but you can. So as a result, based on the 10 years and change of history with them releasing products, I wouldn't hesitate to believe that anything under the AWS umbrella is going to be something I can trust with my business. I don't have that certainty with Google on the list.
Cody: Yeah, I just think that timeline is such a weird disconnect for even consumers, but enterprise too like that, that cloud computing as well. Like that timeline of what is actually longterm is either not clear to people in their pitch or it's just fundamentally a culture difference between what they consider long term versus what everyone else would expect long term to be.
Corey: Oh, yeah and reputation matters so much in this space. People don't realize this, but AWS and GCP have the same equivalent contractual requirements around notice before deprecating a product. And that's fascinating when you're trying to do an Apples to Apples comparison. But here in the real world, they certainly don't have the same Mindshare equivalent thereof. I know theoretically, yes, Amazon could decide to turn off AWS in a year, but they're not doing that. I don't see any future where they would.
Cody: Yeah, I can't speak enough to AWS to really speak well to it, but there's definitely a difference how the reputation between those two really plays out.
Corey: Conversely, if you were to sit here and ask me, do I think that GCP is going to be turned off when Google loses interest? My response to that is, of course, no, I don't believe that's true. I think they're going to be in this for the long haul. But, imagine for a second that suddenly they did. Suddenly there's an announcement later today after we're done recording, where they're announcing a three year sunset period where GCP is getting turned off. Customers would be up in arms and screaming on Twitter because that's what customers do, but the response would be it was a Google product. What did you expect? And that right there is the problem.
Cody: Well, heartedly agree like that is the exact reaction would be, what did you expect? Just look at the history, look at how they've treated their products in the past. Look at how they just cut them out. They said, we're done. We're bored with it. We don't want to do this anymore. And, yeah, the reaction from all spheres would be the same thing. It's no surprise almost at this point.
Corey: At the time of this recording, they recently announced that they were acquiring Fitbit, which, okay, great. Fitbit has been sort of struggling for a while, but you want to place any bets as to how long Fitbit is going to be around. If someone's listened to this podcast in three years, will the term Fitbit mean anything to them?
Cody: Yeah, it's funny. If we look at the history of hardware acquisitions from them like Nest and I think before that they had to revolve, which were all internet of things, acquisitions the history doesn't look bright or at least the future doesn't look bright for Fitbit, both as a brand and as a product. And for consumers, they may end up with hardware that just doesn't work anymore.
Corey: And there was a similar story years ago where Sony installed. root kit on various CDs, audio CDs that people would buy that would effectively subvert their computers to make sure they weren't copying these things. And that caused a massive kerfuffle.
And I went a decade after that without buying Sony equipment and whenever I talked to people about that, they looked at me like I was nuts because well, that was clearly a radically different division of Sony than the one that makes cameras and laptops and I agree with them. They're right.
However, the reason that companies do these acquisitions and have all these different divisions is that that one division that has a particular product line generates good feelings toward that and companies want those good feelings to convey to other aspects. It's not just good feelings that do this. I almost wonder as a result, if there would be a consumer brand for Google and an enterprise brand for Google that they could launch to start differentiating this and get away from some of the, I guess user pain that folks have had every time something like inbox gets turned off.
Cody: Yeah, I definitely think that they have at least Google has already started this with how they've structured Alphabet. You're starting to see a lot less, recently they announced touringbird.com it was like a travel informational point of interest site that tried to help get you deals and information about places of interest.
They just announced that it was turned down. I had never heard of this before. I didn't even know it was a Google brand. Apparently it was under this umbrella of something called Area 120, which is another company that's under the umbrella of Alphabet, not of Google, but now that technology is being absorbed into Google. So, yeah, it's interesting the way they're structuring things now is almost to off you skate the impact or that or protect or create a barrier for that reputation so that they can't just keep contributing to that one brand that's most well known.
Corey: One thing that's strange to me is that I don't see people getting confused by Amazon doing the exact same thing where they have early versions of echoes and a bunch of devices that they put out and then wind up replacing and sun-setting as they do with many consumer electronics. The only time I've ever heard someone talk about, well, what does that mean for AWS? Inherently, comes down to someone trying to defend Google and making that point. But I see zero customer confusion about that.
Cody: I think the interesting thing that might contribute to that is just the approach to the customer experience that Amazon does versus Google does too. Even at a consumer level, Amazon has really focused on making sure they have great customer service.
You can reach a real person and actually talk to them. Amazon not necessarily AWS unless you want to pay a lot of money, but as just a normal every day buying an echo customer, I can get ahold of somebody Amazon. At Google, it's not been my experience with any Google product I've ever owned and especially not with any of their software services. It's always empty form that never gets a reply or a help article is all you can really find that doesn't actually solve your problem.
So I think that there might be that at least at a consumer level, this perceived idea that Amazon really does have that approach to customer service that makes the product more valuable because they provide that. Whereas Google, it's like, here's a product, that's all we got for you.
Corey: It also feels like Google has so much of their revenue coming from ads that anything that doesn't directly lead to ad sales means that it's just a hobby project for them. That they don't really see any downside to turning off on a whim when the person who championed it moved on or got promoted, it really does feel like there's something systemically strange with the culture.
Cody: It's funny that you mentioned that because I've read accounts from people who claim to be ex Googlers on sites like Hacker News on other people who've recounted these same stories that they feel like part of the issue with, especially the consumer product shut down is that the promotion cycle internally is so focused on launching and not maintaining.
So you launch a product and you get a promotion and you product and you get a promotion. So the person who is supposed to be like the lead advocate for whatever the product is. Like once, they get that promotion, they move on and there's no one else to take that helm. And this has been recounted in multiple different places that I've run online, but it's, yeah, it could definitely be at least partly driven by that internal promotion culture.
Corey: Yeah, it's really one of those unfortunate areas. We saw this at Google next where they're talking about things from all across the enterprise side of the business and then they put the Google voice logo up on the slide and the entire room just falls silent. And they mentioned the rolling into G Suite and there was a little bit of like scattered applause like, "Oh, we thought we'd get a better response to that." Yeah. "Because we thought you were about to kill it on stage in front of everyone." At this point, whatever, Google brings up a service that's been seeming neglected for a long time. It's never good news. I'm cautiously optimistic about this.
Cody: Yeah, I think Google voice is absolutely a great example of that. It got left behind. It had like one of the oldest iOS updates. I'm an Apple user, so I had one of the oldest iOS updates, had some really old design technique on it and had been updated for like almost a year or so before they finally gave it a refresh and then it just went dormant again and didn't receive any updates.
And then when they run it into G Suite, people were like honestly surprised. Like the momentum behind that pivot almost with Google voice coincided with them bringing project Fi out of project Fi and turning it into Google Fi. And it felt like Google had ignored Google voice for so long. And that's typically their MO.
They ignore the app until they're just like, finally, yeah, let's just be done with it and kill it. And I think that there's an opportunity there though, where they can start being more transparent with roadmaps around the products that they put on because that's not only going to make sense to, the pro-consumer levels who kind of worked in industry and understand the product life cycle, but also really be more transparent with consumers so if they can make more informed choices.
Corey: And that's really what it comes down to is just telling customers what to expect and then meeting those expectations. Now, the expectation is they release something. Who knows if it'll still be here in a week. In fact, a lot of that iOS refresh update wasn't even intentional. They were using internal certificates to do a few things with research groups that Apple didn't allow and revoke the certificate.
So they had to rebuild their applications to get them up and working again with the latest version of X code, which forced compatibility with modern iOS devices. So suddenly everything, the Google docs app suite of applications suddenly were fitting the screen on some of the newer iPads. And the fact that, that's what it takes to get them to update their stuff when it's just push the button and republish it is nuts to me. It feels like Google has been engaged in an ongoing war against its own users for far too long.
Cody: Well, And it's not necessarily that they're like anti user, it feels like there's not a culture emphasis on maintenance is just as important as new product. Maintaining a good product that we know people use isn't as important as creating something new or watching something new or getting something new out there to try to see what hits the wall and sticks. And I think that's a really... It's a difficult thing and because like you said earlier, the majority of their revenues coming from advertising and they have the privilege of almost not having to care because it doesn't undermine their bottom line.
Corey: It must be nice, but at some point public sentiment starts to turn against them and this is the biggest damage that they're doing. I mean, a lot of their uptake and their cool factor came from people who are early adopters who were driving their friends and family to use these things.
So in some cases, some extreme cases, you start seeing things such as you get your parents on board with something, you get your nontechnical relatives on board with other things, and suddenly Google takes it away. In box being a good example of this, what are the ads that you're going to recommend a Google product again to those folks? Because suddenly you're the jerk who got them into a thing that's now being turned off and ripped away from out from under them. It's not a great feeling to be one of Google's most devout fans when it increasingly makes you look like an idiot to your social circles for having believed in them.
Cody: Yeah, I think that goes back again to that the messaging piece towards, whoever is using their product, I said earlier, it's the tech is the people who are around the tech industry and they're interested in new technology that want to try the new stuff and want to really dig in and figure out how it works and what it can really do for them, right? But if they don't have a clear message on, hey, this was just an experiment, we don't think it's really going to be a longterm, they're going to make those recommendations. Other people get them involved, just like you said and then it's on them when something when they kill it.
Corey: And that's the interesting part is at some point you feels like we're all being Google's beta testers, for lack of a better term. They're even blurring the line now between, well, if you're not paying for it, you can't expect it to be around next month. Well, yeah, except the messaging has always been this is great, you should use it and then suddenly it's not.
Cody: But if we look at the history of even their most successful prospects like the Gmails, Gmail was in potent beta for years and it was never guaranteed to be an actual thing right now today. But how's that? I think the bigger question was has that like impression of what beta is changed throughout the years and I think that... Also as Google driving that impression of what beta actually means.
Corey: Funny, you mentioned Gmail about a year or so ago. There was an announcement about G Suite now is going to have a price hike from $5 per month per user to six and the internet lost its collective minds over this. But I was thrilled because I'd rather you charge me more for a service that costs you money to run than turning it off out from under me. Can you imagine having to replace Gmail for effectively every company that's been using it? And the how of it is, I'm not entirely sure I'd put it past Google at this point to try it.
Cody: Yeah, I think that... It was crazy. Like the first time they've raised that price for basically since G Suites inception and it's almost like counter to the argument a lot of people make about some of these Google products that get killed is, you weren't paying for it,
Corey: Right. Like that's somehow makes it okay.
Cody: Yeah. But you can't have it both ways. You can't always have the same price and never see that price increase even though you're getting a lot more value now out of the services that they're offering you as part of G Suite. So I don't know, it's such a silly thing to think about because people do bring up the argument all the time. Well, name me something that people paid for that Google killed and our people paid yet people, sorry, name me something that people paid for that Google ended up killing and you can just go down the list and you can find things that people paid pretty significant amounts of money to get their hands on and then Google turn around and shut it down.
Corey: Well, like the Google maps API changes where surprise your bill is now going to be 14 times what it was before for the same usage pattern that tends to break the implicit contract you have with customers.
Cody: Yeah, absolutely.
Corey: As we record this, it is November 4th, 2019 what do you think the next service to die is going to be?
Cody: I get this question a lot. I never liked to speculate too much because at the end of the day I want to be an optimist about it. Like I want the products that they create, they can really be foundationally changing for people and really improve their lives through technology to be great to work out for them. But at this point I'm not even sure.
Corey: You also don't want to give them ideas?
Cody: That too. I think that could be a very good take on it.
Corey: So have you gotten any feedback on the killedbygoogle.com site?
Cody: Feedback from?
Corey: Oh, the entire internet. Let's start there. I imagine Google would not go on record unless it was with a cease and desist, but what are they going to do? It's all true.
Cody: Yeah, there's been tons of feedback. I think I first described the feedback is that people take away what they want from killed by Google. They either are awestruck at, I can't believe Google has killed this many things. Some people visit, they want to just take a trip down memory lane. It's nothing they can do. These are cool things I got to use at one point.
Some people look at this and they're like, yeah, this is why we need better policies internally for our company about data retention. Like, how can we export things that people are doing on google's platforms to make sure we have an archive for our company or for our team or whatever.
And then some people have a lot of criticism. They're like, oh, like I said for, well, people didn't pay for these products, so it's Google's right to shut them down and they want to, and I accept that criticism. I think that's important more that we have that discussion about adopting technology into our lives that may not last forever and what that looks like for people from the consumer level to the enterprise level.
Corey: Yeah, it's easy to turn this into a roasting Google story, but in practice it does inspire longer term thinking around some of these things. I think that there's a strong balance that needs to be struck. There are a lot of services that people found near and dear to their hearts that aren't there anymore. They had to massively shift their own workflows and a timeline, not of their own choosing and that stuff leaves scars. Now I have to ask, I know it's hosted on GitHub, but are there any Google services that could be killed that suddenly you have to redo how Killedbygoogle.com is hosted?
Cody: Yes, potentially. So Killed by Google is hosted on netlist fly at the moment and they use a "Multi-cloud platform" which as far as I can see, they're using at least Google Cloud top form for a lot of the static sites that they host. So my site is literally hosted on a Google server, which I find kind of funny and ironic, but at least I've met with fide to back me up and moved me over to 80 worth AWS if I ever need to. It's a transaction.
Corey: I have a sneaking suspicion in some cases it's not a question of if but when.
Cody: Yeah, no, I can't say I disagree.
Corey: So other than killedbygoogle.com where can people find you if they want to hear what you have to say about this and other topics?
Cody: Well, they can find me on Twitter @killedbygoogle. They can also find me on my own personal website, codyogden.com
Corey: And we'll throw up links to both of those in the show notes. Cody, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Cody: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Corey: Of course. Cody Ogden, mortuary assistant at @killedbygoogle. I'm Corey Quinn and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you've enjoyed this episode, please leave a five star review on iTunes. If you've hated this episode, please leave a five star review on iTunes.
Corey: This has been this week's episode of Screaming in the Cloud. You can also find more Corey at screaminginthecloud.com or wherever fine snark is sold. This has been a HumblePod. Production. Stay humble.