Google has announced that Google Cloud Print, one of its more useful and interesting services, will be shut down on December 31, 2020. The company recommends that people who depend on Google Cloud Print “identify an alternative solution and execute a migration strategy.” It’s the latest service that the company no longer wants to provide.
Google Cloud Print allowed you to print to a local printer from any device. You could print from iOS, Android, or a Chrome device. You didn’t need native printer support built into a product — if the printer was connected to a local machine running Chrome and registered to your account, you could print a document from anywhere. Google claims that it’s canceling Google Cloud Print because Chrome OS is now better at handling print jobs. That’s not an improvement if you don’t use Chrome OS. Android, iOS, and even Windows users who preferred to use Google Cloud Print as opposed to local printing or setting up the printer over a Windows network are now stuck with other approaches.
I genuinely don’t understand Google’s current product approach, and I’m not sure Google understands why it keeps getting pushback from the general web community. I’m not even sure the company understands why people are concerned about Stadia.
Everyone agrees that Google has the right to kill underperforming services. What’s frustrating is the speed and frequency with which the Google does this, often with no regard for the fact that people genuinely use and like its software. It’s not uncommon to see people say they stopped trusting Google after it killed Google Reader, or that their opinion of the company changed after it forced Google+ integration. In Google’s world, there are no consequences for killing software projects that people genuinely liked. In reality, there are. Bit by bit, a lot of people have become genuinely frustrated with Google’s propensity to kill useful software without explanation or alternative.
Google doesn’t seem to respect its users any longer, if it ever did. Google’s promise not to combine DoubleClick advertising data with its own information? Gone. The promise not to combine Nest data with Google data? Gone. I remember reading think pieces years ago that warned Google would use the “beta” tag on its products to cancel them abruptly. What does the first line of Google’s PR say?
“Cloud Print, Google’s cloud-based printing solution that has been in beta since 2010, will no longer be supported as of December 31, 2020.”
Canceling projects and services can have ripple effects that stretch beyond the install base for the software. Continually killing the products and services that people like using feeds the narrative that your company has no interest in maintaining a product for any length of time. It encourages people not to trust you. This was a service people used — I’ve seen comments from enterprise and educational users who indicated they handled tens of thousands of print jobs per month via GCP. People are already looking for alternatives.
Google has a right to kill any product it wants, but it’s killing its own reputation with the way it treats a lot of these situations.
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