Is Google Evil? Part 3

Part 1 and part 2 of this ongoing series looked at visual clues that Google didn’t really believe in their mantra of “Do no evil.” In this installment I’m going to investigate some operational evilness on Google’s part.

I’m a big, big, really big, fan of Google’s products and services. But what would you call a company that freely provides a really great, revolutionary product, and starts slowly, incrementally building on that product, until one day your universe revolves around that company’s products – but the moment you want to take your business elsewhere you find out that “no, sorry, we won’t let you do that!”

I’m sure all of you said “M I C R O S O F T” and you’d be right. But if you heard a little voice in the back yelling “G O O G L E” then that would have been me and I’d be just as right! Here’s what I’m talking about…

I’ve had a Gmail account for almost six years now! Back then Google did search and GMail. Maybe some other stuff, I don’t know, I didn’t use it, but it wasn’t like today where they run the internet. Over those six years I’ve used my GMail account – which is also a Google account – to build up my identity with other Google products, like PicasaWeb, Shared Stuff, Groups, etc. But my GMail address was never really my primary e-mail address, my primary address just forwarded stuff to my GMail account.

Now GMail lets me imitate another account, but by the rules of the internet (and logically) an e-mail can be “from” one person but “sent” by another person. Like a secretary sending e-mail on behalf her boss, or GMail sending e-mail on behalf of my real e-mail address.

And in theory this works great, except that 90% of the world uses an e-mail client developed by the true masters of evil. And Microsoft, in their arrogant wisdom, decided to make the standard their own (as they do with most standards that aren’t already their own) and raise the visibility of the sender to be on par with who the e-mail as from. Now everyone sees two e-mail addresses for me: my GMail address and my real address; and they get confused, and they say “you have soooo many addresses” and “which one am I supposed to use?” I respond “ask Bill Gates.” And they just look at me and so I say “whichever, they all work.”

The other issue is that whenever I share something with a contact, it’s shared using the GMail address on my Google account. But then I figured I found a simple solution, create a Google account based on my real e-mail address!

The problem is all that identity, and to a lesser extent the data, associated with the Google account based on my GMail address. The critical issue here is the identity because most (not all) of the data is exportable (although not always importable, i.e.: bookmarks).

I thought I could change the primary e-mail address associated with a Google account, but it turns out if that primary address is currently a GMail account then no such luck – you’ve been sucked into the vortex and there’s no escaping!!!

I’ve found a partial solution: GMail now lets you use an external SMTP server for sending mail, and since my real e-mail address is hosted on Google Apps Standard Edition this works pretty well. Although rather ironically I’m using GMail’s SMTP server to avoid sending e-mails from GMail, but as long as all those people stuck with Outlook, OE, Hotmail, or Live mail only see one address for me I think I can live with the irony.

Now if my Google account would just let me specify a preferred e-mail address to use when I share stuff everything would be just perfect. Or they could just let me make my real address the primary address on the account. But for some reason GMail based Google accounts are special, those of us that were suckered in by GMail are now stuck being propagandists unless we abandon all of what we are and totally re-create ourselves, without ever admitting who we were before!