by Will Schreiber

Google blew a ten-year lead.

Back when there were rumors of Google building an operating system, I thought “Lol.”

Then I watched then-PM Sundar Pichai announce Chrome OS. My heart raced. It was perfect.

I got my email through Gmail, I wrote documents on Docs, I listened to Pandora, I viewed photos on TheFacebook. Why did I need all of Windows Vista?

In 2010, I predicted that by 2020 Chrome OS would be the most popular desktop OS in the world. It was fast, lightweight, and $0.

“Every Windows and OS X app will be re-built for the browser!” I thought. Outlook->Gmail. Excel->Sheets. Finder->Dropbox. Photoshop->Figma. Terminal->

All of your files would be accessible by whoever you wanted, wherever you wanted, all the time. It was obvious. Revolutionary.

I haven’t installed MSFT Office on a machine since 2009. Sheets and Docs have been good enough for me. The theoretical unlimited computing power and collaboration features meant Google Docs was better than Office (and free!).

Then something happened at Google. I’m not sure what. But they stopped innovating on cloud software.

Docs and Sheets haven’t changed in a decade. Google Drive remains impossible to navigate. Sharing is complicated. Sheets freezes up. I can’t easily interact with a Sheets API (I’ve tried!). Docs still shows page breaks by default! WTF!

Even though I have an iPhone and a MacBook, I’ve been married to Google services. I browse Chrome. I use Gmail. I get directions and lookup restaurants on Maps. I’m a YouTube addict.

Yet I’ve been ungluing myself from Google so far this year. Not because of Google-is-reading-my-emails-and-tracking-every-keystroke reasons, but because I like other software so much more that it’s worth switching.

At WWDC, Apple shared Safari stats for macOS Big Sur. It reminded me how much Chrome makes my machine go WHURRRRRR. Yesterday, I made Safari my default browser again.

My Gmail inbox has become a mailbox stuffed with clothing flyers, SaaS mailers, and Rollbar alerts. I love when people respond to Second Breakfast, but their responses get lost amid a sea of plastic bottles. I started using HEY last week. My new email is I love it so far.

I’ve given up on Google Docs. I can never find the documents Andy shares with me. The formatting is tired and stuck in the you-might-print-this-out paradigm. Notion is a much better place to write and brainstorm with people.

The mobile Google results page is so cluttered that I switched my iPhone’s default search to DuckDuckGo. The results are a tad worse, but I’m never doing heavy-duty searches on the go. And now I don’t have to scroll past 6 ads to get the first result. DuckDuckGo’s privacy is an added bonus.

I still use Google Sheets heavily. But wow, Airtable makes Sheets feel decrepit. Where’s the easy API? New ways of formatting? Better collaboration? Simple sheet-as-a-database?

My new usage patterns:

  • Email: Gmail HEY
  • Search: Google DuckDuckGo (mobile) and Google (desktop)
  • Maps: Google
  • Docs: Google Notion
  • Sheets: Google
  • Video: YouTube (but increasingly I’m noticing other people use Twitch, Instagram, and TikTok)
  • Video Calls: Google Meet Zoom

I’m a long shareholder of Google. It’s amazing how they have four monopolies and only monetize one of them. I’m confident they have a bright future ahead.

But the lack of innovation is frustrating. The product goals are all over the place. Microsoft has a new clear mission: The Cloud. What’s Google’s clear mission?

It feels like they blew a 10 year lead.