Google’s mic drop

I like to think that somewhere in Mountain View, a kindly manager of product managers is holding a meeting with the Gmail product team and shaking her head in disappointment over what I would personally consider to be a serious fiasco on 1 April.

Drop Mic was bad on so many levels, it is hard to decide where to start with the wrongness. The other issue is that it was so obviously wrong, it is hard to understand why anyone involved in letting it out into the wild didn’t realise it was a mess.

Typically, one of the core things which any company should be doing is protecting the integrity of their product. Do they have a product which has built up a lot of trust over years? And are various other parts of their business dependent on that product? The answer to both those questions was yes.

In a lot of respects, I suspect Google is heavily dependent on the continued will of people to actually sign into google accounts to maximise their advertising revenue. Gmail might be “free” at the point of use but it is not really free at all because the average google user, by signing into their gmail – and hence google – account is paying for it in cold hard data about their habits and interests. It is unlikely that the micdrop stunt will stop massive numbers of people using gmail…but they may trust it a little less. Google’s interests are served by people continuing to use Gmail. Someone, somewhere in GoogleLand should be saying “Do Not Mess With The Product For A Joke” over and over again.

It is not a case of people not having a sense of humour. It is a case of people expecting their tools to be reliable and not trying to kill them. Sure the micdrop button was orange but it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It was located right next to the send button, in a location where a lot of users have a send and archive button. To say that it was put in the most stupid possible place is fair. It was guaranteed to cause problems. It got pulled quite quickly which suggests to me that in Google, at least one grown up works.

But possibly only one.

Google’s initial message to announce pullage was insulting “Oh it looks like we pranked ourselves” and an implication that if one or two bugs hadn’t existed it would have been fine. It was never fine. The subsequent follow up did not consider the fact that they should never have tried to actually implement it either. For this reason, even though Google has probably done some internal investigation and talking about this, they probably have not quite worked out that they should never have tried to implement it at all.

People in Gmail land need to recognise that one of the cornerstones on which their company’s wider business interests lie is trust in the gmail product and that when they mess with the integrity of that product, it can cost money.