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Jacob Hill
Jacob Hill

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The Dangers of Putting All Your Eggs in Google's Ecosystem: A Cautionary Tale

It was supposed to be a great week at work for us at FILT Pod. Two of our software engineers have been working tirelessly for almost two months to develop and perfect our chrome extension tool.

Our entire marketing team has spent countless hours outreaching and promoting the tool to businesses, websites and Youtubers. All in all, work had been stressful and hectic, but our efforts paid off.

Things were really starting to look up for us. We were getting a lot of upvotes on Product Hunt. We were even getting our tool featured on top websites on the search engine and getting positive feedback from LinkedIn Influencers.

Then we received an email one morning, the harbinger of bad news we never imagined would arrive in our inboxes.

You scoff at my melodramatics now, but the title was enough to make our hearts and stomachs drop.

It read: “Notice of Content Removal from Google".

It wasn’t even a warning. Google just took our tool off the Chrome Web Store before we got to even put a word in our defense.

Then, I went on to read the first sentence of the email, “Google has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that your application(s) allegedly infringe upon the copyrights of others”.

At this point, I really wanted to throw my laptop out the window, hop back into bed, and hope when I wake up all of this would just turn out to be a terrible nightmare.

All our efforts - getting everyone in our team to chip in on testing the extension, the countless brainstorming sessions, creating and advertising our giveaway campaign - everything went down the drain, just like that.

And for what reason did our small startup deserve such great attention from a giant tech like Google, such that the team would simply discard our free tool with a snap of their fingers?

(Insert sardonic laughter here): It was one complaint. A competitor had accused us of stealing their codes, their tool, everything.

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We have censored out the complainant’s information to protect their privacy. Please do not go searching for them to spread hate.

We’re not even pissed at this person. We had initially been inspired by their chrome extension and wanted to collaborate with them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come to agreeing terms and so we ended up building our own tool. We had plans to add more functionalities to our tool for the wider LinkedIn community, only to have that enthusiasm trampled like nothing.

No, we’re pissed at Google, who didn’t even try to hear our side of the story before pulling the plug on our tool.

Like seriously?

We placed all our bets on Google because we believed it was a company that cherished innovation. That's why it is so successful, after all. Yet, one alleged infringement was sufficient for Google to take down our extension.

What gives? Are we not operating in a free market? Is this our future, where anyone can file a complaint and take down a competitor in an instant?

Many of our current tech stacks are built on the Google ecosystem. Our email is hosted on Gmail, our web application is hosted on GCP, our video conference is Google Meet, and many more. Yet all of these tools have not one but multiple companies doing exactly the same things.

Should they all sue each other, so there is only one provider for any given services? The answer clearly is no, because end users could only benefit from competitions, and here we are, as a competitor, simply wanting to do and provide more options for the market.

So what if we can file a counter notification? Will a tech giant like Google listen to an appeal from a tiny startup like ours and immediately give us the right to promote our tool on their store again?

We were about to embark on an advertising campaign on Google AdWords to promote this free tool to wider audiences but we have to put it on hold. We are answering questions from our users and explaining what has happened. We have yet to figure out how to share the news to everyone who has joined the giveaway competition from this campaign.

At present, we’re working hard to get our chrome extension reinstated on the Chrome Web Store, but who knows how long it’ll take Google to respond to our counter notification.

We want to bring this free tool to other web browsers, but Google has a strong monopoly over the market, with 69% of web users worldwide using Chrome as their main browser. There are not many options on the table, other than waiting.

So you may ask, “Why bother raising this issue, then?”

Well, why not?

Our digital landscape seems to be heading in a precarious direction, one without room for competition, existing solely for one software developer to monopolize in one industry.

If small-time software engineers like us don’t protect our own rights, do you think those large monopolies would?

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but we’re not about to take it lying down. After suffering from sleepless nights, hair loss and increased biological dependence on coffee, there’s absolutely no way we’re giving up.

Would you?

Top comments (3)

codenameone profile image
Shai Almog

This gets worse. If Google thinks your developer account is related to an account that violated play store policies you get deleted. Literally. Your gmail, docs etc. all go offline. Your only option of appeal is an automated process where you're unlikely to get a proper human contact to talk to.

Obviously if you're a big company you can sue but everyone else can lose their entire life without a trial.

About using Google services like GCP/App Engine etc. we had a terrible experience with that which I detailed here:

Google evolved into a terrible/scary company. They're more of a monopoly than Microsoft ever was and people don't understand how dangerous they really are because of the great branding effort.

darkwiiplayer profile image
𒎏Wii 🏳️‍⚧️

I wish I could even still care about stories like this, but come on, it's 2021; we've known for ages that google & al. are evil. There have been countless stories of people getting screwed over for getting on the wrong side of the algorithm and nothing has ever changed. This is just the world we live in.

sfleroy profile image

Im sure Edge Will happily have you, as will Firefox. Edge is probably low hanging fruit. So I'd invest in that for the short term, rather than pray for Google to decide its in a good mood.

Googles don't be evil mantra has been out the window for more than 10 years now, sadly. Hope you can get the chrome extension back up and running soon!