How Google Cloud plans to kill its ‘Killed By Google’ reputation

Under the new Google Enterprise APIs policy, the company is making a promise that its services will remain available and stable far into the future.

Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, speaks at Google Cloud Next '19 in San Francisco.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has promised to make the company more customer-friendly.

Photo: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images 2019

Google Cloud issued a promise Monday to current and potential customers that it's safe to build a business around its core technologies, another step in its transformation from an engineering playground to a true enterprise tech vendor.

Starting Monday, Google will designate a subset of APIs across the company as Google Enterprise APIs, including APIs from Google Cloud, Google Workspace and Google Maps. APIs selected for this category — which will include "a majority" of Google Cloud APIs according to Kripa Krishnan, vice president at Google Cloud — will be subject to strict guidelines regarding any changes that could affect customer software built around those APIs.

"It is built on the principle that no feature may be removed or changed in a way that is backwards incompatible for as long as customers are actively using it," Krishnan said. "If a deprecation or breaking change of an API is unavoidable, then we are saying that the burden is on us to make the experience as effortless and painless as possible to our customers."

The announcement is clear recognition of widespread feedback from Google Cloud customers and outright derision in several corners of the internet regarding Google's historic reputation for ending support for its APIs without sufficient notice or foresight. The canonical example was probably the company's decision to shutter Google Reader in 2013 with just a couple of months' notice, which led to a torrent of criticism that persists today.

But while it's one thing to discontinue free consumer-facing services like Reader that Google thinks aren't used widely enough to justify ongoing support, it's quite another to adopt that stance with paying business customers. Even if they're one of only a few customers using a particular service, cloud customers need to know that service will be available and stable far into the future.

"We're striving to leave no dead ends in our products and leave no customer behind, even if this adds significant costs to us," Krishnan said.

Chopping block

When asked if she was familiar with the "Killed By Google" website and Twitter account, run by Cody Ogden as a satirical take on Google's reputation for stability, Krishnan couldn't help but laugh.

"It was pretty apparent to us from many sources on the internet that we were not doing well," she allowed.

Over the last several years, Google Cloud has been trying to shed a well-earned reputation as an engineering-driven organization that considered itself the foremost authority on web-scale infrastructure computing, regardless of what its customers actually wanted to do with its tools. That mindset — bordering on arrogance — really stood out against competitors like AWS, which won the trust of developers and CIOs with its early commitment to cloud customers, and Microsoft, which has nurtured business relationships with nearly every company on the planet over the last several decades.

This mentality began to change in early 2019 after CEO Thomas Kurian was brought in from Oracle to teach Google Cloud how to be an enterprise tech vendor. Kurian hired legions of enterprise salespeople to develop closer relationships with cloud buyers, and also began to steer Google Cloud's product-development culture into a more humble posture.

"Pride is a trap for the unwary, and it has ensnared many a Google team into thinking that their decisions are always right, and that correctness (by some vague fuzzy definition) is more important than customer focus," wrote Steve Yegge, a former software engineer at both Google and Amazon, in an epic post last August excoriating Google's approach to supporting its tools.

Google Cloud has heard that feedback loud and clear, Krishnan said.

"It was not that we didn't have [a deprecation] policy before, it just didn't work for us at scale. It worked much better when you were small, and you have contained customer units or users that you interact with daily," she said. "It absolutely did not work at the scale of cloud, so we had to rethink it."

Under the new Google Enterprise API policy, the company is promising that it won't kill or alter APIs that are being "actively used" by its customers, although it's not exactly clear how "active use" is defined. Should Google decide it needs to deprecate or make a change that will force customers to make substantial alterations to their own software, it will give at least one year's notice of the impending change.

Safe for business

The new program should remove some objections that cloud buyers might have had about Google, but the frequency at which Google makes changes to its APIs under this program will be scrutinized against similar decisions at AWS and Microsoft. Industry watchers believe the two leading cloud providers have made far fewer changes to their services over the past several years compared to Google.

Cloud infrastructure computing is in the late-majority phase of the adoption cycle, and the companies that frantically purchased cloud services amid the pandemic last year are companies that tend to be more risk averse than cloud early adopters. The new API policy will also give current Google Cloud customers a little more assurance that they won't have to repeat all the work it took to move to the cloud a few years down the road if Google decided it no longer wanted to support a service that was critically important to their business.

"These tenets are a much deeper construct that really strikes at the root of how we do work in Google Cloud," Krishnan said. "It's really a shift in the mindset of the organization as we pivot more and more towards doing right by our customers."

More details on the Google Enterprise API policy are available here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Cody Ogden's name. This story was updated on July 26, 2021.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories