Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Apple blocking Google Voice blocking webOS App

Oh what a tangled web we weave. I feel like I need to express how extremely disappointed in Google I am right now.

They were all independence and walled garden and network neutrality back in July of 2009 when their official Google Voice App was denied by Apple.

But how hypocritical can you be when they are now doing the same thing to 3rd party apps trying to access Google Voice from other mobile devices. They are not only not releasing an API like they have done with every other Google product out there, but they are implementing byzantine security to actually prevent 3rd party apps from accessing the same functionality that their Android native app is capable of or their new mobile site is able to access.

What does this mean to the non-technical? No matter how much authorization you provide a 3rd party app to access your Google Voice data, they don't want you to be able to dial out using the access number methodology like they have in Android and Google Voice Mobile. So you can give up your username and password to an app and then Google will still block that app from dialing out using the super easy access number that they allow their own apps to use.

But its their product they can do what they want, right? Sure, just don't go crying to everyone the next time some other vendor blocks your product from their platform or device. Would they be so willing to apply the same statement if say AT&T put a block of all users to the www.google.com domain and redirected to bing.com? I don't think so, and there really is no difference. If a user wants to use a 3rd party app to access their Google Voice account and take the same actions you can do on the web or in Android, then why block it?

Safety of users would be a good reason, but at that point if they were worried about it, it is too late, the user has already given the keys to the kingdom and with the extensive Google API's, they could modify your contacts, send email from your account, search your Google Documents, but what they absolutely cannot do? Dial a US no-cost phone number using the access numbers that Google has setup for Google Voice.

Really Google? Really?

How many security keys can you need? You get one when you login with the user's info, then when you go to Google Voice it creates another one, then if you want to dial out, you need yet another key. You protect the phone more than anything else in your offerings and it just doesn't add up.

This is the summation of my frustrations in trying to maintain gDial Pro for webOS mobile phones. I have spent more time on troubleshooting the Google interface piece than anything else on the phone. Why not put out an API? There is an API for Wave, and even the new Buzz, but nothing for Google Voice.

So it begs the question, why is there no API? Lack of resources, I doubt it, security of info, see above as there is a lot better info to access if you were trying to do something wrong.

Where does it leave us? I don't know, they must have some reason for it. Take a look at their Data Liberation Front. Then go to the Voice item, hmmmmm, not a lot going on there for data liberation.

If you profess freedom, then you have to be free yourself or it dilutes the message.


  1. It's worth noting that Google Voice was a purchased product. In fact a lack of resources (more particularly lack of an experienced Googley development team, did they keep on the old developers?) may be part of your problem.

  2. Josh, I would buy that if they hadn't just released a shiny new mobile web app that does exactly what I would like to do. Also of note, if you've never used it is that the Android version of Google Voice is really good.

  3. Great article. I very much agree. Although I love Google for the most part, for a company that claims to not be evil, they are starting to pull some crap they shouldn't be pulling.

  4. I am really not liking what google is doing. (my mother always says: if you see someone talking bad about another is because they are doing it themself)

    I agree with @Matthew, I love google but they are not playing nice with this blocking of GV

  5. If I had to take a guess it would be because Google Voice is still a.) technically a beta service with "limited" invites and b.) the access protocol will probably change dramatically if/when Google rolls Gizmo5 into Google Voice.

  6. However, the excessive and byzantine security methods I do not understand... Google is based on being an open platform so as to shift more people to their advertising base... This would seem to run against their best interests.

  7. @JP, yeah I agree and I didn't develop the app initially expecting an API at that time, but that was 7 months ago almost and I can tell you that they must have one as their Google Voice client for Android must use it.

    Other than the API, the security stuff is quite ridiculous on even just using their current web interfaces. It just seems odd to me that there is so much security around Google Voice as compared to other products they offer.

  8. I would imagine that one reason this exists is because the laws for phone spamming are stricter/more enforced than for emailing. Opening up an API means making things able to be easily automated.

    Also, since they are using the phone lines and it is no-cost to the end user doesn't mean that it is free. There has to be some type of agreement in place with the telcos to allow Google's use of their phone lines.

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