Google Public Relations
Yesterday, I got an unexpected package from Google. It contained a “thank you” letter, a Polo-Shirt and a USB card reader.
The whole story began a few weeks ago, when I had a call on my answering machine and a mail in my inbox from the legal department of Google Germany. A Google lawyer asked me if he could talk with me on the phone.
I immediately wrote him back and we talked later that day. It turned out the whole thing was about my gBrain extension for Firefox. He was very friendly, and explained that he was contacted by the guys in Mountain View, asking him, if he could ask me if I could stop distributing it. Talk about bureaucracy .
gBrain is a Firefox extension to automagically bookmark all pages you visit at the Google bookmark service. This effectively moves your browser history from your browser instance to a central place on the net (Google) where it is easily searchable from every computer.
I hadn't think to long about that request, because
- I did not use the extension my self anymore
- It wasn't very popular either
- Google could have blocked it them self easily instead of asking me
So I agreed to abandon it, but my curiosity was aroused. I asked him about the exact problem with extension, but him being just the message bearer had no idea. But he offered to ask a Google engineer to contact me.
I did not really expect it, but the next day I got a call from Jeffrey Korn at Google California. He explained that he was the one responsible for building the Google Bookmarks and Google Web History tools. The problem with my extension was something I hadn't imagined: a scaling problem. Hehe, Google had scaling problems .
The gBrain extension creates a lot of bookmarks. Several thousands a month. And the Google bookmarks system was never made with this amount in mind. What made things worse (and I didn't knew that), the bookmarks are connected to the normal web search. Whenever you use the web search, it checks it against your Google bookmarks. You can easily imagine what problems can come up when you have a several 10 or even 100 thousands of bookmarks…
Jeffery also made a few suggestions how the extension could be changed to make use of their Web history service instead of the bookmarks system. This would avoid the scaling problems. I may consider it some day.
But why am I telling this? Because I'm amazed how Google handled this. Instead of just blocking my extension at their side, or sending me a cease and desist letter1) they contacted me and asked. This is more than you can expect from many other corporations. Even after the whole thing was resolved, they had one of their engineers call me to explain the whole thing.
Well… and a few weeks later I even good a nice present . Thanks Google.
Win a Shirt
Okay and because white Polo-Shirts are not my cup of tea I hereby give it away in a contest. It's labeled as L but is pretty large, so it might fit as a small XL, too.
The first commenter asking for the shirt gets it. As simple as that. Be sure to leave your real e-mail.