Imagine: Waking up to find that your access to Google products has been severed … forever. Google search is dead. No access to Google docs. No gmail. You’ve put your eggs in the Google basket and now they’re all broken.
It happened to my colleague June 8.
Google has decided to drop support of older browsers (Firefox 3.5, Safari 3, Internet Explorer 7 and all earlier versions of those browsers) because the older browsers cannot support all the bells-and-whistles of Google’s latest versions, such as “drag and drop upload” in Google docs.
Realistically, Google can’t be expected to make endless versions of its software to accommodate every browser ever made. But do they have to cut-off service entirely?
While it may be difficult for Google techies to grasp, not everyone needs or wants or can afford the hardware and software for the latest bells-and-whistles. My colleague would be quite happy to continue as she is now, using Firefox 3.6.17 which, by the way, is a more recent version than Google’s announced cutoff as of August 1.
So here we have a good example of several customer service problems:
- I’m sure its own analytics would tell Google that not all its gmail and docs users are reading the Google blog. How about a real notice, like the ones that let us know when new features are added?
- The theory is good but how does it play out for the customer? How many users of Google search are confined to older hardware that will not support newer browsers and can they be accommodated some way?
I don’t ask because I’m a Google-basher. I ask because I’m concerned about nonprofits.
My colleague manages a nonprofit in Swaziland whose donated computers cannot support later versions of browsers and which cannot afford software or hardware upgrades. Yes, Windows 98 and a Pentium processor seem old hat to most of us but if the computers were donated … maybe Pentium is not what’s inside.
Smaller nonprofits and developing nations using older technology will no longer be able to use Google search or its collaborative tools, such as Google docs. Remember, it’s not just the drag-and-drop upload feature that will be unavailable on older equipment. It is everything, from search to gmail to documents.
The computers in the Swaziland nonprofit are so old, it’s unlikely they can be updated to the appropriate browsers. The agency’s planned move to the Google suite, intended to help smooth communications issues, is now also unlikely.
The new policy includes a rolling drop of support for the oldest browser each time a new version is announced by Mozilla, Apple or Google, which forces the issue of buying new equipment or software – Apple and Microsoft should be happy.
It also reinforces consumerism. Instead of handing down an old computer to a nonprofit or a family member, the pressure is on to create e-waste.
“The domino effect is terrifying for those unable to buy new computers,” my colleague says.
Isn’t Google’s motto “Don’t be evil?”
What do you think of Google’s new policy? Will it affect your business or nonprofit, or one you support? If you need upgrades, are you ready?
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