What would you like to see Google do in 2013?

Google as a whole has never really seemed "finished" to me. It has some really great products, but I'll often find myself thinking about how unfinished it all feels. The following is my take on what I think would help make that "unfinished" feeling go away, and would be great to see happen in 2013.

General / Universal

Completely abolish the old interface in favor of the current crisp one.

Compare the Google Dashboard page with the Google Reader page. You'll notice that the Google Dashboard page represents the "old" interface, with light blue headers and a lack of specific formatting, and the Google Reader page represents the "new" interface, with richer colors, buttons, and formatting.

Part of this also includes standardizing the header shown at the top of all Google sites. It's even inconsistent within the support.google.com site, with Google+ help showing the top black bar and the mail help hiding it.

Make Google Map Maker "profiles" a standard feature for all Google Apps, or remove them.

Google Map Maker profiles allow users to contribute edits to their local alreas without giving away who they are on other Google services. This sort of nonstandard type of "profile" might be useful on other services. It might be best to make it a universal feature, much like email aliases.

Let users transfer any and all data from one account to the other.

For users who have their data spread out over multiple accounts, a consistent account data migration experience would be very beneficial. Google currently has several partially-functional solutions for this, including Google Takeout and a hidden data moving tool not accessible without entering a specific URL (https://www.google.com/dashboard/migration/?srcAccount=source@gmail.com&dstAccount=destination@gmail.com), as well as other service-specific data migration tools.

Ads preferences need to be in the same place, and easily accessed under account settings / preferences.

There does not exist any method for getting to one's advertising preferences from the general account settings or privacy menus.

Implement a universal device finding / locking / erasing service, like Apple's Find My iPhone.

If someone loses their Nexus or Chromebook, a feature like Apple's Find My iPhone (but with a less silly name) would be very beneficial, and should include options for locking the device, finding the device, erasing the device, and displaying a message / sound alert.

Fully implement Google Now features on general web search and Chrome.

This is something currently being worked on. To check out their current level of progress on this front, see here.

Google Bookmarks on the web and Chrome bookmarks should not be different things.

Why does Google Bookmarks even exist as a separate service? It should be repurposed as a way to view your synced Chrome data (like bookmarks) on non-Chrome browsers. Otherwise, I don't understand why this should exist in conjunction with Google Chrome Sync.

Get Google Wallet accepted at major online stores (no, 1-800-flowers.com doesn't count)

My experience with using Google Wallet to purchase something has left the competition far behind. It is a superior payment service, with great features like acting as a middle-man between your email address and the merchant site. I can only hope that Google is working hard to get Google Wallet supported by major online stores like Amazon, iTunes, and eBay. A PayPal-like Google Wallet "balance" would also be a nice addition, and is rumored to be in the works.

Social / Google+

Orkut needs to die.

What is the point of Orkut? It looks like Google+, but with a worse interface, and no visible reason for existence. Indeed, the Orkut page is littered with options for streaming Google+ content to it. It seems rather pointless.

Make Google Latitude a feature of Google+.

Google Latitude shouldn't be segregated off as its own isolated social service. The functionality of it should be integrated into Google+'s current location sharing solution.

Consolidate general Google accounts with Google+ accounts.

From what I've read, this is the direction that Google is currently trying to take with Google accounts in general, and is part of the justification for requiring Google+ accounts to reply to YouTube comments and post reviews on the Google Play store and Android Marketplace (correct me if I'm wrong). A Google developer once went on a rant about how Google does products very well, but isn't so great at services. Perhaps Google+ is Google's answer to their "service" problem, in that it will act as a foundation for your interaction with other Google products, replacing the current obscenely general "Google Account."

Consolidate chatting services under Google+.

There's no reason why Google should have more than one chatting service. Unify all of them under Google+, and simply make them available from all other Google apps, much in the same way the Google+ "updates" box can be seen on the search page and in Reader.


Why does Google Earth exist?

I get that some companies find it useful for visualization purposes, but really, the only real difference I can see between Google Earth and Google Maps in general is that Google Earth has the images pasted onto a sphere, and Google Maps does not. Unify the two in holy matrimony, make Google Earth an option for the regular Google Maps experience (using WebGL technology, no more of this "Google Earth Plugin" nonsense), and still offer a Google Earth client as a download but which implements the same features as the web version does.

Finish MapsGL.

Finish it.

Make Google Map Maker not horrible.

Google Map Maker is riddled with problems, several of which I will address here. The first major problem is rendering. The Google Map Maker map can often become very cluttered when edits are saved, as it is pulling data from the regular Google Map and also data from the edit you have just made. Labels that are impossible to interact with will often show up on the map as well.

There is also a lack of a simple road splitting ability. If you have a road segment that has a speed change, the current method for splitting the road into two different segments (each with their own speed) is to draw a fake road to create an intersection, wait for the fake road to get approved by other reviewers, delete the fake road (with another approval waiting period), which will preserve the intersection. I'm not kidding, this is actually in the official documentation with colorful graphics and everything. Please kill me now.

Categories in Google Map Maker are also a big source of confusion. Different sets of categories will show up depending on the feature type you are adding, when the feature was created (legacy features I suppose), and whether or not there is already a category assigned to this feature (no, they aren't sub-categories, they're just "different").

Points of Interest (POIs) behave differently across different Google products, which can be very problematic. Sometimes a POI will exist in other products but not show up in Google Map Maker, except as a label on the map and a suggested search query in the search box. These POIs will show up in other places just fine however, such as in Google Search. Thus, if other features need to be associated with this feature in some way in Google Map Maker, there is the risk of a Map Maker user duplicating the feature just so it shows up in Google Map Maker.

YouTube / Video

Finish the HTML5 video player.

This needs to be finished because Flash needs to die as quickly as possible. It's old and practically nonexistent on mobile devices. However, the YouTube HTML5 video player is still in beta and not ready for primetime.

Rebrand YouTube with Play.

I know what you're thinking; "surely he must be crazy!" I'm not even too sure of this myself, but it makes sense when you put it into context with other Google products. Almost everything else "Google" is simply-named, like "Google Maps" and "Google Search." When Google acquired YouTube, they should have rebranded it right then and there as Google Video, but instead they opted to ditch Google Video in favor of the YouTube platform, delegating Google Video to a specialized video search.

Since Google is making moves to make Google+ be the hub of your Google activity, this has to extend to YouTube. This would be a lot easier if it was made absolutely clear that YouTube is a Google product and part of Google's overall service. To do this, I think it might be wise for Google to rebrand YouTube under the "Play" name. There are several reasons why this makes sense. First, Google Play is already a very solid media consumption platform. The "Play" name is ubiquitous enough to make sense as a name for any and all types of media consumption, including YouTube content. Second, Google is renting movies through two different services at present, both YouTube and Google Play. If YouTube was part of the Play service, then movie rentals through Google would make a lot more sense.

In terms of execution, I propose a two-step process to keep the users calm. First, just rebrand it and nothing more. People will see that it's just a rebranding, and that YouTube is still functionally the same and isn't being taken away from them. After users have settled with this change and are confortable with the Play branding (maybe they have even started listening to their music with Google Play), then Google can begin integrating it more with their regular service, switching YouTube accounts to just regular Google+ accounts, changing the way movies are bought / rented, and maybe even tweaking the interface to make it more in-sync with the rest of Google Play.

With regard to the account transitions, there will have to be a distinction made between users and channels. Since certain figures have multiple YouTube channels, it wouldn't make sense for them to then have multiple Google+ profiles. Thus, the ability for a single user to have multiple channels should also be added (as well as the ability to move channels from one account to the other, as I'm sure many current YouTube producers would like to take advantage of this feature without recreating their channels).

Mobile Devices (iOS / Android)

Standardize form and function across platforms.

The iOS Google Maps app and the Android Google Maps app are two very different things indeed. The form and function of Google products as represented on mobile devices should be standardized to provide a more consistent user experience. Otherwise, implementing new features on both of them becomes harder and harder, as design work will have to be done twice to accomodate each device's unnecessarily unique user interface.

Make iOS apps universal.

Any Google app for which it makes sense should support both iPhone, iPad Mini, and iPad upon day one of release on the App Store. Don't make people download three separate apps (Google Maps, Google Maps HD, Google Maps HHD, you get the picture).

Note to Android users: A "Universal" app is an iOS app that appears on the App Store to be the same for all devices, but is tailored to run on each device. Instead of having something like "YouTube" for iPhone and "YouTube HD" for the iPad, you just have "YouTube" that adapts its appearance depending on what device you download it to.

Apps missing from mobile platforms.

  1. Google Reader (kill Google Currents, give us Reader)
  2. Google Map Maker integration with Google Maps (flip the app over?)
  3. Google Play (iOS)
  4. Google Maps (iPad)
  5. Google Calendar (a dedicated app would be nice on iOS)

Gmail / Email

Let users change their primary email address.

There shouldn't be any reason why users are not allowed to change the primary email address associated with their Google account. This can be a big hassle especially if they want to completely abolish their primary email address in favor of another one. Google actually lets this slide if you are upgrading to Gmail, but not so for any other email address.

Let users activate and deactivate Gmail accounts at will.

If a user deactivates their Gmail account, there is a window during which they can cancel the deactivation. Outside of that window, however, account recovery is not possible. Google should allow users to reactivate Gmail accounts that they've previously deactivated. Even if it means not getting any of their old mail back, they should at least be able to use their old Gmail address, as no one else is going to be able to use it.

Add support for S/MIME email signing and encryption.

It seems like while most desktop mail clients offer this, most web email clients do not, including Gmail. I would like to be able to import my certificates into Gmail and sign and encrypt my emails from the web app, as opposed to having to go through a desktop mail client. Currently, the Gmail web app treats encrypted message contents and signing certificates as attachments.

Add support for IMAP to Mail Fetcher.

Currently, only POP3 email accounts can be checked with Gmail's Mail Fetcher. It would be great to see some support for checking additional IMAP email accounts without having to setup forwarding on their end.