I originally wrote this column on December 13, 2016 after spending a month or so trying to get some answers on why Google didn't seem to care about Google Docs spam and why the media didn't seem to care about reporting it. At least not the way they seemed to care about reporting on a similarly-timed iCloud Calendar spam issue. It's now March 6. Apple has largely fixed their spam problem. Google, not even close.
I first noticed both around the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Apple's iCloud spam problem garnered wide-spread and well-deserved media attention. A couple days later, Apple released a statement to iMore and other outlets apologizing for the issue and promising to address it quickly. And they did. A web reporting was made available in December and an iOS version rolled out in January.
Apple's statement on iCloud calendar spam. They're sorry and they're working on it. pic.twitter.com/oaSHSywVxGApple's statement on iCloud calendar spam. They're sorry and they're working on it. pic.twitter.com/oaSHSywVxG— Rene Ritchie 🖇 (@reneritchie) November 30, 2016
Recently, Google users began receiving spam in the form of shared Docs folders. It happened weeks before U.S. Thanksgiving, was super annoying and, at the time of this writing — and now in the months since — has received no real media attention. Google has not released a statement to any outlets that I'm aware of nor promised to address it quickly or otherwise. Far as I can tell, Google hasn't added an easy way to report Docs spam either, and my guess is, unless this piece goes viral, they won't any time soon.
Google Docs spam continues, and apparently there's no way to stop it.
(Please let iWork collaboration… work!) pic.twitter.com/AKxjX8X2GZGoogle Docs spam continues, and apparently there's no way to stop it.
(Please let iWork collaboration… work!) pic.twitter.com/AKxjX8X2GZ— Rene Ritchie 🖇 (@reneritchie) September 18, 2016
Once upon a time Apple was envied and derided for having a "reality distortion field" — the ability to garner the benefit of the doubt and receive a positive spin for almost anything they did, no matter how poorly it actually held up under scrutiny.
It never really existed, of course. Steve Jobs was simply the best spokesperson the industry has ever seen. He resonated with people and his excitement was infectious. Still, it never spared Apple antennagate, MobileMe, and and other, non-distorted problems over the years.
Tim Cook's Apple, if anything, has enjoyed an equal and opposite "reality distortion field" of late. It casts almost everything the company does as doomed regardless of how well it actually does. As something Steve Jobs would never do, regardless of whether or not Jobs had actually done it in the past or was involved in the early stages of it getting done now.
The truth is, if any company has enjoyed a "reality distortion field" in recent years it's been Google. Even absent anything approaching a Jobs-style leader, the teflon they've found themselves covered in over the years has let them walk safely though situations that would have sunk lesser companies.
No matter how many authors books they scanned or Wi-Fi data they scooped up without permission, they stayed golden. In the greatest stroke of genius modern technology has seen, they convinced ardent open source advocates to rally against the closed systems of others... even though all of Google's key businesses like search and advertising are proprietary.
Remember Ping and Apple Music Connect? Laughed at to this day. Remember Google Buzz? Google Wave? Hangouts? Google+? Spaces? The just-released Allo? They form a string of social messaging flops far grandeur and far more troubling than any of Apple's social music missteps. Yet there's very little laughter.
The same attitude infects the media, most of whom — myself include — use Google services day in, day out for work.
Take the recently released Pixel phone for example. When Apple released the very similar iPhone 6s last year, they were tagged for missing "key" features like optical image stabilization on the smaller model, stereo speakers, and water-resistence. And for having a familiar, antenna-line laden design.
Yet Google releases that very phone a full year later, still missing those features and aping that design while adding a huge glass RF window that doesn't even reduce the antenna lines, and any criticism of it is largely left as a footnote in the face of rave reviews. It's almost like they're graded on a curve.
Previous Nexus phones were always given a pass for bad cameras or missing features because they were cheap. Pixel costs as much as an iPhone, and doesn't even include headphones in the box. And still all the passes are given.
Apple is rolling out "Report Spam" for iCloud Calendar.
Google Docs spam, meanwhile, is deafening silence.
Graded on a curve… pic.twitter.com/ol0GWM6N0RApple is rolling out "Report Spam" for iCloud Calendar.
Google Docs spam, meanwhile, is deafening silence.
Graded on a curve… pic.twitter.com/ol0GWM6N0R— Rene Ritchie 🖇 (@reneritchie) December 12, 2016
Had iCloud Drive experienced the same problem as Google Docs, the headlines would be coming our way fast and furiously.
So, why am I writing all this? Am I asking people and press to calm down when it comes to Apple?
I'm asking everyone to amp it up when it comes to Google.
Holding Apple to the highest standard is great for Apple's customers. I mean, the clickbait "Apple bites dog" headlines are transparent and literally make us stupider as a consumer society, but whatever. It forces Apple to improve.
Google, because of how much they know about us, needs to be held to an even higher-than-the-highest standard. We — yes, including the media — have to be on them quickly and relentless about every little thing, because should a big thing come, it would hurt us far worse than any Apple foible.
So yeah, raise a fuss about iCloud Calendar being spammed and get Apple to stop it. Please. Thank you.
But also raise a fuss about Google Docs being spammed as well, and don't stop until you get Google's statement and reassurance that they're working on it, and you start seeing solutions.
Then keep doing it. You know, like you would if you were grading them on an Apple curve.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.