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Does Google simply not give a $#!+ about Docs spam?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Not hardly.

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.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

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.

71 Comments
  • I'm sure someone who's more exposed to people criticizing Google could write the exact opposite article.
    You can find the same phenomenon in lots of domains, like politics ("my favorite candidate got flack for saying X, but when he's opponent said something similar no one complained"). Basically, you're complaining about the lack of impartiality in your bubble (the part of the media you're exposed to). And people who are in a different bubble will disagree because their experience really is different. If you're not happy with your bubble, we can't really help you. Just start reading more articles complaining about Google's screw ups.
  • Pepperonijack, that is false equivalency.
  • If I pulled together 10 iphone users and asked them how many of them use the calendar app on their phone 10/10 would say YES. If I pulled together 10 android users and asked them how many of them used google docs I'd be surprised if 5 of them said yes. So naturally, Apple's issue would affect a higher percentage of users than Google's. One doesn't need a graph to figure this out.... Just sayin.
  • Not Google Calendar, Google Drive.
  • ? What are you taking about. I said Google docs. Rene is comparing docs against iCloud calendar. Take your confusion to Rene.
  • I see the answer to your article as a compliment to Apple. The way I see it:
    Google is capable of making good products and services... Apple is capable of making great products and services. Does Apple have flops? Yes and boy do I remember Newton and I never "got" Ping. I am a developer and consumer. I really like Google but love Apple so yeah I personally hold Apple to higher standards. Amazon would be my #2 with Google sitting at #3 (along with 5-6 other companies, ie Netflix, Tablo, Kia, etc) in terms of consumer respect. Of source this is all based on my opinion and experience.
  • Apple makes great services now? Did i miss the memo? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • So the distortion of reality regarding Apple "never really existed, of course" meanwhile Googles does? You don't think it's possible fans and supporters of both companies have their own personal biases towards those companies? The reputations of both companies are very different as are the methods in which they release products. I think if you looked at this from the same lens you view Apple you'd easily be able to see why the two companies are different. You can't always make these "What about Google/Samsung/insert company name" articles without objectively looking at both sides. Google has ALWAYS released a bunch of different products to see what sticks. Apple hasn't. Apple has always been much more secretive about their products and only released what they felt was a finished (or somewhat finished) product. It's nothing new for Google to release a service and discard of it if it doesn't perform. You can't view these two companies the same. You'll always be disappointed in this "curve" you frequently discuss.
  • Quis89, that is false equivalency.
  • Never had a spam invite in my Google calendar. Is this really a thing? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Yes.
  • example? I've never seen it.
  • Your Apple devices are as "supposedly secure" as your Windows and Google devices
  • I deleted loads from mine. And those my iPhone was picking up as invitations from the gmail inbox or whichever way this stuff works. Evidence? The only one still left in the calendar bin is this: http://imgur.com/PVgdzXx
  • This has not happened to me on Google Calendar. Someone has a case of butthurt again. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • "My heart, I'm having an attack!" "My heart's fine. Someone's being a health fanatic."
  • The reality distortion field "never existed"? I guess, says someone currently caught up in it... I see your overall article point Rene, I do. But again you go too far in taking Apple's side. Honestly though, if you don't see the distortion field, your caught in it.
  • I've noticed a similar trend lately with Siri and Google Assistant: Despite dozens of comparisons showing that the two assistants are roughly on par Google Assistant is always being praised as being "better" because "it's pretty equal today but soon, really soon, it'll be leaps and bounds better, just you wait!" while Siri is seen as stagnant with no hope for improvement. People also praise Google Assistant for being context aware even though Siri got the same context awareness back in iOS 9 but everyone seems to have forgotten. "Grading on a curve" sounds like exactly what's going on.
  • Yeah....nooo... Considering the number of blogs and tech writers that have done comparisons between all the major mobile assistants, that is a false claim. Siri is the weakest of them all. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • Yep, shown time and time again that Siri is falling behind fast. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • "Siri is the weakest of them all." That's completely false. Right now Google Assistant and Siri are just about even for the top spot (although Google Assistant is currently limited to a few million Pixel and Home devices, only in English, and only in select countries, whereas Siri is available on over a billion Apple devices, in many countries, in many languages), Cortana is a little behind (but with geographic/linguistic limitations like Google Assistant), S Voice is complete garbage (feel free to try to defend that one), and Alexa is pretty good (but also suffers from geographic/linguistic limitations). MKBHD's comparison, for example, walks Google Assistant and Siri through their paces fairly well: Siri misses a few requests, Google Assistant also misses a few requests, Siri has a slight edge when it comes to getting information and integrating with apps, Google has a slight edge when it comes to voice recognition and request parsing.
  • I own both the iPhone 7 & the Samsung Galaxy S7. Google Assistant is far superior than Siri. There's just no comparison. Speed, accuracy & what you can do with them, Google is far ahead of Siri.
  • The Galaxy S7 doesn't even have Google Assistant, it's limited to the Pixel.
  • Google Assistant is also built into Allo so you can have it on just about any phone.
  • Google Assistant in Allo doesn't have the same capability that it would on a Pixel: It can't set a timer, it can't launch apps, it can't look at contact information, it can't make a phone call, etc. Google Assistant in Allo isn't even as capable as Google Now, let alone being as capable as Siri.
  • Forget the assistant, Google now is available on ALL phones and is better than anything out there. Google assistant will reach feature parity with Google now soon I'm sure. Can't say the same for Siri. ****, Cortana is better than Siri in IMHO.
  • "Google assistant will reach feature parity with Google now soon I'm sure. Can't say the same for Siri." This is exactly what I meant with my original comment: Google gets praised because it'll be better later (and next year is the year of the linux desktop!) while Siri is seen as completely stagnant without any hope for improvement (except all the improvements it's gotten over the last few years, but we'll ignore all those), which is hypocritical bull****.
  • So you agree that google now is better than Siri. Good. At least you're not crazy. Assistant is already on par with Siri. Now is on another level. And like I said before. "Now", "assistant", and "home" will be using the same backend soon. That's a war that Apple can't win without mining data the way that google does.
  • I never agreed to that, I disregarded it because Now, Assistant, and Siri are all on par, and nobody can provide any evidence to back up any claims to the contrary. Why couldn't Google just use the same backend in the first place? Apple already mines data, they just do it in a different way and tend not to brag about every incremental update. For example, the database Apple uses for image recognition is actually twice the size of Google's, but Apple's algorithms let them mine through twice as much data with ~1/3 the computing power. But, again, like I said in the original post, your entire claim is predicated on the idea that Google's offering may not be better today but soon, SO SOON YOU GUYS!, it'll be better, and Siri will forever remain the same as it was back in 2011 (we'll ignore things like being to order an Uber with Siri, things Google Now and Google Assistant can't do).
  • I'm pretty sure Apple has big plans for Siri, especially with recently bringing it to the Mac and the application integration in iOS 10. Siri's voice recognition works great for me in both English and Spanish (my second language, so my accent isn't even perfect for this). I use it a lot on my iPhone and Apple Watch
  • I'm sure everyone has big plans for their assistant. What's the point? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • The point is that people are acting like Siri is falling greatly behind other assistants, when in reality Apple are still adding new things to Siri and improving voice recognition too. Maybe Siri is behind now, but that could easily change
  • To everyone commenting.... He didn't say Google Calendar. He said Google Drive/Google Docs. Please actually read the article.
  • Precisely. See how quick they defend without actually reading.
  • Still have never had those issues Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • Ok, never have I had an issue with Google drive either and it's been active for a couple of years. Not one incident. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Still no issue here. Use two Google accounts and docs heavily and no spam. Rene is just in Apple defense mode as usual.
  • Um.. Have you bought a pixel? they do come with headphones.
  • The Pixel XL I bought (US) didn't
  • I haven't seen a single Pixel come with headphones. Even Google's own site for the Pixel lists the box contents as: USB Type-C™ 18W adaptor with USB-PD, A-C cable (USB 3.1 Gen 2), C-C cable (USB 2.0), SIM tool, Quick Switch Adapter. No mention of headphones.
  • Because no one uses Google docs obviously. Sent from the iMore App
  • Well that I would agree with, lol. But certainly not because of spam invites. Nice deflection by Rene though. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I use Google Docs a lot, I like the fact that it auto-saves to the cloud whilst you're typing, it's free, and has some fantastic collaboration tools
  • Okay, well no-one is "freaking out" about the iCloud Calendar or the Google Docs spam. At most, sensible people are mildly inconvenienced by it. And this essentially reads as "waahh people are being mean to my darling!". Yeah, perhaps people do grade on a curve, but then you always hold Apple to a higher standard than other companies, so you're certainly not one to throw stones. It's a problem of their own making - they were far above the competition for a long time and people came to expect more from them. Now they've had a bland year the perception is they're being treated more harshly because of that, but that's hardly the same as saying people aren't giving other companies **** for their mistakes too.
  • I think the difference is layered.: One, new docs added to my Google Docs don't popup alerts on my phone constantly
    Two, I haven't seen this on my Google Docs
    Three, Google will likely allow me to fix it from mobile, not requiring I bust out a device they're trying to kill off (and saying their iPad is)
    Four, not as many people use Google Docs
  • I have not heard of Google Docs spam. Not in docs, calendar or any Google services that I use. I use Google docs every day, with three different accounts (work, work and personal). Also, I just did a search for "Google Docs Spam" (and variations) and the only things that came up were at least 2 years old (and I used DuckDuckGo to search, not Google). Also, maybe this is just me, but isn't it tacky to write an article about a problem that supposedly affects a number of people, and the only reference to said problem is the author's own tweets? That's like citing yourself as a source... If this is an issue why aren't you able to find comments from other affected users? I understand that you're talking about how the media is not paying attention, but surely you could find one single Tweet from an outside source?
  • Maybe that is actually "good" for Google.. Think about it.... If its not as viral, the less attention will be drawn to it.. That's probably no reason to not fix anything, but its sure is an escape goat. So a lession..... No one else report this :)
  • Pretty much agree. Also, scrutiny can have the same net effect as head-on competition for a company with a wise leader - it's an open opportunity to rise to meet the challenge and ultimately do better. In this area Tim has done far better than many, maybe any, Fortune 500 leaders, including Steve Jobs. Steve had a very difficult time admitting mistakes. I see Tim as a corporate leader that is willing to say, "sorry", if he thinks it's really deserved, and always willing to try and do better whether an apology is required or not. Let Google do its thing - What goes around, comes around - always and without fail.
  • You’re joking right?
  • Just because you repost this article from 3 months ago doesn't mean people will start agreeing with you, Rene. I still have yet to meet anyone who has had this issue. This isn't as widespread as you want it to be. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • This is the boat I'm in right now. I'm a heavy Google docs user and I haven't received 1 single spam invitation. I think it may have to do with how you handle a specific email address. You get junk mail from random companies when you put your email address out there. I'll bet that this email address that Rene is getting all his spam is a throw away email address and not any of his main accounts. All in all, Google should address this but I don't think it's as widespread as Rene may think.
  • "It's now March 6. Apple has largely fixed their spam problem. Google, not even close." I've had Google Docs spam as of recent, nothing from Apple though. However I think this article is here more to make a point that people like to complain about Apple but with Google people will look the other way
  • I haven't had a single issue with Spam in Google Docs. Neither personally or professionally. I didn't know this was an issue until this article in fact. The iCloud spam on the other hand, I was notified by my wife and mother, who were both affected.
  • Rene wants this to be a bigger issue than it is to make the iCloud issues look less significant than they are. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Or maybe he's just outlining the fact that people like to complain about Apple however when Google has problems everyone looks the other way
  • Again, the issue he is discussing is not that widespread. Perhaps if you go to an Android enthusiast site like Android Police you will see people complain about stuff Google does or doesn't do (like no SMS support on Allo and multiple apps like Allo, Hangouts, Duo, and Messages to do the same thing....) Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I haven't gotten any iCal spam so it must not be widespread either ;)
  • I don't have google docs spam.. but then again I didn't have iCloud calendar spam either. However I can tell you which one I was able to read about in nearly every tech news website though.
  • honestly, i haven't had any issue with spam from google docs. I can't say this is something that has affected me in any way. i rarely even get spam in my five gmail accounts.
  • Google doesn't have a Docs spam problem.
    Rene Ritchie has a Docs spam problem.
  • Agree. I do not have this "spam" on Google docs and I have 2 Google accounts.
  • I think imore has the spam problem. I keep seeing pokemon and nintendo crap all over the place.
  • Zero spam on Google Docs or Calendar, and Siri is nowhere near Google Now or Google Assistant... Sent from my iPhone 7+ 256 GB Sent from the iMore App
  • Rene, it may be is that you've cried wolf enough times, that people have a hard time taking you seriously. It's hard to give you the benefit of the doubt when you've used up your goodwill and credibility points for any product that isn't from Apple. The reason nobody is reporting on these "supposed spam" problem is because there's no "supposed spam" problem. If this was a widespread issue you best believe the media would pounce on it. Google Home was slammed on all the major media outlets this week for reporting "fake news". And this is not even a popular or well-known Google product. Let any Google service be down for more than 10 mins and all of Twitter will erupt in a rage. So this idea that the media grades Google on a curve is a product of the rose-tinted kaleidoscope you view the world from. It's not embedded in reality. But even so here are a few of the reasons Google gets the benefit of the doubt in many instances where Apple doesn't: 1). Google is not too arrogant to own up to their screw-ups. In fact, they are almost always more likely and quickly to do that, and issue a public apology than Apple. 2). Apple's strategy when they screw up is. Deny. Deny. Deny. Divert. Deny. Remember "bengate". Remember "antennagate". Remember the privacy and security snafu with the iCloud celebrity hacks, "the fappening" Finally, rightfully and wrongfully Apple and Google are perceived differently by the media and public. Google is the open, clever, playful and whimsical company that doesn't take itself too seriously. Apple is the bastion of perfection and design. It is a dictatorship that serves the rich, presumptuous and pompous that care about vanity, superficiality, and status. It's not hard to see why the media "grades Google on a curve". When "perfection" doesn't deliver, it should be no surprise that the consequences are dire.
  • This ^^^ Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • There is a serious lack of reality and balance in your reply. Your numbered points in particular are *utterly* fictitious, and you've totally failed to make your counter argument here because you neither cite any actual examples (other than the ones you made up) and rely entirely on your supposed anecdotal experiences and perceptions that are more like the rumblings of an astroturfed reddit thread than having any basis in reality. You do Google a disservice with your absurd, unwavering support. "Google is the open, clever, playful and whimsical company that doesn't take itself too seriously." That line in particular is comedy gold. All that it showed is that you're utterly smitten with the company and entirely unable to provide a discussion that isn't drenched in fact-free bias, even when a clear and logical argument is presented directly before you.
  • Well said Lateef Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • "Remember "bengate"." Remember when the Nexus 6P bent even more easily than the iPhone 6? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTIaUH6PIvo "Remember "antennagate"." Remember how most phone held in the same "death grip" suffered similar signal loss? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dogM4Wu51tc "Remember the privacy and security snafu with the iCloud celebrity hacks, "the fappening"" Remember how "the fappening" only involved 50 iCloud account but also involved 72 Google accounts? https://fossbytes.com/fappening-hacker-arrested-how-he-hacked-icloud-gmail/ 3 examples of high-profile incidents that affected Google just as much if not more than Apple, but all the attention during each of those incidents was on Apple while Google got a silent pass. That you couldn't even recognize it shows how normalized you've become to it. You couldn't prove Rene more right if you tried.
  • Oh this is back. And this time Rene is stomping his feet and waving his arms and going red in the face. At least I can only assume so: that's the image the title conjures up. Remove the expletive and grow up. I'm surprised anyone bothered to read the article (again) after seeing that. Anyone doing so certainly wasn't expecting a reasoned or measured discussion that's for sure.
  • Pot, meet kettle.
  • Google what now? I think that's your answer.