Beware of Google Groups

I love the Google Groups user interface: It is easy to understand and you can get started right away (quicker than with all alternatives that I’ve seen so far). It is a great tool whenever teams need to collaborate, because it gives members a choice between RSS, email, and online reading. I’ve used it often when working with groups of students.

Alas, it also shows Google’s modus operandi of running things on auto-pilot. Almost a year ago, out of the blue, Google Groups banned me from their site. Some kind of automatic trigger went off; I was never given a reason. Now, on one hand, I cannot manage my own groups. On the other hand I cannot access any information stored anywhere in Google Groups. If I’m logged in, that is. Thus, I now use Firefox for browsing the web (where I’m logged into Blogger, Google Calendar, etc.) and Safari (where I’m not logged into any Google web apps) whenever I need to look up information that is stored in Google Groups.

I did try many things to fix this: I sent an email to the Google accounts help desk, posted in the Google Groups help groups (well, I sent it to my brother who posted it for me) where this is a frequent topic of discussion, even sent a fax to Google headquarters. All to no avail.

So Google does share a trait that is common in big companies: it does not listen to its customers. Or only when it suits them. Granted, they are popular, have a lot of customers, and are free, but this is still very frustrating. Losing control over one’s own data makes “free” services very expensive.

Alternatives to Google Groups that I know of:
Update 2010-12-23: John Resig (creator of jQuery, among other things) writes about why he abandoned Google Groups in “Google Groups is Dead”.