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Happy Halloween: Google Puts the Final Nail in the Google Voice Coffin

Meet the new Microsoft: It’s Google! If you follow Nerd Vittles regularly, you’ll recall that five months ago we warned you to start packing your bags if you were a Google Voice user with PBX in a Flash. And, as a special Halloween treat, Google gave the open source community the finger. As of May 15, 2014, there will be no more XMPP support for Google Voice. So much for embracing the open source community. And, for all of you that supported and fostered the Google Voice project and were part of Google’s development community, F U. Welcome to Oligopoly World!

It’s one thing for a company to shift gears and venture out in a new direction. It’s quite another to knife your developers in the back on the way out the door. Here’s an interesting background piece on the folks now driving the Google Voice Bus. Fundamentally, there’s so much wrong with Mr. Singhal’s posting that it’s difficult to know where to begin. But let’s start with "These [Google Voice] apps violate our terms of service."

So let’s go to law school for a bit, shall we? One of the first things you’ll learn is never take the factual basis for someone else’s conclusions and insults at face value. Go read the material for yourself. And, when you do, what you’ll discover is there’s not even a hint that these Google Voice applications have ever violated Google’s terms of service. Never mind that Google was and still is selling and profiting from the GrooveIP application which is marketed and sold in the Google Play Store.

We’re reproducing the Terms of Service in all their glory so that you don’t have to take our word for it either. Of course, the terms are sprinkled across multiple web pages so bear with us…

And finally, there’s the Google catch-all which you will note changes regularly (and is about to change again). So, even if you didn’t violate the Terms last week, next week may be a different story. Multiply that Catch-22 by five years in the case of Google Voice.

Google Terms of Service

This Terms of Service will be replaced by our new Google Terms of Service effective November 11, 2013. Please see our summary of changes for additional details.
Last modified: March 1, 2012 (view archived versions)

Welcome to Google!

Thanks for using our products and services (“Services”). The Services are provided by Google Inc. (“Google”), located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States.

By using our Services, you are agreeing to these terms. Please read them carefully.

Our Services are very diverse, so sometimes additional terms or product requirements (including age requirements) may apply. Additional terms will be available with the relevant Services, and those additional terms become part of your agreement with us if you use those Services.

Using our Services

You must follow any policies made available to you within the Services.

Don’t misuse our Services. For example, don’t interfere with our Services or try to access them using a method other than the interface and the instructions that we provide. You may use our Services only as permitted by law, including applicable export and re-export control laws and regulations. We may suspend or stop providing our Services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct.

Using our Services does not give you ownership of any intellectual property rights in our Services or the content you access. You may not use content from our Services unless you obtain permission from its owner or are otherwise permitted by law. These terms do not grant you the right to use any branding or logos used in our Services. Don’t remove, obscure, or alter any legal notices displayed in or along with our Services.

Our Services display some content that is not Google’s. This content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do.

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Open source software is important to us. Some software used in our Services may be offered under an open source license that we will make available to you. There may be provisions in the open source license that expressly override some of these terms.

The other important thing you learn in law school is that CONTEXT MATTERS. For example, there’s this generic warning buried in the terms which undoubtedly is the language Google is now using to claim that Asterisk, FreeSwitch, OBiHai, and GrooveIP implementations of Google Voice (among others) crossed the line:

Well, not so fast. It turns out that the "method" used for the Google Voice interface in all of these implementations happens to be the one that was documented, supported, and hosted on Google’s own developer web site. Here’s a snapshot of the site before it, too, disappears. Pay particular attention to the sentence we’ve highlighted: "[The Google Talk XMPP Extensions] are documented so that you can design a client that can take advantage of specific Google Talk features."

It’s also worth recalling that Google Voice began as Craig Walker’s Grand Central project and that Craig, while heading up the Google Voice team, had the following dialogue with me in June of 2009:

WM: Just hoping that you might reconsider providing a SIP interface to Google Voice. It really would make it the Whole Enchilada. Adding a password through the web interface would make it very secure. We’ve written several articles on Nerd Vittles about Google Voice, and it would be an incredible addition.

CW: Hey Ward. Thanks for your note and I share a lot of your sentiments. Let me get it out to the world as my first priority:)

Here’s the Bottom Line: You can’t have it both ways, Google. You can’t encourage open source development with one hand and then use your other fist to slap down developers who do exactly what you encouraged them to do. Sorry to say it but this time Microsoft got it just about right:


For organizations considering a move to Google’s platform, you might want to think twice and take an open-minded look at the carnage in the Google Graveyard. Remember Google Buzz? How about Google Wave? Then came Google knol. How about Google Directory Assistance (GOOG-411)? And then Google Reader followed by iGoogle. And now the open source edition of Google Voice. This is just the tip of The Iceberg. And most of the open source Google apps have also fallen by the wayside: sports scores, weather reports, news feeds, and the JavaScript Maps API is on the chopping block for later this month. Many of these weren’t failed undertakings. Google simply decided they no longer wished to support them regardless of whether millions of people depended upon them. Ask yourself this simple question. Do you really want to stake the future of your company or your development efforts on this sort of corporate infrastructure? What can you do? Start here.

Where Do We Go From Here? Have no fear. The VoIP community is not going to wither away because of Google’s shenanigans. We’ll have a lot of great new approaches and solutions in coming weeks and months. In the meantime, make yourself a list of how you currently use Google Voice services. You’ll need that as we move forward. A belated Happy Halloween! It took me 5 days to cool off sufficiently to even write this article.

Originally published: Tuesday, November 5, 2013

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  1. Ward,

    You forgot federated GoogleChat via XMPP — they are killing that via Google Hangouts.

    As soon as you convert your Google account to use Hangouts instead of Chat, or install Google Hangouts on your Android device, XMPP IMs to your account are redirected to /dev/null with no indicator to the sender. Sometimes you show as still online, sometimes not.

  2. Are there other, either free or cheaper outgoing minute providers that can be used other than Vitelity for 1.44 cents? In other words, I sign up for the Vitelity $3.99 deal and then use an alternative outgoing service.

    [WM: There are lots to choose from. Take a look at the suggestions in this PIAF Forum thread.]

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