This morning’s email includes an email by the makers of my favorite email client for the Mac and for iPhone: Sparrow Mail. At the top of this email is a simulacrum of Sparrow’s logo, but drawn with Google’s trademark colors. The email starts off with this cheerful news:
We’re excited to let you know that Sparrow has been acquired by Google! You can view our public announcement here, but I wanted to reach out directly to make sure you were aware of the news.
Well, this sounds great, doesn’t it? A favorite application now supported by one of the biggest companies of the digital age? How could that be anything short of awesome? Sadly, the next paragraphs told the story:
We will continue to make available our existing products, and we will provide support and critical updates to our users. However, as we’ll be busy with new projects at Google, we do not plan to release new features for the Sparrow apps.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure to build products for all of our wonderful users who have supported us over the years. We can’t thank you enough.
We look forward to working on some new and exciting projects at Google!
Yeah, that’s exactly what it sounds like: a really cheerful way of saying, «we quit.» This may be great news for the Sparrow team, but this email is far from good news for Sparrow’s users. Overnight the best mail application available on the Mac and on the iPhone became abandonware.
It’s difficult to imagine a response to this email which doesn’t carry seething resentment. It is downright rude of Dom Leca1 to take a celebratory tone whilst delivering the most disappointing Sparrow-related message possible.
There is not even any pretense that Google bought Sparrow for the product. Sparrow Mail will see no future upgrades, no future bug fixes, no future enhancements, no future features. The much-anticipated Sparrow for iPad will not ever come to be. Never mind the callous disrespect for the people who put down hard-earned money for his product, what’s most disturbing about this announcement is the brazen show of—let us call it what it is in light of Google’s corporate motto2—evil.
If Google simply wanted the talent within Sparrow SAS, why not hire the individuals they wanted? If Google wanted the product Sparrow, we wouldn’t be hearing that it is now dead. No, Google’s benefit here is that they get to take off the market a piece of software which attracted users to Apple products, a piece of software whose creators previously announced disinterest in making available on Android. Google is using their size and strength to harm their competition. Does that sound like the admirable ideals Google claims to espouse in their Corporate Code of Conduct?
There is speculation (entirely on Android-centric websites) that Google bought Sparrow for the technology contained in Sparrow. This speculation suggests that perhaps Google wants to use Sparrow’s codebase for what Sparrow originally was: a better Gmail client.
Even if true, it is unlikely at best that Google will release a client for iOS or Android or MacOS or even Windows that has POP or IMAP support for email servers other than Gmail. So this is likely to be more than an attack on users of Apple products; it’s an outright attack on anyone using any email server not owned by Google.
For the time being I will likely continue using Sparrow. But I will be changing the default signature from «Sent from Sparrow» to «Sent from the best email client ever to be killed by Google.»