It is often surprising how two very similar situations can end up with totally different outcomes.
In this case the observer is the same.
The difference in the user experience depends on how the provider acts.
I have recently encountered two similar situations: two products that I use that are going to be discontinued.
The Google experience
One of them was Google Stadia. An online gaming platform that included its own device and controller to connect to the TV.
As the name suggests: a Google product.
More than a year ago I bought the device taking advantage of an offer.
In fact, I paid nothing for it.
The offer was that you buy a game and you get the device to connect to the TV and the controller to play it.
I like computer games, so I decided to give it a try.
The reality is that I spent very little time with it. I installed it. I tried the game and left it for later.
Obviously after purchasing the device I was offered multiple times to subscribe to the monthly payment platform. Which I never did because I’m not convinced about paying for games that you never get to own.
It seems I wasn’t the only one who thought this way, because a few months ago Google decided to close this business.
Google already has experience in shutting down businesses.
If you’re curious, at killedbygoogle.com you can see the 281 projects (as of this writing) that Google has killed over time.
The truth is that they must have learned something from the experience.
They gave notice that they were going to close the platform about 4 months in advance.
They stopped charging fees to those who paid for access to games on the platform (not my case) but they could still play for free until the closure.
Here’s the most important thing: they decided to refund everything paid in games or devices (except for the monthly fees of the people who paid for the platform month by month that they had already enjoyed).
And they even offered to finally release the controller so that those who bought it with any other platform or computer could use it.
And I did indeed receive a few months later the full amount I had paid for the game at the beginning.
And now I have a controller that cost me nothing and that I can use if I ever have the time to play again.
The Dropbox experience
The second experience was similar.
At the beginning of December last year I received an email from Boxcryptor announcing that they had been acquired by Dropbox.
Boxcryptor is a software that allows you to keep encrypted information on cloud drives such as Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox, among others.
I have, I don’t think I’m the only one, important information in files that I want to have safeguarded in the cloud in case something happens to my computer, but I don’t want anyone to be able to see it if someone were to gain access to those drives in the cloud.
In the statement, Boxcryptor announces that they will stop offering the service because it will be integrated only within the Dropbox service. So if you use Google Drive, OneDrive or any other service, it will no longer work for you.
They warn that on the same day they have stopped offering the product and that they will keep it for customers who already have it until the end of their contracts.
Normally the payment was annual, so there were users who in a few weeks would have to urgently look for alternatives to safeguard their information elsewhere and see how to protect it with another tool.
In my case I took advantage of an offer a year ago, I guess because of Black Friday, where I paid the subscription to the service for three years.
Therefore, they assure me that I will be able to continue using the service for another two years (it had already been one year since my last renewal).
But that doesn’t put my mind at rest either: if they’re going to stop maintaining and evolving the product except for Dropbox, what guarantee is there that in a year’s time there won’t be a change in Google Drive or Onenote that means they have to redo logic in their system and have no resources or interest in doing so for a few customers who paid so long ago?
Luckily this motivated me to look for other alternatives and I quickly found another very similar one, open source and that I’ve been testing for more than a month without problems. If everything continues like this, I will soon switch my history to the new system and I will definitely abandon this platform that is doomed to die.
I will have paid for a time that I will not use.
What I have learned
Two similar experiences, but with very different results.
For me it is much more serious and important that I might lose access to my confidential files than that I will no longer be able to use a game.
Still, the reaction of the companies raises questions about the extent to which these online services can be relied upon.
And, specifically, I am going to value Google-branded products very differently from now on than Dropbox-branded products.
What does ChatGPT think?
As it could not be otherwise in these times, I have asked ChatGPT for advice and examples of how to act in these situations, both as a service provider and as a customer. If you are interested in their answers, you can find them here.
PS: Interestingly, ChatGPT contradicts my experience. It seems that the bad guys learn from their mistakes while the good guys rest on their laurels.