Google Instant or Google Stupid?

Summary:Google isn’t the first company to work hard at making its products worse: recently, Bitly, Digg, and Twitter have all managed to make themselves slower and less usable. The difference is that Google is no longer a small start-up trying to do its best: it’s a very rich corporation with plenty of time and money to comparison-test 41 shades of blue.

Google isn’t the first company to work hard at making its products worse: recently, Bitly, Digg, and Twitter have all managed to make themselves slower and less usable. The difference is that Google is no longer a small start-up trying to do its best: it’s a very rich corporation with plenty of time and money to comparison-test 41 shades of blue. It can therefore decide what is best for the majority of people, which is fair enough. The problem is that it’s not giving the rest of us much of a choice -- except to decamp to another search engine, such as Bing.

The latest outbursts have been prompted by the imposition of Google Instant, which does a progressive search based on what used to be Google Suggest. Although I think it’s obviously a stupid waste of time and resources, Google is convinced this makes search better for some set of users: presumably the people who can’t think for themselves and can barely type. Since I don’t fit into either category, I’d be happy if I could just turn it off and forget about it. Unfortunately, I can’t. Yes I can turn it off, but I’m now lumbered with Google Suggest instead. I used to be able to turn that off, and now I can’t.

What I used to do on Google was re-use most of my own searches, which are very different from the ones Google suggests. My option to do that has now been needlessly obliterated, which is why I’m looking for another search engine.

It may be that this is just the last straw in a string of Google stupidities. One previous annoyance was the decision to fade in the links on the Google home page. I can’t imagine how completely clueless you have to be to think this was a good idea. Another was the arrogant but delusional attempt to make Buzz successful by shoving it into people’s Gmail inboxes – and in order to remove it completely, you had to kill your own Google Profile page! Another couple of temporary annoyances were the CPU-eating Google Doodles, Buckeyballs and Balls.

And then, of course, there’s the long-running saga of Gmail, which started as a really good web-based mail service and has since become bloated and slow. The advances have generally outnumbered the annoyances, but it’s been close at times.

Google is very far from being the only company to keep fixing things that weren’t broke. However, when a web-based company “fixes” things, it doesn’t bother to ask you first, and it very rarely gives you the chance to opt out. It’s like it or lump it: their way or the highway.

It seems to me that this is one of the fundamental drawbacks to “cloud computing”. I’m only surprised that more people aren’t bothered about it.

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first webs... Full Bio

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