Google Instant or Google Stupid?

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.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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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.

Topic: Tech Industry

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

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 website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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17 comments
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  • Give me a break.

    If you're searching for the same thing over and over again just bookmark it.

    Are you stupid or what?
    TDavis0525
  • Lol.. one of the most stupidest things i have ever read about Google Instant...Lol..
    sudya
  • My style of computing must be very different from yours, Jack: I just install the Google toolbar into Firefox on every machine I use and never see Google's home page. You can do everything from there, and it completely removes all the (valid) objections you cite. Can't remember when I last looked at it....
    Manek Dubash
  • The comment on cloud computing as a whole is interesting.

    Reminds me of a quote I once read about Salesforce.com - that it's "... like being on a train that is late. If you are between stations you cannot even get off the train."
    lucas1000001
  • @nitinjain121
    > very difficult if i quickly need to change search terms, it just goes into some crazy loop

    Exactly! And if you start with a ", Google Instant just ignores it!

    @FrostbyteFalls
    > If you're searching for the same thing over and over again just bookmark it.

    Actually I'm searching for different things, but they quite often have a site: command, at least one phrase in quotes, and I use more than one word with ~, + or -. I even use Boolean OR in Google searches. If you want to learn more about Google searching, you could try this article I wrote in 2004. It's the second hit if you search for:

    "jack schofield" site:guardian.co.uk +google +search "site command"

    @manek
    > I just install the Google toolbar

    Fair comment, but I don't like Google's toolbar (I've uninstalled it at least three times) and I don't like any other toolbars either. Also, I'll be amazed if Google doesn't add Instant to other search tools as well. Let's see if your comment is still true in 6 months ;-)
    Jack Schofield
  • I know I'll never convince you - not that I'd try :)

    But I will say that the toolbar saves me a lot of time....
    Manek Dubash
  • That's exotic + sophisticated tecnology behind the scene. Imagine what Google will do next !!!
    By the way, if you don't like it, you can to turn it off.
    nkienvuong
  • Why not use the browser search box (Ctrl + K in Firefox)?

    Quicker all round & everyone's a happy bunny.
    Jake Rayson
  • Not really. Progressive search is a very old idea. Whether it's worth swapping what used to be an ultra-clean search page for what amounts to an AJAX app is another issue, but I'd say not.

    @Jake Rayson
    > Why not use the browser search box (Ctrl + K in Firefox)?

    I have Google set as my home page, and start from it when I open a new tab. I don't see why I shouldn't be able to use the main search box from there.
    Jack Schofield
  • @nkienvuong
    > By the way, if you don't like it, you can to turn it off.

    As my post says: "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."
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jack: "I don't see why I shouldn't be able to use the main search box from there."
    Because it would reduce your irritation? Go on, try a different home page and use the search box ;)
    Jake Rayson
  • @ Jack S ... very well said on all responses on 16 September, 2010 15:17 ...

    I just want to add it's an advertiser's nightmare, it goes to not just the most relevant but the most popular, just as Bing does. I do prefer the old google also! It's mostly the people I want to find me and my product that I am concerned about...instead it will go to some big corporate company, that has similar listings and keywords. I can't even find my own listings using title and keywords verbatim, goes to Amazon or some other big corporation that get tons of hits.
    boyoboy-d3dc3
  • I really think that someone payed you to write such a nonsensical article. Your arguments are weak and unjustified. It really affects ZDNET's reputation to have someone like you writting articles like these.
    idarwin-a8bbb
  • @ Jake Rayson
    > Go on, try a different home page and use the search box ;)

    You are right, sir. But it's been a decade. Old habits die hard ;-)

    @idarwin
    > Your arguments are weak and unjustified.

    Easy to say but I notice you don't have any counter-arguments. I guess it's easier to insult people ;-)
    Jack Schofield
  • You are so unprofessional sir... get a Job.

    Won't waste one more second on you...

    Best.
    idarwin-a8bbb
  • @idarwin
    > You are so unprofessional sir... get a Job.

    Another irrational and unjustified insult from you makes *me* unprofessional? Ever thought of trying to post something well researched and logical? It doesn't help ZDNET's reputation to have someone like you writing comments like these.

    > Won't waste one more second on you...

    That would be appreciated ;-)
    Jack Schofield
  • "The advances have generally outnumbered the annoyances, but it’s been close at times."
    I think it's the other way around myself.

    "Google is very far from being the only company to keep fixing things that weren’t broke."
    To True.

    When a company releases a toolbar as it where, then doesn't that undermine the purpose of the main page especially in tandem with todays multiply tabbed browsers.

    Paying people to find something to do comes to mind, maybe that's why they all sit around on brightly coloured bean bags.
    CA-aba1d