Alex headshot

AlBlue’s Blog

Macs, Modularity and More

You get what you pay for

2012 Google Crap

There has been a disturbing trend in the force recently, of companies and their applications taking a significant turn for the worse without proper design and consideration. First, Google pulled a GMail and decided that White was the new Black, and in order to not spoil an otherwise minimalist white canvas threw in a few lines of text, before the screw up squad took out Reader and Blogger too.

Last weeks design-for-idiots trend was Twitter moving awya from the highly acclaimed (and successful) AteBits Twitter neé Tweetie application, onto a design which “Optimises for consistency” across different websites and devices.

Yes, that’s right – they have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of a well designed and fluid iOS interface, it’s now the same piece of junk you see on an Android phone.

Let’s put aside for the moment flamewars on which device is best, and focus on the reality; they are different devices, with different styles and behaviours. Tweetie even introduced the concept of pull-to-refresh, which became such a signature gesture that it’s now used on many iOS based applications. The thing is, the toolbar was optimised for the things the user does frequently; like tweets, direct messages, and the standard icon used to denote more options available.

Now, we have an application whose logo sits in the top ~10% of the screen and is immobile. That’s right, it stays there like a wart on the bottom of humanity, refusing to budge. What good does it do there? You know you are using the official Twitter app, because it now looks like cack, and it looks like cack on other devices as well. There’s consistency for you.

To seal the deal, the new “Discover” tab has affectionately been renamed the dickbar tab in homage to last time.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. Whilst Twitter is attempting to generate a revenue stream from waving its dickbar in everyone’s face, other clients have quietly but politely focussed on the right kind of in-your-face design. Tweetie may be no more, but Tweetbot is on sale right now for $1, and has some nice user interface aspects to it; or rather, it doesn’t have a dickbar. Other clients also exist but they’re all better than the current Twitter app.

However, the point I wanted to make was that in this age of the internet, you get what you pay for. Google is going out of its way to push Plus in front of everyone’s face (PLUS!) whether they like it or not (PLUS!). They’ve also made it glaringly obvious (PLUS!) just so that your eye is drawn away from the main purpose (the article) and towards the share button (which, let’s face it, is not what you’re there for).

The problem with Google is that, as the applications are hosted in the cloud, Google has the final call over which version of the software I am using. This is good in many ways – any security updates or upgrades will happen automatically, without my involvement.

The downside is that Google can also remove functionality which I use regularly, such as the ability to read posts without a glaring PLUS on the screen in the low-key icons bar.

However, the recent turn of Google ramming Google+ down everyone’s throats is the real concern. Thanks to a upcoming policy change the ever present Google will tie all of your accounts and services together, and allow you to leak data. (Remember the whole buzz fiasco a few years back, when they introduced the cheesy like symbol and then subscribed all of your private messaging contacts to your publicly visible profile?) Only not content with world social domination, they are now tying in all the videos you have ever watched on YouTube with documents you have written on Docs to blog posts you have commented on Reader.

The new policy comes into effect on the 1st of March, and by that time, my intention is to wean myself off any Google services that I may be using. I’ve already stopped using their search – after all, Focus on the User shows that Google results on their own are no longer to be trusted – and DuckDuckGo is my go-to search engine (remember when Google just did search? Like that.)

The other key service I need to replace is Reader. It has – until the UIdiots moved in – been the best news feed aggregator on the web, mainly because it allowed me to keep a track of what I’d read from across multiple computers. However, these days I mostly consume it from the iPhone (it’s the only one they’ve not let the UIdiots near yet) so being able to track from multiple devices is no longer the need it once was.

Anyway, as the title suggests, you get what you pay for. And, by a happy coincidence, Google doesn’t pay me to use their services. So Google – thanks for the memories. We had a great time together. But things have changed, and we’ve drifted apart. I still respect some of the good things you’re trying to do for the web, and as an advertising behemoth you are not likely to falter any time soon (unless Apple finds a bit of loose change behind the sofa and buys you out). But I can no longer continue to support you by providing you with all my data whilst you data-rape me and splash it across externally visible profiles. Instead of gaining a social network participant, you’ve lost a customer. And you know what? If ever I need to find something again – I’ll just ask my friends.