Thursday, November 6, 2008

Angry Bloggers Unite

Karen found this article and linked below. I had trouble accessing from work so it merits re-posting:

LINK: The Great Google Rebellion
By Lou Cabron
October 19th, 2008

Thursday Google unveiled a new design for its iGoogle homepage
service. Unfortunately (according to one geek), it's "a big unwanted
piece of crap."

In an email interview today, Google defended the changes. But Google
won't let users switch their home pages back to the way they used to
be, which has sparked a furious revolt, online activism, and even some
homegrown fixes.

22 million people visit iGoogle each month (according to January
figures from Comscore), but Thursday Google foisted their changes onto
every user in the United States. The same day, Johnson Rice created an
online petition urging Google to allow a rollback option — and found
nearly 1,000 people to sign it. Then he expanded his crusade on a
nationally-syndicated radio show, and launched a Facebook Group
protesting "forced website redesigns." Its goal? Fighting for the
best-loved sites "if the corporate committees start trashing them."

iGoogle's product manager, Jessica Ewing, emaield us today arguing
Google is "constantly thinking about how to improve our products for
our users. Then, we take our ideas, prototype them, and put them
through a vigorous set of usability tests and experiments to make sure
we are doing the right thing for users.

"The iGoogle features we launched went through this exact process and
we've made changes along the way based on feedback from users and

But some users clearly aren't satisfied. One thread in Google's
discussion groups "is full of thousands of complaints about this
sudden and unannounced change," according to Slashdot. In fact, one
commenter posted that "Google has gone evil," joining a chorus of
other negative threads.

What were you thinking????
How do I complain to Google?
Please return the hijacked horizontal space
I agree that the new igoogle changes are crap

Within 24 hours, disgruntled users had gotten even more aggressive,
and resorted to posting email addresses for iGoogle's developers. One
commenter claimed they'd also contacted a Google employee, "and they
said they agreed that the new layout is horrible and was surprised
that it was distributed to everyone at this point in time.

"They also said that as soon as they saw it, Google would be bombarded
with complaints."
Soon the fierce discussion had identified several unsanctioned
workarounds, which include logging into Google's Australian, British
or Irish home pages or running a Greasemonkey script in Firefox. (The
script's name? "Old Google Ig...") Other protesters used Google's
discussion group to tout Google's competitors, including Netvibes and
Protopages. Another blogger located a Firefox add-on which
"disappears" the unwanted column, and one user even bragged they were
accessing their Google Gmail account using Yahoo's home page service.

Comscore's January figures suggest Google has more than a quarter of
all personalized home page users, and one iGoogle user says it's
corrupted Google's philosophy. "Notice that the more powerful Google
becomes, the more they take away our choices....once they reached the
status of monopolistic stardom they suddenly fling off the sheep's
clothing and out comes the wolf."

"Welcome to the future of cloud computing," warns a commenter on
Slashdot. "This is what it means to give up control of your software
for the convenience of a net-based service."

Information Week iGoogle's senior product manager, Jessica Ewing,
defended the new column added in the re-design. "The left navigation
allows users to go from canvas view to canvas view of the new gadgets
with one click, which we think is important as we see more and more
great canvas view gadgets that require a scalable navigation model."
Jessica says Google was careful to narrow the column because "We
realize it does take up some screen real estate, particularly on small
monitors," and adds that "We'll continue to monitor user feedback and
usage and adjust accordingly." But angry users on Google Groups were
already posting her phone number, along with a number for Google's
"User Experience" Vice President Marissa Mayer, urging "flood her
inbox people!" One user even posted that "After trying the phone
number and getting the 'error' hangup — I sent her a fax!"

The new iGoogle features "were designed to make it more powerful,"
according to Google's official blog, saying the redesign will "bring
more information to the homepage." Besides the new column (which
re-lists the homepage's links), iGoogle now also offers a new "canvas
view" expanding RSS feeds to fill the screen. (And another option
condenses that view to a Gmail-like list of the feed's headlines.) The
changes will simply "bring more information to the homepage," argues
Google's blog. But some critics see it differently.

"They forced users to a hideous new format today with no method to opt
out," complained a blogger named Merry Goose Mother. "Everyone on the
interwebs is roaring about how much it sucks and how inconsiderate it
is to make changes to a page that users customize to their own
preferences without providing them a medium to give feedback or
revert." She titled her post "Google has officially become evil."
(Ironically, she posted it on Blogspot — a service owned by Google.)
And she asked her users for the ultimate solution.

"I need a new homepage, does anyone use Netvibes?"

Lifehacker posted another Greasemonkey script which eliminates
Google's new design changes, telling readers that "over half of you
gave it the thumbs down. Your main complaint: The new sidebar eats up
a substantial chunk of screen real estate." And Information Week
reported that "Almost all of the 80 comments posted on Information
Week since Thursday express unhappiness about the new iGoogle," adding
that "The situation is similar on other sites. Almost all of the 149
comments posted on the Google Operating System blog express
displeasure with the iGoogle changes."

But statements from Google suggested the easiest workaround — of
logging into a foreign version of iGoogle — may not last forever.
Google's blog announces cheerily "Don't worry. We'll also be rolling
out this updated version in other countries very soon."

Google isn't the only offender, according to Johnson Rice. "Facebook
has done the same thing to all their users," he argued in his radio
diatribe. "They just changed the design, and so what has happened is
people are starting to get angry, because this is an egregious use of
force on these people..." Today Slashdot reported that Yahoo "decided
to massively screw up their entire userbase by changing all user
profiles to blank, while Friday Thomas Hawk noted a thread on Flickr
complaining about changes to Flickr's "Recent Activity" page. (Hawk
sardonically headlined the post "Flickr Changes Most Popular Page on
the Site, Users Go Bonkers," and in three days the thread has racked
up over 3,700 posts.)

Johnson Rice argues the web services are committing a clear injustice.
"Both Facebook and Google, while they offer a free service, make their
money on advertising," he told the radio show's hosts. "Which means
that their users and their community are the people who are in fact
paying them by using their service." But despite his best efforts, he
hasn't succeeded yet in rallying everyone to his cause.

The radio show's host responded, "I'd like to go on record as not
giving a crap."


Piri Jenkins said...

It warrants a link too, the original article has lots of links that did not copy when I emailed it to you.

Lynnis said...

Ah fixed it!

Gordon said...

It looks like "high on the hog" is getting attention. I did some google searches on "related" terms and it popped up readily.