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10:23

Mote Prime > Technology

The iGoogle UK tab debacle

In November 2009, Google finally removed the workarounds allowing users to customise the positioning of tabs in iGoogle (UK version). The subsequent explosion of anger seems overblown. Is it?

Although responses like "THE NEW LAYOUT SUCKS DONKEY BALLS" (no, really, someone actually posted this) give some idea as to the strength of feeling, they don't give the Google guys an understanding of exactly why so many people feel like this. I thought it was time to redress the balance a little.

I think the depth of feeling comes from a sense of invasion. The iGoogle interface is customizable. Google encourages people to invest time and effort arranging things, and they do. They learn to think of it as "their space", and Google deliberately made it that way. They get their page "just so", so that the gadgets line up, or fill the screen, or look nice, or are nicely balanced, or whatever. It's like when you put ornaments in your home - photos, knick-knacks, you know, your junk, in your places.

Then the change comes, and it's like someone rearranging all the ornaments on your shelves. And not even for a new ornament, but for a big sign that says "Your Home" and a big blank space reserved for Google's future ornaments, whether you want them or not. If you've got too many ornaments for the remaining space, tough - they're all piled in a heap and it's up to you to sort them out.

But we've come to think of this, with Google's collusion, as our space. We make the rules. We lay it out. No wonder so many people are annoyed.

I know it seems trivial. I know that Google can do what it likes with its own technology. I know that we're not paying them. I know that we may even be in a minority. Regardless, Google has just burnt a whole load of goodwill with the kind of highly motivated people who know what they want and will invest the time to set it up.

In other words, exactly the kind of people who would be good ambassadors for Google when happy, and an utter nightmare if you piss them off.