Google, you are losing your way

I have loved using Google since discovering it when everyone was still in love with Altavista. Lightweight, and blindingly fast – built by and for engineers. But something has gone terribly wrong over there it seems.

My prima facie evidence: Google Reader. I used to LOVE using GReader. Sure, I wish it had some additional bells and whistles, especially Yahoo Pipes-like filtering and being able to add/change the keyboard commands, but it was certainly functional and fast, and it worked equally well on both laptops and desktops.

But they decided to change it for some reason. First, the layout: just horrible, piss-poor design. Whoever approved this design should be immediately fired. Gone was the clean, tight, effective design. In its place: huge, clunky buttons with big gross chunks of stupid whitespace.  Eventually they offered spacing options (Comfortable, Cozy and Compact) but even the Compact version can’t come close to the old interface.

I could live with the abysmal interface, because it’s still more functional than everything else I’ve looked at, but one thing that I almost can’t live with is the speed. It’s become molasses slow. The interface is all AJAX now, and it’s become disgustingly slow to update – almost to the point of being unusable. It’s so slow they had to install an “hourglass” animated globe that lets you know something’s happening in the background, otherwise you’d think something was broken. That’s not the Google I know – the Google that pushes technologies and techniques that lower page load times.

I’ve looked at a significant number of other solutions, and they’re as bad, if not worse. So I’m stuck at the moment – hoping either Google can pull their head out of their ass or another company comes up with the old version of GReader (preferably with added bells and whistles!)

And I’m not the only one. The Google Reader group was flooded (and is still flooded) with complaints about the page loading, the new UX/UI, and other changes they’ve made. The thing that bothers me about this is that Google launched this giant turd at the end of October, and it’s STILL looking and running like shit. Is anyone even working on this any more?

Of course, they did the same thing with Google Calendar. The old one was more than adequate – most people I know were perfectly happy. I had switched over to the new version to check it out, but switched back after a few days, mostly because I hated the translucent pastel colors that blended too easily with the white background. Now they’ve forced the new version on everyone so you’re forced to use the inferior version.

(hint: go to Settings > Labs and ‘Enable Background Images’, then upload a light grey image you create in Photoshop that you can set as your tiled background image to give some contrast with the white background)

Sure, you can install Greasemonkey or Stylish and change many of these settings, but I already have a problem with Firefox chewing up memory and those plugins seem to exacerbate the problem. Plus these products worked before – they shouldn’t have been broken being “upgraded”!

I mean clearly all these changes are focused on getting people to use Google+ and it’s readily apparent that Google is absolutely terrified of Facebook but so much so that I think they’ve completely lost who they are as a company. They are leveraging all their properties into pushing Google+ to respond to Facebook, and it’s negatively affecting their customers (things like the privacy settings changes).

And it’s not just the Facebook threat – there are other examples (like the Mocality fiasco, and hiding the search terms) that just don’t seem like the Google from before. What happened to that company?