Open Letter to Google

RE: Google GMail, Chrome

Dear Mr. Google,

We’ve been together now since the middle of 2004 when I switched from my company’s e-mail to GMail.

Your “Don’t Be Evil” was one of the things that attracted me to the company and I understand why that’s no longer a driving force in your organization.

Yeah, Yeah, I know; you changed it to “do the right thing” and I even know why . . . while almost anyone can recognize evil when they see it, it’s more difficult to pin down “the right thing.” It gives you wiggle room; it lets you do almost anything you want as long as you can self-justify it; it allows you to ignore criticism because of the tautological reasoning associated with doing the right thing; you know it’s the right thing because you’re doing it and being committed to doing the right thing, everything you do must be right.

You criticize Trump but, from where I sit, you’re using the same logic as the mental giant currently watching Fox News and having dinner with Hannity.  

But, that’s not what I’m writing about . . . it’s related, but it’s not as sweeping. I’m writing to you about GMail (and further below, Chrome). 

For the love of all that’s not evil and might be the right thing, stop changing the damn interface!

So, why the open letter as opposed to the feedback form? Well, in the last 13 years I’ve never once got the impression anyone at Google pays any attention to customer feedback. You certainly don’t fix problems and the only thing I’m sure of is that you’re always looking for ways to create more problems for users.

I can only assume it’s a game you play; a game to see how far you can push users before they throw up their hands and leave. 

Facebook is playing the same game but they’re better at it and way ahead of you; I’ve already stopped using Instagram and my only interaction with Facebook is to link my blog posts. That’s also the only interaction I have with Google+ (it had promise, that one, until you done fornicated vertically the way it works). 

“So, what’s wrong with GMail?” you ask. 

Well, you changed the format once again. I don’t think it’s been a year since the last change (which was in itself annoying) and this time you’ve outdone yourself. Not as bad as WordPress’s New Editor interface, but it’s getting there. Perhaps you can get with the WordPress programmers and combine your talents for messing things up. 

So, here are the current problems with the new GMail format:

First, the font . . . you done made it puffy. I get that there’s an obesity epidemic, but I didn’t need to have puffier fonts to remind me of it. Here are the consequences of having a puffier font: 1) it makes it difficult to read 2) it takes up more room and so now I can’t read the beginning of individual e-mails without opening them (especially if the e-mail has a label associated with it; more on that later) and 3) your controls for the fonts are neolithic and I now can’t find a good balance between the visual aesthetic and usability — consequently, both suck (that’s a technical term). 

Second, the labels . . . they have a tendency to disappear. One second all the e-mails have labels associated with them and the next second . . . poof! . . . they’re gone. You have to exit the browser (not just GMail) to see them again. 

Third, the menus . . . I like words; I can read words a lot faster than I can read cryptic symbols (it’s one of the reasons I didn’t go into Egyptology), especially if I haven’t used the symbols for a while and have to remember what they mean.  

Speaking of menus . . . what’s with all the pop-up menus? It slows things down and it’s distracting. I’m perfectly capable of using a mouse’s right-click to bring up a menu when I want one. I can only assume you’re catering to the cyclopic Mac mice which, for some reason, is a mechanical device designed with minimal functionality. Since you keep track of all sorts of things, perhaps you can make that (the annoying pop-up menus) a feature only available to people who overpay for their computers. 

Another thing about menus . . . it used to be when I archived or deleted something or I assigned a label, a small menu would pop up (a rare useful menu, that was) giving me the choice to undo the action. When you forced the new interface on me, I thought you had gotten rid of it but I eventually noticed it . . . way down at the bottom of the screen. 

Odd choice that . . . odd because my mouse pointer is still up at the top where I just picked one of the now cryptic menu items. Why wouldn’t you pop up the menu next to the current location or at least where it used to pop-up, at the top? Why force me to move my mouse to the bottom of the screen? Evil, I tell you, pure evil . . . and don’t tell me it’s the right thing; it’s only the right thing if you want to annoy people. 

I assume a lot of the format and functionality change came about with the changes to your browser, Chrome. 

Want to hear my current issues with Chrome? Of course not! 

. . . but I’ll spell them out anyway . . . 

First, because it also uses large fonts, just switching from one tab to another often closes the tab you’re switching to . . . because some idiot made the “X” so large that you have to take care not to hit it and unless you’re very careful, the browser assumes you want to close the tab . . . and does. It used to work perfectly fine to where you could either close the tab or switch to it without much effort at all. Now, more than half the time, I end up closing a tab without meaning to.

Second, if you do close a tab (accidentally or on purpose), for some stupid and annoying reason, the browser decides to switch to full-screen mode. I get that you (Mr. Google) want to compete with Microsoft (they too decide to switch to a full-screen mode when you move a window too close to the edge of the screen) but I can tell you it’s not an endearing quality. In fact, it also sucks. 

Look, I’m not in the habit of helping large impersonal corporations who decide to do evil but I got a hint for you . . . if you make a change, it should be to minimize annoyances not maximize them. Also, the aim should be to minimize keystrokes and mouse clicks, not maximize them. 

You screwed up the YouTube interface, killed Picasa and gave us Pictures (I’ve stopped trying to use Google for photos), changed your online office functions and made them near-unusable and difficult to navigate . . . haven’t you done enough? Must you eradicate all functionality and usefulness associated with my Google account?

I got to tell you . . . for the first time in a long time, I’m seriously looking at alternatives. Right now, even AOL Mail looks less frustrating than using GMail. I’m not crazy enough to start using my HotMail or Yahoo! Mail accounts, but I am looking at Zoho and other alternatives. 

I’ve been using the Puffin browser and I like it. I use it on my phone, as well. I also use Duckdukgo on my phone and as my default search engine. I’ve found a few Map apps that work as well as your Maps app which — you guessed it — you’ve also modified to help make it annoying and frustrating to use.  (HERE and HERE)

Zoho offers pretty much similar things to what you offer, Mr. Google, but without the evil and the bloat (at least for now).

Honest, it would be easier for me to stick with you but that complacency gets rocked whenever you make stupid changes.

And, let’s face it . . . I know that you, Mr. Google, don’t give even a drop of liquid effluent if I decide to leave because you figure you have a whole generation of younger people hooked to your evil ways, but remember that all empires fall for the same reason . . . they start to believe their own hype and forget that people are not stupid. 

Well, OK, most are stupid, but that’s the point . . . some other company will come along and start drawing all the smart users away and you’ll be left with just stupid users. 

. . . ah . . . that’s what you want, don’t you?

I see it now . . . clever. And, evil. 

OK, have fun. Soon, I’ll not have to worry about interfacing with you. In a few more years, I’ll also be able to dump Android. Probably get me a vanilla phone that, you know, just makes phone calls. 

Boy, if I were a few years younger, I’d sure like to have a crack at replacing you with something that’s maybe not as useful but, you know, less evil. Someone will though, eventually. I hope to live long enough to see it happen.



That’s it. This open letter has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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