Why I Hate Google

March 2, 2005

Actually, I love Google for searching. It still delivers the best results for me. I have my own little test of a search engine — search for my own name. Having done it regularly for some time, and knowing pretty much the full set of material out there, Google still comes out on top. I am, of course, rooting for MSN Search and know it will be just a matter of time before the playing field is more equal.

So, why do I hate Google?

Google is run by very smart people for very smart people. Google has taken one of their primary innovations — the clean home page with just a text box and some buttons — and used it as the foundation for an interaction model that makes no sense for real users. Google is essentially bringing back the command line. Want to find movie? Append “movie:” before the movie name and then it asks you to specify a zip before showing the movie showtimes. Want to find the sites that link to a particular site? Append “link:” first.

Try Google Mail (GMAIL) for a while and realize just how spoiled we are with the way in which Outlook or even Hotmail (or Yahoo! mail) works. Throw a mail item in the trash? Find it in the “More actions” pop-up. What happened to trash cans or big red X buttons? Google believes you just want to archive your email for later searching.

There are a whole set of command keys for use in GMAIL. Go learn them and then you are thinking the Google way.

Google approaches every user interaction as an optimization problem, not as an experiential problem. Google wants to minimize mouse clicks, keep your hands on the keyboard, and minimize visual clutter on the screen. So, to the hundreds of millions of people around the world that only came to use computers thanks to the Mac and Windows, welcome back to the exciting world of DOS. Google gives you a command line and infinite flexibility to enter arcane strings.

I will admit, the Blogger service which hosts this blog is owned by Google. It does a pretty nice job. Of course, it was an acquisition. Just a matter of time before I am presented with an input box on a white screen and have to remember to append “blog:” before my text entry.

God bless Microsoft for remembering that people are users too.

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