Over the last couple of days, Google has released updates for Google Reader and GMail. Each has a new UI, and has further integration of Google +, as well as the removal of Buzz.
In the case of GMail, it is mostly about a visual overhaul, as noted on the Google Blog here are the main features:
– Streamlined conversations
– Elastic density
– New HD themes
– Smarter navigation
– Better search
In the case of Google Reader the changes are two-fold: the removal of ‘Share’, and a visual overhaul.
To say that the reaction to removing ‘Share’ was swift, loud and negative would be a massive understatement. There have been protests, petitions, even outrage from common Iranians who use it as a social network since all others are banned (including Google +) … yet Google made the changes permanent today.
But more than just swapping Share for G+, the change is much more insidious. According to former Google Reader product manager Brian Shih:
But the new sharing flow around the +1 button has actually made it harder to share. Where you used to be able to click one button, or hit shift-s to one-click share to your audience, you now need to:
Click +1 (no keyboard shortcuts for you)
Click the text box that appears that says “Share to G+”
Then choose your circle you want to share to (or let it default to public)
Then click Share
Keep in mind that on top of requiring 3-4 times as many clicks, you also now must +1 a post publicly to share it, even if it’s shared to a private circle. That bears repeating. The next time you want to share some sexy halloween costumes with your private set of friends, you first must publicly +1 the post, which means it shows up on your profile, plus wherever the hell G+ decides to use +1 data. So much for building a network around privacy controls.
The reason is clear, and core to the very essence of Google – YOU are the product, NOT the customer. Google wants money, and since you are not GIVING them money, clearly SOMEONE is … and these changes are made to keep their CUSTOMERS happy. Which, remember, you are not. You are product. Google + is the future of gathering and selling customer info, ‘Share’ is not – it only helps ‘product’ give things to other ‘product’ without any benefit to potential customers. So ‘Share’ had to go.
As for the visual overhaul, let’s hear again from Brian Shih:
Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly. We designed it to be very good at that one thing. G+ is an experience built around browsing (similar to Facebook) and socializing. Taking the UI paradigm for G+ and mashing it onto Reader without any apparent regard for the underlying function is awful and it shows.
For me, the horrific user interface is the major concern. As the image above shows, Reader is now terribly inefficient with space usage – with no option to customize. As Shih said, “Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly”. That is what I want from it, yet in an attempt to further monetize my interests, Google has messed up my experience in order to subsume it to the pseudo-social network it is stuffing down our throats at every turn.
Last night as the changes went live we had a quick internal chat about Reader. Carly asked “Am I alone in despising the new Google Reader design?” I strongly agreed, then we set about discussing alternatives, coming to the conclusion that there is no real web-based competition, many of us cannot install programs on work computers, and therefore we were discussion iOS alternatives such as Reeder and NewsRack.
In other words, in an attempt to draw us into Google + MORE and further monetize our eyes, Google is in fact driving us – and many others – away.
What are your thoughts on these changes?