Monday, November 22, 2010

Google's Search Engine

When I started using the web around 1995, I used webcrawler. It was horrible, but I knew no better and it was certainly better than alternatives such as Yahoo. It was simple and a fairly clean interface. Then along came Google. It was better, in fact it was so much better I instantly switched and have never looked back. I can probably count on my fingers the number of times since I have used a different search engine. That was approximately thirteen years ago.

Today, I find myself looking for alternatives. I know none exist, the other search engines are horrible. There mere fact I am looking however, should speak volumes as to my opinion on the recent changes google has made to it's search engine. Ever heard the expression "If it ain't broke, don't fucking fix it"? Well google obviously has not. Within the past several months they have forced several very noticeable, and very annoying changes upon us. I am not used to google forcing anything on us, their strength has always been the simplicity and effectiveness of the search engine. It's lack of gimmicks and clutter was one of it's strongest points. Now I am finding myself misclicking webpages because suddenly arrows navigate results, the image search is a horrible mess,  the page preview is frustrating and the new layout makes me feel claustrophobic. Every time I notice one of these changes, I immidiately search (sadly, using google) for how to disable it. Strangely there is no way to do so.

 I find this to be a common element with companies, governments, everything large and rich. They are doomed to become victims of their own success, doomed to loose touch with their roots and eventually alienate those who made them succesful in their endless quest to improve. You see it again and again, not just with software companies but with every large entity with a corporate-like structure. Now Google is obviously in no danger at the moment of being dethroned, but I see this disturbing trend developing, and if it continues it will eventually allow a competitor who is more in touch with the consumer's needs to more effectively meet those needs, and in so doing steal significant market share. Remember when Internet Explorer had ~90% of the internet browser market? It's down to about 50% these days, and that's even with it being forced down your throat via it's integration into the windows OS. I am certain a minimum 20% of that is simply due to user ignorance, in other words they don't know how to download firefox.

It's sad because the solution is so simple, in these situations it generally is. If you want to add new features that you hope will be helpful, of course do so. But never force a drastic interface change, make it optional. Allow for a setting to turn it off, it's not rocket science. In the 13 or so years I've used google all of my complaints and frustrations while using it have been in 2010.