Some of you may be familiar with Google's "iGoogle" start page that they have offered to users for the last few years...

What some may or may NOT be familiar with (depending on your location in the world) - is that Google has launched a "new and improved" iGoogle Start Page layout. This new layout (featuring tabs on the left instead of the top, broken widgets, multiple bugs with widgets and much much more) has caused a HUGE stir in the iGoogle community (at least the US community - where Google has forced all iGoogle users to this new format) - and the stir has NOT been a positive one.

There are literally hundreds (if not thousands by now) of posts in the Google Groups about how many of their users HATE the new layout and a handful that have had anything positive to say about it. Many users have asked simply to either put back the old layout - or offer the user the OPTION to return to the old layout (tabs on top, etc). It appears that the users biggest complaint with the left-hand tabs is the amount of "screen real estate" they take up, and that they do not function the way the top tabs did (being able to drag and drop widgets to different tabs).

I have been a "Google Evangelist" for years - and have always touted them as a "users first" company. Their minimalistic, slick search engine UI - their iGoogle start page - Google Apps - and the like - have always been good strong "bullets in my gun" when letting others know what a great company Google is. I even bought stock in the company when it had its IPO.

So, after wandering through the myriad of negative responses to this "upgrade", I find posts from verified Google representatives that state:
iGoogle Guide Paul:
"The left-side navigation is an key part of the support for canvas view, and canvas view is an important new feature of iGoogle. We're planning on continuing to develop and support the new features (as well as add more new features into the area on the left in the coming weeks and months), and have no plans to include a toggle between tabs-on-top and tabs-on-the-left."

So - the iGoogle users have been told - in very blunt terminology - "We don't care what YOU want anymore - we're doing what WE want"

Ok - But the REASONS they are doing it are truly NOT as described above. Left hand tabs have absolutely NOTHING to do with "canvas view" nor are they a "key part" of any such application. The "canvas view" could be implemented just as easily in an application with ToT (tabs on top) as it can with ToL (tabs on left). The "canvas view", as a whole, is being implmented to allow for advertising space inside widgets. They seem to ignore the fact that most users had their pages set up for very minimalistic views of their widgets and very condensed views of GMail and RSS feeds, etc. That provided users with a plethera of information in a very condensed format - and NO ADVERTISING. That seems to be the true underlying reason for all of this (from everything I have read in the Groups) - they've been offering this service with no advertising and are now looking to move advertising into a space it has not been previously. This appears to be similar to the drug dealer that gives away "samples" in order to get a person hooked - then substitutes a lesser quality "product" for a much higher price tag (at least in theory it appears similar).

After much contemplation about Paul's statement and the obvious attitude shift that this demonstrates in Google's business practice and philosophy - I posted the following response to that thread:
And apparently you don't want to pay attention to the responses to your "response" either.

I have been in software development for 30 years and web development for the last 15. I have some 2000+ applications, pages, sites, widgets, and sundry other tidbits under my belt.

FIRST RULE: The "customer" is always RIGHT.

NEXT RULE: The "developers" are not your CUSTOMERS - your end USERS are.

NEXT RULE: Spouting rhetoric like "the left-hand tabs are necessary for the canvas view" will NOT win you favor in the the eyes of those of us who ARE developers and KNOW BETTER.

I've been using the Canadian site for the last few weeks in hopes that Google would wake up and smell the coffee - but now I see that Google took sleeping pills and has a head cold.

Truly, Truly, Truly, Sad performance from a company I once admired.

My Netvibes page is in place for now until I finish the custom app on my own site that will let me put up my homepage (tabs on top or no tabs at all) the way I had it originally on iGoogle.

I will be bloggin' about THIS one...

To prevent Google personnel (or anyone else) from accusing me of taking quotes "out of context", readers can go here to read the entire thread and see for yourself.

As I said in my response - I am working on a personal project that will allow me to setup a homepage that is just like my old iGoogle homepage. This will allow me to do what I want with it without fear of having "upgrades" force-fed to me. Meanwhile, I have switched my start page to NetVibes and it has most of the functionality that my old IG start page did. I have sold off my Google stock and am looking into alternatives for several other services I had just lumped into my Google account.

All that aside, I go back to my original response to Paul. Those rules apply in ALL software development endeavors. In response to another user in that same thread (Roger - a 40 year veteran developer) - I had this to say:
I had a very wise mentor that told me "if your users don't like the way your program operates - they won't use it and you will soon be unemployed". The thing Google has failed to realize here is that while they are a very popular search engine, etc - they do not have a choke hold on the market the way Microsoft has a choke hold on the operating system market.

There several good alternative for iGoogle users - NetVibes, Protopage, and the like - and I would suggest any of those to disgruntled iGoogle users.

{rant mode="off"}
Sid Wing
Senior Application Developer
Chief Computer Cook and Bottlewasher