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September 17, 2008

The iGoogle Experiment

iGoogle Developer Blog announces developers that the experimental version of iGoogle is a success and that more users will be a part of the experiment.

"It's been a few weeks since I've provided an update on the status of the canvas view launch. Our experiments with a small percentage of users have been going well, and we've been making some small changes and adjustments based on user feedback (such as reducing the width of the left nav). In the next few weeks we plan on ramping up the number of US English users with the canvas view."

Canvas view is one of the features from a major update for iGoogle that will bring support for OpenSocial gadgets, activity streams and more social apps. The trouble is that Google randomly selected a list of users to join the experiment, without providing a way to opt-out*. Most people didn't understand the implications of the update and only noticed the new design (the horizontal tabs have been replaced by a vertical menu), the missing functionality (you can't move a gadget to a different tab) and the broken gadgets (Gmail's canvas view displays the messages inside iGoogle, but it doesn't have a reply button).


Some people complained in iGoogle's discussion board, but Google didn't admit its mistake and continued to expand the experiment. Here's an interesting comment from a user:

"Your methodology is very heavy-handed. I am a retired executive from the old-days of computing (IBM and the BUNCH). We could never have imagined changing the interface of our customer's tools without asking permission. In many cases, we would have to support old versions of software for years after we thought we had newer and better products, just because our customers had gotten used to the way the old versions worked and had modified their habits to accommodate us. It would be considered the highest form of arrogance to force changes on them without their permission. Part of the wrath you are hearing from your users is because of your methodology, and the fact that it's way too hard to give you feedback."

Things have changed and web applications update much faster, often without providing an option to revert to a previous version. But it's extremely arrogant to replace a working version of a popular application like iGoogle with an unfinished version, without providing a way to opt-out. iGoogle was supposed to be a personalized Google homepage, a place where you can choose your favorite gadgets, feeds, themes.

When Flickr started to test a new interface for the dashboard, it placed a small link: "Would you like to try a new version of this page?". FriendFeed used a different address to test a new design and improve it based on the feedback. Gmail still links to the "classic" version to test how many people are satisfied with the new one. But iGoogle decided to try a different path and many unhappy users migrated to My Yahoo, Netvibes or other similar services.

"Our experiments with a small percentage of users have been going well, and we've been making some small changes and adjustments based on user feedback (such as reducing the width of the left nav). In the next few weeks we plan on ramping up the number of US English users with the canvas view."

* Some users managed to revert to the classic interface by going to google.com/ig and pasting in the address bar:
javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0')

72 comments:

  1. I don't believe Google randomly selected users for this test. They posted on a blog about how people could opt-in to the sandbox. I believe this was by visiting http://google.com/ig/sandbox .

    Furthermore, users were always able to opt-out. I believe just visiting that URL *AGAIN* will opt you out. In fact, some people (not realizing this) had accidentally opted out of the test and wanted to know how to get back in. This happened more often than those who accidentally opted in and wanted back out.

    The new iGoogle interface still supports themes, so it is still a "a personalized Google homepage, a place where you can choose your favorite gadgets, feeds, themes."

    In reality, the biggest thing that has changed that might draw complaints is the tabs have moved from the top to the left. Outside of this, you aren't likely to notice any other changes unless you use gadgets that support some of the other new features, like a full canvas view.

    In time, the left nav grows on you... allows for many more tabs... allows you to easily see which gadgets are on which tabs, and to be able to navigate directly to a particular gadget within a particular tab with a single click.

    So, this particular post really takes a lot of things out of context and makes some fairly prominent lies in order to complain about something not really complaint-worthy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The sandbox has nothing to do with the experiment: it was created for developers so they can test their gadgets. You could opt-in and opt-out from the sandbox using the URL you've mentioned.

    The post is about something else: a small number of users were "upgraded" to the new iGoogle, without providing any option to go back to the previous interface. I'm not sure if the workaround mentioned in the post actually works, but Google didn't include any opt-out link.

    ReplyDelete
  3. << I don't believe Google randomly selected users for this test. >>

    If you don't believe that, it's your problem, but you should read the facts from the iGoogle Developer Blog.

    "We are going to start testing the canvas view with a small percentage of our users this month, and are scheduled to roll it out to more users during July."

    "In a previous post, I mentioned that iGoogle would begin rolling out the new canvas to a small percentage of users, as an experiment, leading up to the full U.S. launch. I'm pleased to tell you that these experiments have begun, and we've already started collecting feedback."

    "Our experiments with a small percentage of users have been going well, and we've been making some small changes and adjustments based on user feedback (such as reducing the width of the left nav). In the next few weeks we plan on ramping up the number of US English users with the canvas view."

    ReplyDelete
  4. I apologize. The complaint you quoted was from July and the user was complaining about an early version of the sandbox for developers. Some of the issues that the user complains about in the full post have already been addressed by Google, so the small set of randomly selected users are getting the more refined version.

    So, when I saw you pointing to examples of people complaining about the early version of the new iGoogle, I assumed it was the sandbox of July that you were specifically complaining about. You should check out the new version, and see why fewer people have a problem with it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was randomly selected for the "new igoogle" and I really don't care for it... I do hope they give us a choice to change it back... My biggest problem with it are the side tabs eating huge amounts of my valuable screen real-estate. the -- javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0'); Does work to bring the old one back though... until you delete your browser data. No big deal all in all it would be silly to think that google would keep it the same forever. Now google how about some colors?

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  6. I think that iGoogle is the weakest horse in the Google retail stable. I return to my iGoogle page once every 6 months to measure how long it takes to load. Today - 54 seconds. See ya in 6 months.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fill in your detail at http://google.com/ig/sandbox and you will get new iGoogle

    ReplyDelete
  8. The opposite trick works too -- javascript:_dlsetp('v2=1') will givei you the new iGoogle.

    Why would you want to use this instead of the /sandbox URL? Well, for those of you with Google Apps accounts and customized Start Page content (the GAFYD incarnation of iGoogle)... canvas view works there too. [cough]

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yeah, yeah, but what's great is that Google *aren't* being IBM, and supporting sluggish users.

    Remind me why we thought that was a good thing anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's not about "supporting sluggish users". Imagine that you used Gmail and Google suddenly decided to experiment with a completely new version that includes a buggy reading pane, folders, but doesn't have a Reply button. You don't like the new version, there are obvious bugs, but Google doesn't provide an option to go back to the standard version, which is still used by most other users.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm happy with my current iGoogle page, because I have very few gadgets on it. I really don't get the point of the sidebar... If I was sure I could opt out, I would try the new iGoogle, just out of curiosity...

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was also randomly selected but I changed was able to change it back to the old version. What I don't can is to change back to the new version

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good news! The Gmail gadget in the experimental canvas view now includes buttons for 'Reply,'
    'Reply All,' and 'Forward'.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Or you know.. you could just visiit gmail.com?

    ReplyDelete
  15. My problem is that the regular features don't work in the new igoogle format. In Gmail for instance text that would normally be a hyperlink are no longer, there is no reply button and so it renders the viewing of gmail totally useless. I wouldn't have a problem with their experiment if it actually worked....

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think the brilliance of Google is that they move forward without holding on to the past. Holding on to compatibility is why Windows sucks. And as for complaining about a FREE service changing the interface, that is ridiculous.

    2nd for Google > IBM.

    ReplyDelete
  17. My emails dont show up in the gmail tab. I get everything else and then just no emails.

    ReplyDelete
  18. New format sucks. Too busy, too wordy. If some people like it, that's fine, but stop forcing me to change my page.

    They changed it the other day, I restored to the previous version. They just changed it again a few minutes ago, and I've restored AGAIN.

    One more time and I'm gone. For good. Not only from iGoogle, but from the search engine altogether.

    Yes, it's free, but don't think for a minute they're not getting revenue from us using it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I hope Google doesn't become Microsoft

    ReplyDelete
  20. I was randomly chosen for the new version - which I liked - but have now been changed back to the default original. Boo!

    ReplyDelete
  21. The ugly thing just showed up on my account this morning, unannounced and unwanted. It may be a good product, but dumping it on me with no warning, no explanation, no link for feedback, and no way to make the blasted thing go away is just rude.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I too just had the new format dumped on me - and i don't like it! i liked being able to see my gmail inbox without the preview (hello - i have coworkers who look at my screen!). also, the option to collapse the text preview is gone.

    this is a VERY wordy, space hogging version. bad move google!

    ReplyDelete
  23. So how are you guys changing back to the old version?

    ReplyDelete
  24. ugh. foisting the tabbed sidebar layout on those who tried it and abandoned it is unfortunate. it's junkie, less useful and annoying. calling it an 'improvement' is disengenous and my opinion to make as the end user. numerous gadgets are cramped and unreadable. what a waste of screen space. usually google implies quality. not this time with this change.

    ReplyDelete
  25. New layout sucks. My wife got 'randomly selected' about 3-4 months back, I honestly thought she had screwed something up to get it and I was just happy it wasn't mine. Today I got selected. NOT happy. Can't stand the left tabs, do NOT want the new interface. Opting into and out of the sandbox did nothing to change mine back, nor did the javascript:_dlsetp('v2=2') trick that others mentioned. I'm stuck with left tabs it appears. If mine stays like this for another week it's bye bye google homepage. I will completely stop using it in favor of one that lets me customize it rather than just forcing a new layout on me. Bad move google.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Dah? Wasted space, scroll down required to find the tab, drop downs that list what I should be able to see but can't now because they're crammed into even smaller real estate. It's October 16 not April 1. Google stop joking no one's laughing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. The side tabs are a big step back. A total waste of space and the expand/contract is worse than useless, its a waste of time.

    ReplyDelete
  28. GET THIS BULLSHIT *OFF* MY HOMEPAGE!!!!!!

    YOU FUCKING SUCK, GOOGLE! YOU SUCK, YOU SUCK, YOU SUCK! HOW DARE YOU EXPLOIT YOUR USERS THIS WAY!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I will find something new if they don't change me back to the old layout in one week.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Apparently the people at Google who designed the new layout have 30 inch wide HD screens. The font is smaller and the layout is cramped and crowded.
    I have enjoyed the iGoogle top tab layout but do not like the new layout.
    The arbitrary way Google selected its test subjects show exactly how much they respect their users. If the new vertical menu system becomes the standard I will move back to the Classic view.
    I have enjoyed and recommended Google as a home page for years. This arbitrary action is changing my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The sidebar is a total waste of space and the Gmail's inbox link is not a smart move.
    I don't think this is a successful roll out!

    GIVE BACK MY OLD LAYOUT!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I live on my browser visiting igoogle innumerable times per day. If I can't get rid of the dumb left tabs, it is finally time to dump Google, gmail, google search and on and on. I cannot believe any marketing firm could do something this dumb. Makes the Coke fiasco look like baby play.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Well crap. I was "chosen" to test the new version a month ago... I did the javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0') trick and it worked to get me back to the old version. WELL... today, I am back to the new version, and javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0') isnt working anymore.

    Now what? am I going to have to change to a homepage, and just forget iGoogle?

    ReplyDelete
  34. "What do you think?"

    I think you suck.

    I was randomly volunteered for the craptacular beta test of this interface over the summer. I hated it. Never got used to it and luckily finally found a way out.

    The comments on this and the prior beta test were almost universally negative and yet here we are dealing with the same shit. No warning...no way out...here it is deal with it.

    Why is is that every damn thing that companies roll out nowadays so disapointing?

    Way to innovate google.

    If anyone else out there has any suggestions for where to go please post them.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I agree with all the above comments, especially the outrage. Google think Microsoft Vista or New Coke. You messed up big time. Many of us will seek,find, and share alternate sites away from yours. Remember, while free, google is really an advertising driven business model. As we, your customers leave, so will your advertising revenues.

    ReplyDelete
  36. My Google homepage was completely hosed today as well.
    I HATE THIS NEW DESIGN CHANGE.
    It is absolutely HORRID.
    If there is no way to change it back I will be changing my home page on my computers very quickly.
    The first thing I see when I launch my browser shouldn't be a big clustered screen of FAIL.
    Google really dropped the ball on this horrible horrible lay out change.

    ReplyDelete
  37. http://www.petitiononline.com/igoogle/petition.html

    ReplyDelete
  38. good BYEEEEEEEEEEEEE google!!!!
    i was a staunch google fan for years, but, with all the " new and improved " app's, i've been driftin' slowly but sadly away......
    y'all done jumped the flippin' shark w/this crap tho........

    ReplyDelete
  39. javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0') worket GREAT, thanks

    But :( Google chnged Gmail widget today, it displays content of email whether you like it or not, and the mail links are gone :(

    ReplyDelete
  40. 'Upgraded today'. This was a page I could use on my eeepc (800x480) or share half a widescreen (1680x1024). So I spent time getting all my critical mission info & tools to show in this space. No more.

    If no reversion (javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0') doesn't work for me) then I'll do my own custom page. And having done that Google have lost a customer who will be unable to trust them for anything more that transient searches.

    Not part of their global ambition methinks. Making mistakes is not really a problem, not realising and fixing them is the real problem.

    I'm hoping ...

    ReplyDelete
  41. Please. restore the Plus/minus buttons on the RSS feeds on iGoogle. I like the new GMail widget but viewing all my RSS feeds expanded is a pain.

    ReplyDelete
  42. this "experiment" of theirs ruined my google home page, i agree, what is the point of this "custom" page if the users cannot work with it. Wasted space on the left and it is causing a ton of gadgets to appear and function incorrectly. Can I have the job of the guy who thought this one up? You changed all your customers settings and experiences without even giving them a warning.... horrible company policy

    ReplyDelete
  43. I can't stand the new format, give me the option to change it back Google or I'm going to yahoo.

    ReplyDelete
  44. This new format sucks @55. It is way more time consuming. The old way I could scan about 50 headlines to many different sites in seconds. Now it's way more of a hassle to expand gadget to the predefined size without expanding all the way. Not to mention, all the extra text about the article it forces out now.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I need the side tabs moved back to the top. I lose too much real estate!

    ReplyDelete
  46. iGOOGLE SUCKS!!!!!!!! I was typing an email and it "refreshed" lost everything I had typed and also didn't auto save like it used to before the tab bull$hit. If they don't change it back I'm gone!

    ReplyDelete
  47. If you go to google.co.uk you can get your old page back until they change it again. Its been rolled out to the US only.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Come on google, this was a way bad move.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I think it sucks. I want my old screen back, I liked how it worked.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Only 124 people have signed the petition. Come on vote this crap version off the internet.

    http://www.petitiononline.com/igoogle/petition.html

    ReplyDelete
  51. Not to 'ditto' most of the above messages, but 'ditto'

    I can understand the utility of a left nav and can see how some might prefer it. But even on my widescreen, I don't like it. Considering the customization iGoogle already allows, why not provide a toggle to let people choose whether they want a left nav bar or the 'old' layout?

    Also, there is no possible way anyone can justify stripping away the expand/contract button. Two clicks to show/hide a widget is just illogical. Why make something LESS user friendly?

    Comparing this batch of changes to "New Coke" was a pretty fair one. What were you folks at Google thinking?

    ReplyDelete
  52. I have had many of my friends and family comment about my iGoogle homepage and after showing them around it they signed up and changed theirs to reflect their desires.

    Since yesterday I've been contacted by several of them asking if there was a way to fix it.

    The easiest 2 ways I've found to fix the problem are:

    change your homepage to
    http://www.google.co.uk/ig

    or change your settings language to English (UK)

    Please Google, give us the option to change back to the previous layout.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Google just changed mine over on at least two accounts, and I am NOT HAPPY.
    Also, this trick: javascript:_dlsetp('v2=0') doesn't give me the old interface as some have reported it will.

    I wrote a lot of my own gadgets, and now the narrower column width due to the moving of the tabs to a sidebar have screwed up my custom gadgets.

    Not only that, but iGoogle runs unacceptably slow on both my work computer and my home computer now. Mouse response is ridiculous.

    GMail's (not so) new interface crashes both computers (Win2k at work, Ubuntu at home, Firefox 2 on both) every time I try to come back to the main screen from reading an email. At least I can revert to the old GMail interface, though it's a stupid process where I have to load the new interface first to get a link to click on to get to the old interface. The new interface also hogs up computer resources and runs much slower. I guess my older 512 MB maxed-out memory hardware just isn't good enough for Google's services any more. Damn shame.

    There should be persistent preference settings in GMail and in iGoogle where the user can choose the preferred interface. It silly that I can set a preference for GMail to always use SSL but not to always use the older interface. I don't understand why Google isn't providing such an obvious feature.

    Well, Google can be the new Microsoft if that's what they want. I'll tell you this: I don't allow Microsoft to dictate to me when it's time to upgrade my computers, and I won't allow Google or anyone else to do it either. If Google won't give me reasonable choices, it's NetVibes here I come. And I'll set up my own mail server, which what I had planned to do before GMail came along and I got lazy because it did everything I wanted my own mail server to do for me.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I hate the wasted space from the left side tab. It is also much slower to load than the old version.

    Thanks goodness I've never been a gmail user.

    Schenley

    ReplyDelete
  55. I really liked the layout and miss it now its reverted back to the old style. I dont understand the level of criticism ti got. It's a change. It's good. Why resist it? Do you think that it won't change in the future? No.

    Get used to change because it's a constant.

    ReplyDelete
  56. The new format is annoying and glitchy, and the approach google has taken with it makes me sorry that I ever went to g-mail.

    Change is a constant, but that does't mean that all changes are desirable, or that change is good in and of itself.

    ReplyDelete
  57. It's not CHANGE that has angered so many, it's the fact that we weren't given a CHOICE. I've set my igoogle to the UK version so I can have my preferred format and, if google changes that as well, I'll move permanently to the netvibe homepage I've already begun customizing!

    ReplyDelete
  58. i hate the new Home tab very much, and i am upset about i wasn't informed nor my permission was asked...

    there is no options to get rid of the stupid Home tab on the left...

    i think it's time to stop using igoogle

    ReplyDelete
  59. I could deal with left-hand tabs (although when I don't dock my Macbook it really chews up real estate), but the new gmail widget is really annoying as hell. The problem with it is that the link doesn't lead into the real gmail like it used to, but goes to this "fake" gmail. It looks like the real thing but doesn't work like one. None of the Gmail keyboard shortcuts that I'm used to using ("c" for compose, "r" for reply, "a" for all", etc.) work anymore which makes using it an excercise in frustration for me. I've switched to using the british version of Igoogle for the time being, but I'm not sure how long it's going to last.

    ReplyDelete
  60. I think Google has blown a good thing. I dislike the canvas view and wish you would provide people an option of restoring the old tab layout. I assume there is some profit motive in your change as it clealy is not an improvement

    ReplyDelete
  61. I think I'm going to switch to NetVibes or PageFlakes.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Looks like it's time to sell GOOG!!! Was a nice ride but some know it all has to fix something that wasn't broke in the first place. Next time get some input and listen to it!!! I'm outta here!

    ReplyDelete
  63. It's been over a week and I've had it.
    I have set up my Netvibes account today and switched all of my machines OFF of iGoogle.
    See yah later Google! You screwed your self!
    As a side note, Netvibes is really cool! I think I'll end up liking it better then I EVER liked iGoogle, even before they really messed it up!

    ReplyDelete
  64. 1.) I have the Gmail box on my iGoogle and if I click "compose mail" and want to make an attachment, I can't anymore.

    Now I have to literally type in "gmail.com" in my web address and create a new message just to add an attachement.

    2.) Also, if I click on any of those tabs on the left, then close my browser and open it again, it stays on the last tab I was on! I'd rather just go to my default homepage, thank you very much.

    How annoying! iGoogle staff, you disappoint me...

    ReplyDelete
  65. I think the moron coder that decided we don't need to close that poc igoogle home tab should have his compiler taken away!

    ReplyDelete
  66. I think it would have went over smoother if they just were straight up about why they have the left tabs; to generate more money by allowing content partners to utilize more of your screen time and bring you into their pages.

    For me the canvas views make the whole point of igoogle worthless; i liked it because it was lean and quick. The other changes they made I think most can live with!

    ReplyDelete
  67. If you use firefox, I wrote an addon which hides/unhides the left tabs.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/10113
    It is currently in the sandbox (experimental area) of the site, but use it and leave a review. (Reviews help get it into the public space so that updates are automatic)

    Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  68. When is google going to FIRE the person in charge of iGoogle on PC and iPhone? He/She is a dumbass. First screwed up the PC version and now the iPhone/G1 version is gone.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I think Google has blown a good thing. I dislike the canvas view and wish you would provide people an option of restoring the old tab layout.If Google won't give me reasonable choices, it's NetVibes here I come. And I'll set up my own mail server, which what I had planned to do before GMail came along and I got lazy because it did everything I wanted my own mail server to do for me.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I just had iGoogle shoved in my face when I tried to load www.google.com. God, what a mess.

    What the hell is wrong with Google? Are they trying to commit suicide with all this idiotic bloat? I don't want a wall of crap shoved in my face. I want a search engine, AND NOTHING ELSE.

    The entire design team needs to be fired, along with whatever middle-management prick is responsible for greenlighting this seemingly neverending cavalcade of screwups.

    Stop f*king up my Google!

    ReplyDelete