An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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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Most people didn't understand the implications of the update and only noticed the new design (the horizontal tabs have been replaced by a vertical menu), the missing functionality (you can't move a gadget to a different tab) and the broken gadgets (Gmail's canvas view displays the messages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')

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