My love affair with Google has been on pretty rocky ground of late. Ignoring the China business for the moment, though that is important, Google has suddenly turned into Facebook and has started messing around with its design for no apparent reason. The main search page now has a little button on the bottom left to create a custom background a la Bing. No worries – it is optional and I can live without that. What we are talking about is my favourite news source being screwed with. As a journalist I tend to be addicted to Google News as it provided a clean interface and I could find the articles that interested me in a jiffy. This is Good Google as seen in the google.co.uk version at the top of this entry. For those of us who use google.com or google.ca , however, this is not the case anymore.
Bad Google, as illustrated in the picture above, has decided that they had to screw the pooch and change this simple and efficient design into something resembling a Facebook wall. I am presented with an incomprehensible roll of completely unrelated articles that juxtapose stories on the BP spill with the latest on the private life of Kim Kardashian and someone called LeBron James. How this makes sense to them is beyond me. The worst thing is there is no choice in the matter. There is no “opt-in” or “stay with classic Google News” button. They have, however added a handy dandy way to share articles on social networking sites option because apparently dragging that “Share on Facebook” button to my bookmarks bar was just too complicated for me.
A massive discussion erupted on Google’s forums about the change and when I say discussion I mean a 99% condemnation of the change. But cool Google simply either ignores the response or replies with vague comments that it is meant to help us “personalize the news”. Personalize the news? That seems a dangerous precedent. People can choose to avoid exposure to news that disagrees with their political or other opinions? That is a sorry state of affairs. The old version gave us news that we could peruse and – shock of shocks – sometimes be exposed to the option of reading a viewpoint or a subject we didn’t know about. News to Google! That is what news is all about exposing us to different viewpoints and sometimes, if we are lucky, expanding our horizons.
If you are living somewhere other than this part of the world be prepared because the change is being rolled out worldwide. So Google News has alienated me and forced me to look at ask.com news as an option. And they might also want to note that there are some new search engines that are gunning for them with cutting edge visual approaches to search. My favourite is Spezify.com which is just downright stunning. Visit it here www.spezify.com and prepare to be amazed as you drag your mouse across the page.