Friday, September 12, 2008

Google Chrome -- The Evil User Interface

I really can't believe things went so far that I'm going to put this kind of rant in ink. I really have to state that I'm still gonna take the Google pill over Microsoft on any day, but heck, maybe they don't learn from the master that well after all. I'm talking about Google Chrome. It may well be that Google did revolutionize things on the server side and took on very well on the web-client side, but God are they unprofessional on the desktop. Unprofessional may not be the most suitable word here, but if they are doing those amateurish things on the desktop on purpose, well, that just makes it sound downright evil.

First of all, I didn't even keep Google Desktop on my machine for more than an hour because frankly, having a web server to let me get easier access to my desktop kinda sounds freaky to me. Turns out that I wasn't overly paranoid at all.

Now they came out with a browser, the user interface of which isn't a very likely candidate to be served by, well a web server -- and I was truly frantic about it. Even got sold on the Chrome comic in a snap. Soon as it was available to download I gave it a run, even took a look at the source code (though not as deep as Scott Hanselman here -- more on this in a minute). I was truly excited only to find out in five minutes that this stuff is not for me, and I believe it's not even for the casual user. Of course there is at least one solid conspiracy theory stating that this browser is not meant for the users. Anyhow, I think that messing up the user experience won't really help a product to be embraced by anybody regardless of the creators' original intent.

All my enthusiasm just vaporized in 30 seconds after the download. Why, the installer shoves the damn thing under "%USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data". I mean they put the program into a data folder, which not only makes it friggin counterintuitive but raises a bunch of management issues in any sanely managed environment, be it a shared family computer or a corporate environment. (Yeah I know Google support's this von Neumann mindset of everything being just data, but hey...)

Next thing is the implementation of the user interface. Chrome gives you a bigger client area which is good, but this obviously means the removal of the nonclient stuff like the title bar, which is nice for an instant messenger's buddy window or a media player but is kinda frivolous for a web browser which you constantly have in the foreground. It kills interoperability with a whole slew of applications like WindowBlinds or GridMove, and not playing nice with other applications won't make good to your reputation in the hood.

The last thing might sound like nitpicking -- that is even more nitpicking than the previous ones :) but as I've said I went to see the Chrome source through the eyes of Scott Hanselman and found out that Google went down the too-clever path and released a client software which relies on undocumented features of an operating system. Call me a old-fashion but I think this wouldn't even be appropriate for a tiny 2-man shop, let alone for GOOG. It's just bad karma.

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