You get what you pay for in life. “Bargains” that appear to give you more for
your money than you expect to get often turn out to be too good to be
“Discount” stuff in the mall or market is on sale for a reason: If
they could have gotten top shekel for it, they would have. It’s not like they’re
running any charities! The biggest Web outfit offering free stuff, Google, isn’t
running a charity, either, and when they give away stuff, you can be sure
they’ve got an angle. I know it sounds cynical (and a tad ungrateful, since I,
along with you, enjoy the fruits of Google’s largesse, using the 10 gigabytes of
e-mail space and the free applications they provide), but it’s access to the
information we input into their system, fodder for Google projects like Adwords,
that has helped make the company rich. Without us, Google is
It’s supposed to be a win-win deal: we give them free data, they
give us free applications.
But considering the benefits accruing to
Google from our participation in its money-from-words schemes and the huge
amounts of money the company earns, laziness or lack of care in the execution of
those applications is, in my opinion, unthinkable. If they’re offering us free
applications to get us to help them make money, then they had better make sure
those applications work.
Most of them seem to, most of the time. But
maybe Google has gotten too big for its own good; recently I’ve been noticing
cracks in its formerly solid-state user experience, and it could be an ennui has
set in that lets the company believe it can “slide” – after all, it’s not like
Google has any real competition anymore.
Take the venerable Google search
engine, for example. Is it just me, or is it returning way too many
less-than-relevant links, most of them trying to sell you something? Not that
Google hasn’t been trying to stop “search spam”; after a recent scandal in which
at least one big retailer was caught “gaming” Google to get higher results on
the search page, the company released a new extension called “Personal
Blocklist” to keep troublesome domains off your results page.
available for Google’s Chrome browser.
Speaking of which, I’ve been
having a big problem with Chrome, especially when I “challenge” it by opening a
lot of tabs. I switched to Chrome recently in the hope that it would perform
better than Firefox, which is showing its age, but we’ve been having a troubled
relationship, Chrome and I. The browser seems to go “on strike” at random times,
and not necessarily when you would expect, either, like when trying to load a
Flash movie or some other multimedia material.
It seems to be happen even
when I am trying to scroll down on sites that have mostly text and photos. No
doubt some background processing is going on. But what? Is Chrome “phoning
home,” wherever that might be. It might be doing that – or it might be
downloading and installing information behind the scenes to keep you up to date.
Depends on whom you believe. But either way, those Chrome “on strike” moments
are taking way too long – long enough that I am again looking at other browser
Your mileage may vary with Chrome. It’s entirely possible that
the glitches are localized to my computer. But one Google product that neither
I, nor many others, are happy with is Google Maps. What could be a great product
and a real boon to humanity has proved itself clueless too many times,
especially when you really need it.
Case in point: I recently went to an
event in the South, in an area I wasn’t familiar with. Of course I wanted to
consult with a map, but instead I decided to let Google do the work and put in
the relevant information (at maps.google.com). It returned directions that
seemed reasonable enough in terms of time, and of course, since I didn’t know
the area well, the directions it gave on what to do when I got off the highway
made perfect sense.
But not when I followed the directions: Once in the
area, I was instructed by the Google Maps directions to turn down a specific
side road, with my destination said to be several kilometers down the
Alas, it was not, and after asking a pedestrian for help on
extricating ourselves from this map mess, I was told to either go back the way I
came, or take a chance on a dirt road that “probably” would have gotten me to
where I had to go.
It turned out that I wasn’t the only person at this
event who was burned by Google Maps. When I tried it the following week for
another trip and compared Google Maps directions to directions I already knew, I
was shocked to see that, had I followed the Google method, I would have been led
through a very congested urban thoroughfare that probably would have set me back
20 minutes or more.
Is it because Google Maps doesn’t know Israeli roads
well? No, there are plenty of complaints about the directions it gives in many
other places, including in the US.
Note that I am not talking here about
the “funny” directions Google Maps gives, like kayaking from California to get
to Hawaii, or taking a jet ski to go from Japan to Shanghai. And I’m not even
talking about the obvious “common sense” problems many people seem to
Just like with Chrome, Google Maps is a great idea – but it’s
sometimes poor execution makes it unreliable.
You could say it’s a case
of “you get what you pay for” – since Google doesn’t charge for these
applications, they don’t need to worry about quality control so much. If you
want accurate on-the-go directions, shell out for a dedicated GPS
But those Google tools aren’t free; we’re paying for them with
valuable data, which Google is using to rake in money. We users are faithfully
fulfilling our end of the bargain, supplying Google with the raw material it
needs to make money. Shouldn’t we expect Google to uphold its end of the