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10 Zen Monkeys describes the rebellion against Google that broke out last Thursday, when the company unexpectedly imposed an unpopular new iGoogle homepage design without giving its users the ability to revert to their old home pages. The responses have ranged from posting the phone numbers of iGoogle officials online to circulating information about unsanctioned workarounds. The rhetoric around the revolt has been apocalyptic:

Comscore's January figures suggest Google has more than a quarter of all personalized home page users, and one iGoogle user says it's corrupted Google's philosophy. "Notice that the more powerful Google becomes, the more they take away our choices….once they reached the status of monopolistic stardom they suddenly fling off the sheep's clothing and out comes the wolf."

"Welcome to the future of cloud computing," warns a commenter on Slashdot. "This is what it means to give up control of your software for the convenience of a net-based service."

We don't know how this will end, but I suspect Google will yield. That's the course such conflicts tend to take online, where "monopolistic stardom" is fleeting and adapt-or-die is the rule. (I made that argument in great detail in an only partially out-of-date article reason published back in 2000.)

If the stakes seem trivial to you, remember this: The skills honed in the Google Rebellion of '08 might prove useful in a weightier context down the road. Last weekend I had an interesting conversation with a couple of people who had been involved in Argentina's anarchistic revolution of 2001. "When the protestors fought the police," one of them told me, "the kids knew just what to do. They'd learned it fighting the police at football games and rock concerts."

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  1. First Post!

  2. troll,

    Jesse made a fine set of observations. Your sniping is totally uncalled for.

  3. Boo fucking hoo. How is this different from New Coke or any other product redesign? People that didn’t like New Coke didn’t have the option of buying the old recipe. Sometimes people like it, sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, sometimes they can convince the company to change it back. Just because it happens online instead of in a supermarket doesn’t mean it’s a new concept.

  4. i observed your observation that you post was indeed the first post. the stakes of first posting seem trivial to me. commenters on slashdot always rant and rave about some fearful end of freedom on teh high seas of teh internets. again trivial.

    Jesse, my apologies. i am for fighting the police at football games and rock concerts, and how

  5. What really mystifies me about this is that several months ago, Google switched a sample set of users over to this new home page scheme in an ‘experiment’ to get feedback on it. (No one was allowed to opt out of the ‘experiment’ because Google claimed it would invalidate their control group). The response from the experimental group (I was part of it) was overwhelmingly negative. The feedback groups contained nothing but detailed reasons why the new design sucked and threats to move to Yahoo. I don’t remember seeing even one positive comment.
    I can’t imagine why they went forward with this change.

  6. Because fuck you, that’s why.

  7. Mo: What’s different is the rapidity of communication and organization, the sometimes harsh tactics, and the attempts to find workarounds, all of which are facilitated by the Internet.

  8. “Welcome to the future of cloud computing,”

    “Apocalyptic” indeed. I thought iGoogle is just a bunch of widgets with feeds and weather and stuff. WTF does that have to do with “cloud” computing?

  9. Rhywun, Chrome is the first step in cloud computing, and if Google will fuck people with iGoogle, might it not fuck people with Chrome and later iterations of cloud computing?

  10. might it not fuck people with Chrome and later iterations of cloud computing?

    Meh, whatever. I have no intention of using Chrome or giving my documents to Google. It is my firm belief that “cloud” computing is overblown flapdoodle that will remain a niche product at best. Visions of everyone using “dumb terminals” (again) just make me laugh.

  11. Use Scroogle (scroogle.org). It anonymizes Google searches.

  12. I intend to keep my applications and my data on my system until the robots come and take me and my PC away.

    Well, actually, I suppose I do use some applications that are on-line, but I don’t like the idea of losing access to, say, a word processor because the network is down.

  13. I was also taken by surprise when my home page (iGoogle) looked suddenly different and strange. How annoying, the menu tab on the left, what a waste of real estate. My disappointment in the new look threatened to rise to actionable anger, until I realized I wasn’t 18 or pathetic enough to care about the layout of a web page. Under Obama the government will dictate your home page anyway, so let’s enjoy what little freedom we have and switch to My Yahoo if it’s so bothersome.

  14. FWIW, I can’t stand portals. I want to see my full email page, not some shrunken excerpt. Same with feeds. Same with news. That’s why I use Permatabs and FaviconizeTabs in Firefox.

  15. I like the new iGoogle page. Apart from more functionality to the mail preview pane, I haven’t noticed much of a practical difference.

  16. Comscore’s January figures suggest Google has more than a quarter of all personalized home page users, and one iGoogle user says it’s corrupted Google’s philosophy. “Notice that the more powerful Google becomes, the more they take away our choices….once they reached the status of monopolistic stardom they suddenly fling off the sheep’s clothing and out comes the wolf.”

    Apparently this guy wasn’t around years ago when Google bought the once-open and trivially accessible Usenet archive from DejaNews and placed it behind their virtually unusable — and in service of a completely different paradigm — Google Groups interface.

    Google has been doing yes evil for some time…

  17. the once-open and trivially accessible Usenet archive from DejaNews and placed it behind their virtually unusable — and in service of a completely different paradigm — Google Groups interface.

    Hear, hear. It’s amazing how broken that has become. I have to use it every day and it’s such a chore.

  18. People that didn’t like New Coke didn’t have the option of buying the old recipe.

    Not at first, anyway. For good or bad, we all get what we deserve, eventually.
    I use google to search for pictures of naked women.
    Is there some other feature that I’ve overlooked?

  19. It’s amazing how broken that has become.

    I recall hopping from country to country trying to keep ahead of the virus that was the new Google Groups. groups.google.az was the last to fall.

    Ah, memories of the internet that was…

  20. I recall hopping from country to country

    Ha ha, me too. The biggest FAIL for me is the hoops you have to jump through in order to search multiple groups with a wildcard, something that was trivially easy back in the day.

    Another sign that they’re becoming more like Microsoft is that complaints about this and other defects are either ignored, or at best, pushed off to a “future version”.

    I know first-hand how that happens. I work in IT for a company that has grown from 60 to over 600 employees in the last decade. Requests that I was happy to fill on my own now follow a circuitous path through the bureaucracy. And if they don’t get filled any more, I don’t give a damn. I’m sure it’s much the same at Google.

  21. rhywun,

    Are you happy or sad that the government gave you all of those new employees? 😉

  22. Are you happy or sad that the government gave you all of those new employees? 😉

    Ha–I work for a private company. The bureaucracy is every bit as twisted as I’m sure it is in the govt.

  23. Er, that was a joke about everything coming from the government. Perhaps too subtle.

  24. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing cloud computing is good for is backing up stuff on my hard drive. If anything ever happens to cause the centralized infrastructure of servers to collapse, the material saved on people’s hard drives will be gold. It will still be there to be copied and distributed through more modest local BB systems, or even through direct computer-to-computer communication over the phone lines.

  25. Mo: What’s different is the rapidity of communication and organization, the sometimes harsh tactics, and the attempts to find workarounds, all of which are facilitated by the Internet.

    Yeah, but it’s an old story with new technology. My annoyance was due to this sounding similar to pronouncements by Boomers that they were the first to do everything. The pioneers of the internet often think that they’re doing the same thing, when in fact it’s the same old stuff, done faster with technology (updated version of phone trees).

  26. If anything ever happens to cause the centralized infrastructure of servers to collapse, the material saved on people’s hard drives will be gold. It will still be there to be copied and distributed through more modest local BB systems, or even through direct computer-to-computer communication over the phone lines.

    This sounds like gold bugs saying that if the global economy collapses, you want to have your money in gold. If the central internet infrastructure collapses, the stuff on people’s hard drives is probably somewhere around number 7,000 of things to be worried about.

  27. I use Google for most online searches, but never bothered making a personalized homepage. I was rather annoyed (and more than a little creeped out) a couple months back when I discovered they’d taken it upon themselves to “personalize” my searches: a few months ago I wrote a blog post about a particular story, and then a couple weeks later did a search for some of the names in the story to see if there were any updates. The very first listing was my own (extremely obscure) blog post, and the other front-page listings were pages I’d already read about the story.

    So Google not only thinks I want it to “personalize” my searches, but also thinks I’m a solipsist whose primary interest in a story is what I myself already wrote about it, followed by stories I already read about it.

    I have no idea what point, if any, I am trying to make with this. Just some harmless venting on a gray and gloomy day.

    Oh, and Google can kiss my non-solipsistic white ass.

  28. JENNIFER! BEWARE THE DRINK, COFFEE! IT WILL SHRINK YOUR AMPLE BOSOM!

  29. Let it. I’ve got enough to spare.

  30. NO, AMERICA NEEDS AS MUCH BOUNCY, BOUNCY AS IT CAN GET AT THIS TIME! ONLY POSITIVE GROWTH IS ALLOWED!

    WOMEN OF AMERICA! STOP DRINKING COFFEE AND START DRINKING. . .ANTI-COFFEE!

  31. Urkobold, my love, if I start getting “breast” responses the next time I Google the word “coffee,” I will kick your ass.

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