Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Google Chrome - The price of simplicity
I was reading in the online version of a German newspaper an article about Google Chrome, the new internet browser from Google to rival Microsoft's Internet Explorer (or rather put Firefox out of business). So I click on the link given there, download and install Google Chrome, and of course due to the German link Google Chrome installs itself in German. I don't want German, I want English. I uninstall Google Chrome, surf to the English Google Chrome site, download and install Google Chrome again. Hooray! Now I got it in English. I surf to my Google personalized homepage, and find that this is now in German. What the heck! Check the same page out in IE7, where it is still in English. Fiddle with all Google Chrome and Google personalized settings for 15 minutes, but can't manage to get my Google personalized homepage back to English. I can set Google to have English as preferred language for search results, but that doesn't affect the personalized homepage. And because the page is in German now, the Google news gadgets now only give me German news instead of international news. It's frustrating! So I'm back to Internet Explorer.
Google Chrome is fast and simple, having a lot less buttons and setting than Internet Explorer. Many people will like that. But my personal experience taught me that there is a price to pay for that simplicity: The internet didn't suddenly get less complicated by switching browsers; Google Chrome just appears simpler by making educated guesses about what you might want. If it gets those guesses right, everything is fine. If it gets those guesses wrong, you're in deep shit trouble, because now everything is so well hidden under the hood that even simple settings like your preferred language become invisible. If you want any settings that are not standard, you're out of luck, and might need to resort to fiddling with a registry editor to get things like you want them.
Microsoft has often been accused of being an evil empire. But at the moment I'm not so sure if Google isn't about to become the next evil empire, and worse than Microsoft. I constantly run into problems with Google applications trying to impose their will on me, or not working. Language settings are a big problem, sometimes I get everything in Dutch, just because I live the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. I don't even speak Dutch! Why can't Google see that I installed an English version of Windows XP and clearly indicated there that I want everything in English? Why does Google have to try to be more clever than my settings, and make guesses at what language I want to have my pages in based on my IP address? What if I took a trip to China? And programming Google gadgets in a way that they crash Internet Explorer is either sloppy work or a low blow to get people to switch to Google Chrome.