Many Companies Do Not Seem To Care Anymore

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 12, 2010
Updated • Dec 10, 2012

Would you prefer Google how it was five years ago, or do you like the current version better? What about Firefox 4? Do you like the changes that the Mozilla team has introduced? This are just two of the examples of companies that have introduced major changes to their products.

Lets take a closer look first. Google has redesigned their direct up to the point search engine. The major theme of those changes were additions to the search pages, be it a sidebar with additional search options, instant search results, instant previews, more advertisements and mashups with other Google services like image, news and video search.

The Mozilla team is about to change some fundamental Firefox designs, from moving the link hover information to the address bar to the tab management feature Panorama and tabs on top.

What do most of these changes have in common? The companies do not offer options to disable or undo them. In the case of Firefox, most of the changes can be undone with extensions. Some, like Panorama on the other hand cannot be disabled at all.

The same is true for Google's changes. Can you turn off Instant Previews? No you cannot, unless you install a third party solution or use one of the other workarounds. Can you remove the sidebar or the inclusion of mashups in the search results? No you cannot do that in the options, you once again need to rely on third party workarounds to do that.

Don't get me wrong. Every company has the right to modify their products the way they want. But some changes alienate part of their user base to the point were some of the disgruntled ones switch to other products.

Would it be that hard to offer options to disable new features? Why is there no option to disable Instant Previews or Panorama? Is it really that complicated to add that option to the application? And even if it would be, would not the benefits of offering users an option outweigh that?

Google and Mozilla are just two companies that seem to have lost some of their mojo in the last years.

What is your take on this? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. Mario said on November 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    It’s the same problem with Forecastfox for Firefox. The new version v2.* is really crappy and the developer don’t understand the needs of the users.

  2. Turko said on November 13, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Frankly, you see this behavior EVERYWHERE and it’s not new, they’re just more aggressive these days . I just bought an Android phone, my first smartphone, and was appalled by the lack of control I was given. I can’t even uninstall the preloaded demo-ware without rooting it. It feels like I’m leasing it rather than OWNING it.

    IMO, it’s about 2 things, control and brand recognition. In that order.

  3. kalmly said on November 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Change is the rage, so companies, these two especially, seem to be making changes for the sake of, well, change. I’m making changes too. Changes to my default browser. Changes to my default search engine.

    @Jaimy Change does not = Improvement – even when you call it “overhaul”. Thank you for the links to send feedback. I didn’t know it was possible :)

  4. Anon said on November 12, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I just block search suggestions, instant search, and instant previews with adblock. Just gotta find the right scripts to block! ;)

    As for the new google images, you can get the old view back by adding “&sout=1” to the address. I have a greasemonkey script I wrote that tweaks google images in various ways, check for it and if its not there, add it.

  5. Yoav said on November 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I’m sure Google can easily offer several versions of its search engine. There is no technical reason to limit users to whatever new gimmick they decide to implement.
    With Firefox it may be technically difficult to give the rollback option for every feature, but I agree that forcing the user to change habits that have been formed throughout many years is extremely annoying.

  6. nixdagibts said on November 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Damn right, man.

  7. Jaimy said on November 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I don’t know about all of this. Yes, one does not like to see change in a product that they love, but this is technology. In the past few versions of Windows, there have been massive overhauls. The same thing has applied to the phone market.

    You ask for companies to put out the best that they can, so they make improvements. Not everyone is going to like the new version, but do you honestly think that they put forth these changes without user input?

    Now, I know that the article is more referring to the option of rolling back changes, but the changes were implemented for a reason. With Windows, you do not HAVE to upgrade to a newer operating system. You can actually still be running win95 if you really want to, but you probably do not. Why? Even if you loved the interface and some aspects of it, upgrades were put into the new version in order to provide security, better usability, and better compatibility with other entities on the market.

    Mozilla has done the same thing with Firefox. You do not have to install the upgraded version. If you retain the old version that is your preference. But in doing so are making the choice to forgo the newly implemented options, compatibility, and further security.

    Google is a slightly different story though. It is a public interface with less stabilizability without the use of 3rd party scripts. Should google make a classic search site available for users who do not require all of the extras, nor want them, possibly. I am not a coder by trade, but a simple interface change that hooks into their existing search engine should be easy enough to implement if there are enough public requests for it.

    Both Mozilla and Google do take into account user feedback and have publicly available forums and websites for such.

    If you have an issue or suggestion for something of this nature, tell them about it. Voice your opinion. Try to reach out to others who share your opinion and point them in the right direction. If the companies do not know what YOU, the user, want, then they will continue with the feedback that they do receive.

    Some Feedback Options



    Yes, I’m a fan of both Google and Firefox. If we want the freely available products that we use to be user friendly, then be a responsible user and do your part to guide them in the right direction.

  8. geminorum said on November 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    what is really bug me is that they don’t care about the differences, I mean in a general scale. like if your’re elite, you can work for us, but it’s much better that the others act all the same. you’re not allowed to be simple, ordinary, naive but different.

  9. Robin said on November 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t entirely agree. Both Firefox and Google previously enjoyed a unique space – they were, at least in some respects, comfortable market leaders. Google had simply the best search engine, hands down, and Firefox had, well, not the *most* standard compliant browser, but who used Opera anyway? They at least enjoyed a steadily increasing market-share, making brand-awareness their main focus, rather than functionality.

    So both companies had breathing room to experiment at their own pace, being relatively unchallenged on the features they provided. Now that’s changed. Google’s search engine is actually challenged by Bing, and Firefox has been, in my opinion, overtaken by the Webkit browsers (Chrome and Safari). So both are now playing in competitive markets. They are no longer the coolest kid on their respective blocks, but just one of competing “coolest kid”s. Naturally this brings with it a certain insecurity, and a certain try-hard-ness. But this is no bad thing. Both browsers are now forced to innovate at a higher rate, moving ever faster towards that nirvana of the perfect technological solution.

    Yes, there needs to be a trade-off between keeping pace and not alienating people, and both are learning where to draw this line, but they’re not doing too bad a job. I personally feel well able to still use Google Search (instant previews can’t be turned off, but they can just be not enabled) and similarly, just don’t use panorama. And is tabs on top really such a difficult change to grasp?

    1. Martin said on November 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Robin I’m not opposed to changes, What I do not like is the inability to disable or edit those changes. Take the url that is displayed on link hovers for instance. Every browser under the sun displays the information in the top left corner. Mozilla has decided to move it to the address bar with all the drawbacks this has. The change itself is fine and maybe it is the better place for the information (for me personally it is not, especially since I would have to look up in Firefox and down in all other browsers to see the link destination).But it is fine, let them move it there, but please give users a chance to undo the change. What if I do not want the information in the address bar?

      What if I do not want to use Panorama? In the beginning it was really bugged and I accidentally activated the feature somehow. The developers have done a fine job at fixing those bugs though as I have not triggered Panorama for some time now. Still, why not give users an option to disable the feature to avoid all those problems in first place?

      Tabs on tops is a bad example, as the devs are providing an option to undo the change. The same is true for the single Menu button. Why are not they offering this for everything?

      About Instant Previews: If you have read the comments in the How to disable instant previews guide you may have noticed that several users are highly annoyed by the feature, stating that it activates for them with every click on the search results page, not just with clicks on the spyglass.

  10. Alan said on November 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    This is something I’ve noticed happening for a long time, and if I had a blog, I would have posted an article about this years ago. It really is incredibly frustrating.

    For example, when Panorama (then Tab Candy) was introduced into Firefox, the keyboard shortcut was Ctrl+Space. After 4.0b6 (I think), they decided that some IME users would run into problems, so switched the shortcut to Ctrl-e, which happens to be inefficient for me (since I use colemak, and e is on the right side of the keyboard)
    Can I change the shortcut? As a user, no. As a programmer, yes. However, that would require me to make and maintain a patch, and then I’d have to compile Firefox on every new release, which would take a while.

    Opera has had configurable keyboard shortcuts for years, but Firefox assumes that I am a US QWERTY user who might use an IME, which is somewhat ironic and most US QWERTY users probably won’t require an IME for text input.

    1. Sandeep said on November 13, 2010 at 9:54 am

      “Can I change the shortcut? As a user, no.”

      Of course you can, this if Firefox you’re talking.

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