Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Dark Side of Chrome

Yes, I am a Chrome and ChromeOS cheerleader. Maybe even a bit of an evangelist. You hardly ever see me complaining about any aspect of the browser or the OS framework. But all is not well in Chromeland. Here are two complaints -- one minor in immediate effect, but both major in long-term implication:

  1. In the beginning, when you opened a new tab in Chrome, it was beautiful -- you could do anything you wanted in the new tab, but by way of assistance you saw some tiles representing frequently opened sites, and at the bottom drop-down lists of "recently closed tabs" and other things. Marvelous. Worked like a charm. Absolutely, positively nothing whatsoever to complain about. Then Google yanked that format and made the new tab much less useful ... but with just a tiny bit of work, you could revert to the better setup. And apparently lots of people did. So last week, Google made it impossible to do that, forcing all users to move to the much uglier, much less useful new setup. You can partially undo the damage by adding some extensions, but it's just not the same.
  2. Now I'm hearing that the new Chrome beta (which I haven't seen yet -- I'm on the stable build channel, and apparently this is Windows-only at the moment anyway) restricts users to apps available from the Chrome store.
The first item is an annoyance, but points to Google having a penchant for exerting undue control over the user experience.

The second item puts Google in the same league as Apple with its "walled garden" approach of trying to tell users, in very fine-grained detail, what they can and can't do with their machines.

I was kind of amped up for the new Asus Chromebox coming out this month. Now I think I'm going to wait on that, because if things keep going in the direction they appear to be going, I'll be abandoning Chrome. And while I can certainly root my Chromebox and Chromebook and turn them into (fairly light) Linux boxes, my next piece of hardware won't be one of those kinds of units.

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