I am thinking seriously about leaving GMail, despite how the email service itself has been extremely valuable to me. This is because of the following:
1) Irritating interface changes
GMail now has two interfaces. There is a maddening ‘modern’ interface that is full of elements that change shapes and sizes annoyingly. Anywhere you might enter text is likely to annoy you with pop-up ‘autocomplete’ suggestions and the chat system built into GMail has been rendered too annoying to use by integrating it into a left sidebar where elements change shape and size for no good reason.
The ‘Invite a friend’ element in the left toolbar breaks all the rules of good design. It’s a button that serves the purposes of Google, not the user. It is prominently placed even though it is never used. Worst of all, it moves and changes shape when you put the cursor near it. I wish I had some kind of supernatural geekish power to blast it out of existence, and yet it is always there annoying me, taking up space, and being a source of distraction.
I want an interface where things stay still! And where I am not being constantly distracted from the thinking I am trying to do.
There is still a ‘basic HTML’ interface, but some of its behaviours are even more annoying. It will still autocomplete email addresses, for instance, but it doesn’t use my whole contact list. It seems to be a random subset of the much-lesser-used contacts within that list. It is also very awkward to file emails into labels using the basic interface, and to deal with archiving messages.
2) Pimping Google+
I hate Google+ and I will never join. Despite that, Google is constantly trying to force me to join or trick me into joining. In the top left corner of both the GMail web interface and the mobile interface there is always a link to join Google+. I frequently click it accidentally, and that simple accidental act has sometimes caused Google to actually create a Google+ account for me, which I then had to delete.
I wish there was a ‘Never tell me about Google+ again’ button somewhere within Google’s settings. I could click it once and stop being annoyed several times a day by solicitations from the unwanted service.
3) I trust Google less and less with my data
I have written before about how sensitive some of the data held by Google is. “Don’t be evil” is a basic standard they need to meet – not a lofty goal for which they should be praised.
It’s not especially clear to me that Google is living up to its own standards. Even if they are, telecommunications law in Canada and the United States seems to have developed rather perversely in recent years, with governments submitting illegal requests to perform unwarranted searches on personal information and large telecommunication companies complying in secret.
Google probably isn’t unusual in terms of the degree to which it complies with such requests, but it is unusual in terms of the vastness of the dataset they have on users. Potentially, this includes everything from their physical location history (Google Latitude) to their web search history to every email they have sent or received since joining GMail.
Using Google’s services involves putting a lot of sensitive eggs into a basket that may not be especially well protected.