Top 14 Google Annoyances

Google is undoubtedly the Web's best resource for getting stuff done, but let's face it, it's not perfect.

A few weeks ago, my Gmail account was going crazy. My inbox appeared to be locked in a frozen state of "Still Working..." Then a Google search went haywire, thanks to a combination of a typo (my bad) and Google's auto-complete feature, coupled with Google Instant Search.

Sometimes I just want to kill Google dead. Here are my top pet peeves about Google, starting with Gmail.

Gmail Is Buggy

Almost everyone I know who has Gmail has complained about its unexplainable slowness. Gmail has been out of beta for two years now--following five years of beta status. Shouldn't Google have all the Gmail kinks ironed out by now?

I wonder, is there a Gmail Bermuda Triangle where e-mail gets lost? I frequently hear people complain of delays between the time e-mail is sent and when it arrives. Delays can be hours and sometimes up to a day. Occasionally, messages fail to show up at all.

Google does offer troubleshooting on delayed e-mails. But even after carefully reviewing Google's Q&As on the topic, it's still a mystery why Gmail sent to another Gmail user is delayed.

Other Gmail curiosities are the times the Gmail interface is grayed out for some unknown reason and file attachments are mysteriously renamed. According to Google, Gmail will rename your attachments to things as obtuse as "noname" if the file is spelled with nonstandard ASCII characters. Mystery solved!

Gmail Conversation View

Gmail's conversation view is nice...until you have 50-plus messages from different people in a single thread. When this happens, finding the one message you need is nearly impossible. PCWorld's Liane Cassavoy points out that Gmail's conversation view is akin to sweeping everything off of your desk and into a drawer--it makes your desktop (Inbox) look pretty, but your drawer (conversation) is still a huge mess.

Note: Yes, you can turn Conversation View off. See Liane's "Why I Hate Gmail's Conversation View ."

Gmail Viewing Limits

How come, when you search Gmail for something, you can view only 20 messages at a time? My inbox is set to let me view 100 messages at a time, but internal search results only appear in groups of 20 per page. Needless to say, this can be annoying if I'm trying to find that e-mail about the Las Vegas hotel I stayed in 10 months ago.

While I'm on the topic of message viewing limits, why does Gmail limit the inbox view to 100 messages at a time (you can choose 25, 50, or 100 at a time, but nothing higher)? Why not 150, or 200, or even 250?

Are You Sure You Want to Send That Without a Subject?

YES, GOOGLE, I'M SURE. I never use subject lines, much to the chagrin of my friends and family. Google appears to be on the side of my friends and family, because every time I try to send a subject-less e-mail it pops up an annoying notification: "Send message without a subject?" As far as I'm aware, there is no way to disable this.

Relevant Ads...in My Mail

Look, I'm all for relevant advertising. If I'm going to see ads anyway, why wouldn't I want to see ads that are relevant to me? But targeted advertising...in my Inbox? I know, I know; Google isn't reading my e-mail, and what is really happening is that some mindless Google machine is pairing keywords with ads. But ads based on private missives magnifies that icky lack-of-online-privacy feeling. Please, Google, keep out.

Instant Search Is On by Default

You can turn Google Instant Search off, but the default setting is that it's on. Does anyone really want to be interrupted with suggestions every time they type a letter into the search box? If people didn't have a pretty good idea of what they were looking for, they probably wouldn't be articulating it into a search box in the first place. Sure, some people like Instant Search...but my guess is that most people do not.

Can't Backspace Backward

Another Instant Search annoyance: If it's turned on, you can no longer go back one page by hitting the backspace key. Instead, when you hit the backspace key, you delete a letter--and you get a whole new Instant Search result.

Is it History or Is It Auto-Complete?

Google seems to use your personal search history and its general auto-complete function interchangeably. For example, how do I know if everyone is searching for my name, or if I'm just searching for my name every single day?

No Punctuation or Caps in Search

Google search is limited--it can't search for punctuation, nor can it search for terms using capital letters. Most searches don't require these parameters, so I don't think Google should default to searching by punctuation or capitalization. But it would be nice if there was an option for such searching. After all, how else are you going to find out about the band called !!!, or how to polish Polish floors?

Android 3.0's Gtalk

For some reason, my Android phone loves to sign me into Gtalk at random times. I end up getting signed in at 6 a.m., and then my editors wonder why I'm not answering their Gtalk messages at 10 a.m. (the answer--I'm asleep). I've taken to setting my Gtalk status to "Busy" before I go to bed, so if I get randomly signed in, people know I am busy...sleeping.

Google Buzz and Privacy

Let Google Buzz represent all Google privacy snafus--from data collection to Street View issues. I understand that Google is primarily a search engine, and search engines mainly collect data. However, Google's cavalier attitude toward user privacy--which was demonstrated by the whole Google Buzz fiasco--is just a little bothersome.

Japanese Is Not Chinese!

Japanese is not Chinese! (Click for full-size image.)
When I tell people I'm from Tokyo, a lot of them ask where that is in China. This is annoying, but not nearly as annoying as Google Chrome displaying Japanese characters as Chinese characters. Sure, the characters are almost the same...but they're not the same. Because Tokyo is not a city in China.

Thanks to Sara Doi for the screenshots at left.

Forced Linking YouTube Account with Gmail

I am not a fan of the idea of a "single sign-in" to anything. After all, I want to maintain a few separate identities. To people who think this is fraud, just think of it this way: You (probably) don't take your grandmother to nightclubs, and you may even tell her you're a sweet little angel who doesn't frequent such bastions of sin. But because Google owns YouTube, it requires you link a Gmail account to your existing YouTube account.

Either Google needs to let me maintain separate accounts or Google Labs needs to come up with a "Damn it, my mom is on Facebook" filter for Google accounts.

SRSLY, We're Not Evil

Oh, really, Google? Here I was, just minding my own business, not even thinking about the state of your morality, and you run up and shove this whole "Don't Be Evil" motto in my face. That definitely reassures me that you are, in fact, not evil. It's kind of like how I used to tell my mom, "I didn't eat the last cookie!"

Face it Google, you may not be evil, but you can be very creepy--which by the laws of association is close to evil. I don't suggest that Google change its corporate motto. But I do suggest that Google rate its services on a sliding scale. How about from Benign to Getting Pretty Darn Close to Being Evil as a compromise?

I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

I Don't Hate Google

Don't get me wrong, Google has some great services with some great features, and I would probably be lost without it. But it's far from perfect.

What annoys you about Google? Add your comments below.

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