Hot Koehls

The more you know, the more you don’t know

This content is a little crusty, having been with me through 3 separate platform changes. Formatting may be rough, and I am slightly less stupid today than when I wrote it.
06 Feb 2009

Rare "Google fail" moment

As a developer, I’m a heavy Firefox user, but Google’s Chrome browser is pretty awesome for day-to-day browsing. Since it syncs with all my cookies and saved passwords from Firefox, I can use the two interchangeably. It starts up and loads pages super fast, and has the cleanest menu I’ve seen yet. I’ve started recommending it to all my non-techie friends, albeit with one caveat: I have to explain the popup blocking behavior. Chrome’s “blocked popup” warning is super-subtle – just a small, light blue rectangle in the lower right corner. Once a popup has been blocked, additional popups alerts don’t cause any additional action, the number of blocks merely ticks up. Worse, if you click the X in the corner of the alert, the box doesn’t come again until your restart the browser. Finally, you may review all the blocked popups by clicking the alert. However the very first option in the list from the bottom (remember that we’re in the lower right corner) is a checkbox to disable popup notification entirely. I wonder how many people click that accidentally and never even notice. If this describes you, Google has a Help Center article describing how to change the setting back. Of the modern browsers, I think Google comes in dead last when it comes to popup blocking. Their blocking logic is fantastic, try getting one to appear from But the performance doesn’t mean a damn thing if the interface implementation sucks. While I hate to admit it, IE set a good standard with the slide-down alert that appears in the margin between site content and the menu, and Firefox followed suit. It’s across the top in highlight yellow. Impossible to miss. Furthermore, the alert only allows direct bypass of popups from the affected site; there’s no way to directly disable all alerts, temporarily or permanently. The reality is that Firefox and IE have unofficially set a default for blocking popups, and now people are used to it. I always appreciate Google’s re-evaluation of the status quo; their ability to question the why and how and then look for better alternatives is really their greatest asset. But they are fighting the tide in this case:

Furthermore, once a default becomes a well-accepted standard, it's an expectation. Other vendors will be peer pressured into at least matching that default. And to truly succeed, they'll have to come up with an even better default. Defaults are how the software industry evolves.
In this case, Google failed to come up with a better default. Admittedly, this is a small step, and Google's track record in such matters speaks for itself. No one's perfect, and hopefully we'll see a more standardized implementation in future versions.

comments powered by Disqus