Google’s Gmail has been largely neglected in recent years. The company has kept the email service’s look and style changes to a bare minimum, sticking with a design that has worked well but not thrilled.
But now, Google has announced a redesigned web version of Gmail is being released and is due out in “coming weeks”
I like things kept to a bare minimum. I recently bought a new mobile phone. I bought the simplest and cheapest I possibly could. And I still don’t know how to work it. I even had to take it back to the shop just to find out how to turn it on.
I think that if I had to design a phone, it would be a big thing that had a wide base, and the handset would sit draped over the top of it, and I’d arrange the numbers (no letters) in a circular, rotating dial on the front, not as buttons but as finger-sized holes that could be used to turn the dial, and with some sort of spring under the dial to return the dial to its resting position, and a ratchet which would make little clicking sounds (e.g. 6 clicks for the number 6) as it returned.
Anyway the new fully-feature Gmail will be something I won’t know how to use. And nobody will ever get an email from me again.
It’ll be the same with WordPress. I’ve been using their classic editor for years, and know my way round it. But they’re pushing a new one, which they say is “improved” but is actually a lot worse than their classic editor. But the new editor is now the default editor, and the only way to access the classic editor is to get under the hood using multiple clicks. And one day they’ll probably close that loophole too.
I think it’s part of thee dumbing-down process. The new editor even made burbling sounds when it started up. I suppose that made it child-friendly or something.
Another piece of dumbing-down is the deprecation of Java Applets. They were the reason I got interest in the internet in the first place. You could embed a computer program in a piece of text on a web page, and set it running in your browser. Idle Theory was full of applets like that.
But no more. They came to be regarded as a security risk, because they could be malicious. Health & Safety has now infected computers. And the applets have been exiled to the outdoors. You can only run them in the privacy of your own computer in your own home. None of my Idle Theory applets work online any more. And all the applet code has usually been deleted as well.
So how do you publish a computer program on the web? I don’t know. A very powerful feature of the internet vanished almost as soon as it had appeared.
When the first microcomputers appeared in the late 1970s, you could start writing programs straight away, usually in some variant of Basic. You were positively encouraged to write them, usually because there weren’t any applications that ran on them, so you had to write your own. Now the applications and games and operating systems have taken over completely, and the program compilers and editors have been relegated to a back room. It’s now a bit of an uphill struggle to write a program on a computer. I use NetBeans IDE to write in Java. IDE means Integrated Development Environment, and that means that it’s very difficult to write anything at all. When I first got Netbeans it took me about a week to get a “Hello World” program running.
It seems to be a law that all computer applications or operating systems must always get bigger and more complicated and sport ever more features. Eventually, as far as I can see, they get so complicated that nobody knows how to use them. Does anyone still use Word or WordPerfect?
Twitter started out with a restriction of about 160 characters on a tweet. But I noticed that recently they doubled it to 320 or something. So the rot has set in there too. Soon you’ll probably be able to write books using Twitter, with page numbers and indexes.
I think that if my blog ever falls silent, it won’t be because I’ve been censored. It’ll be because it’s just got too difficult to write anything or publish anything. And only “experts” will be able to write or publish anything. They don’t want “content providers”. They want to provide all the content themselves. You’re supposed to just lap it up.
And this is where I came in.