Tuesday, June 24, 2014


All of the websites I visit are being redesigned to make them utterly useless.

Oh, that’s not what they tell you when you visit.  You go to the site, expecting to see the same comforting interface that was there as little as an hour earlier, but instead you are greeted with a welcome screen that blocks your way and promises new features, ease of access, eye-pleasing graphics, greater success with the gender of your choice, wealth beyond measure, calorie-free chocolate, and possibly dancing lessons.  When you finally manage to make that screen go away, nothing is where it used to be.

Hell, half of what you’re looking for isn’t there at all. 

What is there is a confusing mix of all of the features that you never wanted and didn’t ask for, plus a startling grab bag of new ways for the web site to invade your privacy unless you follow the link (carefully hidden) to the steps (multiple pages long) that will let you opt out until the next time you visit, at which point you will be automatically opted in unless you repeat the process.  Using the web site at any point without going through that process constitutes permanent and irrevocable acceptance of the site’s right to cash your paycheck, sleep on your bed, change your pets' food, rearrange your furniture, edit your movie collection, and monitor your every move whether on or off line and don’t even think about trying to hide because now they have drones and you just gave them the right not only to use them but also to arm them with water guns filled with cherry soda, the sickly sweet kind that sticks everywhere and is impossible to wash out.  They also have the right to watch you try to wash it out, so smile pretty for the cameras! 

The right to move or eliminate the opt-out link is implied simply by the fact that the web site exists at all.

When you add all this together, the technical term for it among computer types is “upgrade.” 

Sometimes I am willing to go along with all this.  I figure out how to undo as much of the privacy grab as I can and write off the rest.  I work out which features remain and how to access them.  And I get on with my original plan, which was to drop by the site for a few moments of reading before moving on with my day, such as it was.

But other times the whole thing strikes me as more trouble than it is worth and I delete the bookmark.  It’s been years since I’ve looked at some of the sites that upgraded beyond my tolerance.

I am not sure why there is this compulsive need to optimize things that already work perfectly well, but I have long since resigned myself to the insane whims of designers and engineers – there is no escape other than to throw up your hands and ignore whatever new iteration appears for as long as you can.

Eventually everything on the internet will be upgraded to the point of no return and I will have no choice but to go back to reality and stay there.


Gristle McThornbody said...

I'm not noticing too much in the way of website changes, but my browsing is fairly limited in scope nowadays. I know when I frequented Etsy it drove everyone nuts because they were constantly changing things for the worse. Pinterest occasionally tries new features until enough of us scream and whine about how much we hate it, and they are actually pretty good about listening if enough people grouse.

What is driving me absolutely insane is, in fact, the browsers themselves. Chrome has taken to downloading .dll files to a user's system without asking permission. The only reason I catch the downloads is because Norton informs me each time it happens. I delete the offending files (which are widevinecdmadapter.dll app files for streaming video or something and in my case are essentially just junkware clogging up my drive) and they download them again a few days later. The obvious solution would be to switch browsers, but I don't particularly like IE or Firefox and am too chicken to try any of the others where tech savvy is required.

And about a week ago I received a lovely, reassuring email from Microsoft stating in part that, "As part of our ongoing commitment to respecting your privacy, we won't use your documents, photos or other personal files or what you say in email, chat, video calls or voice mail to target advertising to you." That's awfully big of you! Feel free to keep rooting around though. I don't mind at all! Sigggghhhh.

David said...

This post was inspired by two sites in particular: First, the complete overhaul of Sports Illustrated in the middle of the World Cup (it's been years since I've looked at ESPN's site after one particularly ill-conceived upgrade), and Second, the two upgrades in six months to the course software that they use down at Home Campus and its sister campuses. The first course software change actually gained more than it lost, but the second has been brutal.

I generally stick with Firefox, though sometimes I use Chrome or Safari (I have a Mac at home). I'm not sure what dll files are, though.

Nice email from Microsoft, BTW. It's always comforting to know that the giant for-profit megalith snooping through your stuff has such high standards.