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Google News Readers Flee To Canada Edition

Unhappy with the redesigned Google News, some users in the U.S. who prefer the old design are configuring Google News to display the version intended for Canadians.

Google's recent redesign of Google News continues to generate controversy throughout Google's online help forum.

Seven of the eight topics in the "Popular discussions in Google News" column of the Google News Help page are complaints about the changes or advice about how to work around them. The eighth thread explains Google's announcement of the Google News redesign last week, followed by 360 replies, mostly negative.

Asked to comment on the user reaction, a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail, "While it can take time to adjust to change, we've tested our latest Google News design thoroughly. We'll keep monitoring user feedback so we can continue improving Google News."

There are no plans currently to offer the old layout as an option. "Google launches hundreds of design changes, so it would be impractical to offer multiple versions of each service," Google's spokesperson said.

Last week, Google said that the new Google News design was thoroughly tested and the company expected that its users would really like it.

Some may, perhaps even most, but without statistics provided by Google, it's not possible to assess the extent of the discontent.

However, it's clear that there are hundreds if not thousands of unhappy posts about the new Google News format. A May 27 post by a Google employee asking users to tell the company that they think of the changes has over 940 replies, double the number present last week.

A separate Google News redesign discussion category on the main Google News Help page has 439 discussion threads.

Again, most are negative. And not just negative, but fuming, ALL-CAPS OUTRAGE.

In response to InformationWeek's coverage of the redesign and the ensuring outcry, reader Joachim Blunck pointed out that a number of users have opted to switch to the Canadian version of Google News and explained his objection to the way that Google News has been changed for U.S. readers.

The problem, he wrote, "is not the scraping algorithms and bone-headed personalization, but the presentation. Two tight columns made for an easily and quickly 'skimmable' interface -- but that fights 'engagement time,' the new chic metric. Ironically, the old layout was a decent Web version of a traditional newspaper -- look quick, see a lot. The new way points us more to narrowcasting and elimination of informational dialogue -- shades of the current political climate."

Another InformationWeek reader wrote, Paul Adam wrote, "Despite what Google says, there is in fact less choice (you can no longer choose the order in which headlines are displayed, nor the number of headlines for each of your chosen categories) and the single column layout, compared to the 'old' double column is a pain in the neck. Even Microsoft, which I don't often praise, retained a 'classic' GUI for users who did not want preconceived ideas rammed down their throats; Google is arrogant enough to presuppose that it knows better than I do what my preferences are. After having Google News as the first of my 'news aggregators' bookmark list for six or seven years, I have now moved it to the bottom and deleted|denied Google cookies -- and, four days later, do not miss it from a functional point of view. Nostalgic maybe, good things die hard, but Google would be well reminded that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

Those opting for the Canadian version of Google News may find their fix short-lived: Google is planning to extend the Google News redesign to versions outside the U.S. in a few months.

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