[Poll results out] Google Chrome experimental features (Tab Groups, Reading List): Is opt-in a better way forward instead of manually disabling?
New updates are being added at the bottom of this story…
Original story (published on March 26, 2021) follows:
Google Chrome browser has been embroiled with controversy recently with a couple of updates that have brought about several ‘major’ changes. These changes may sound pretty great on paper but have turned out to be a cause of annoyance for many users.
We previously highlighted how a server-side update on Chrome for Android completely altered the way tabs worked. Tabs always used to display in a vertical cascading list of cards form that spanned the entire length of the screen.
But following the update, tabs began to appear in a grid layout. The problem with this change was that one-handed usage became slightly more difficult as tabs get aligned to the top of the screen.
Moreover, many simply did not like the way the new tab layout looked or felt, and said that it threatened workflow. As a result, several users took to ranting on the forums asking for the changes to be rolled back.
As if this wasn’t enough, the new Reading List feature introduced with the Chrome v89 update also turned out to be a cause of bother for many desktop users simply because it sat on the bookmarks bar and hence ate up too much space.
Now it is worth mentioning here though that these updates were obviously meant to improve Chrome’s utility. The tabs were structured in that new layout to facilitate Tab Groups to help them keep more organized.
And the Reading List feature was implemented to allow users to save stuff they find worth reading. It also encouraged offline reading by automatically downloading saved pieces for later.
However, as aforementioned, there is a downside to everything which results in user backlash and forces many to keep stuff disabled. This can be done through the Chrome Flags feature.
This little tool on Chrome allows users to customize the state of experimental and newly released features to their liking. Of course, new additions may be a bit rough around the edges and many like to keep them disabled until they get more stable.
But this tool has a little flaw – it is reserved for experimental features only. And experimental features by Google’s definition are the kind that undergo a period of dry testing before being finally rolled out to anyone.
And as soon as they become stable enough, the flags for the feature are done away with resulting in the feature being enforced on everyone. In such a case, the only way to roll back the changes is by downgrading to an older version of Chrome.
But what if Google was sensible enough to not permanently do away with certain beloved features or enforce every feature addition down everyone’s throats? This could be done simply by leaving the Chrome flags for all the features as they are and not playing around with them too much.
Imagine a fully customizable Chrome whose features are up to the users to decide and customize according to their liking. Of course, this would require additional effort on part of Google who would have to continue providing support for legacy features.
But hey, nothing is impossible for a megacorp like Google.
Therefore, we would like to take your valued input on the matter. You can either drop a comment in the section at the end of this article, cast your vote on the Twitter poll below, or do both, as per your convenience.
Should Google Chrome allow users to have full control over experimental as well as stable features (like Reading List, Tab Groups) via Chrome flags?
— PiunikaWeb (@PiunikaWeb) March 26, 2021
As always, the poll results will be out by next week.
Update 1 (March 29)
01:42 pm (IST): You may soon not only be able to hide the Google Chrome Reading list from the bookmarks bar but also move it to the toolbar. The changes are currently under Chrome Canary. Dive into details via this link.
Update 2 (April 03)
10:28 am (IST): The poll results are finally out! As expected, a perfect 100% of the voters agreed that Google Chrome should allow users to have full control over experimental as well as stable features via Chrome Flags.
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