We’ve all experienced it. We find a new piece of software, a new website, or now – a new “app” that we just love. It’s simple, innovative, and easy to use. It does exactly what we want – no more, no less.
Then there is the inevitable upgrade or update. To our surprise we realize that our great piece of software has actually become even better. It does extra stuff that we like and is still pretty simple – nice job, developer! Inevitably though, the cycle repeats itself until that bloated feeling takes over.
Google’s two most successful products are Search and Gmail. Both continue to have more and more features heaped upon them including yesterday’s announcement of Google Instant (likely to be the 2010 equivalent of New Coke). Now this is good for many of us and great for some of us, but for the Users originally attracted to simplicity – it’s bad. Google may soon find it’s user base starting to drop (although the overall amount of use may rise as power users typically exploit the new advantages new features provide).
So why does it happen. A number of factors come into play that eventually turn our beloved piece of software (or website, webapp, phone app, etc.) into bloatware:
Competition: A competitor comes in and the battle of the checklists begins. You’ve seen the advertisements with a list of features and check marks next to each one for one product and only a few check marks for the competitor.
Growth: Companies need to grow or die. One way to grow is to get your existing users to upgrade. To do this, upgrades need to be available.
Squeaky Wheel Customers: A subset of customers keep asking for more – they eventually become the power users
Human Nature: The developers just want to keep developing
Is bloatware all bad – no. While it can be bad for many users who liked the less complicated versions, for power users the additional features can be great. In fact, Google has a ton of ways to refine your search that most people still do not know about.
From a Search advertising perspective, there are definite opportunities:
finding the new products that return us to simpler times.
finding ways to exploit the “bloatware”. As things become more complex the competitive riffraff are weeded out or don’t look beyond the obvious choices.
Finally, the cycle of bloatware often leads to another marketing favorite – is there a “Google Lite” in our future (for a preview check out www.google.com/palm).