Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Jun 2016 21:53 UTC
Android

Speaking of software sucks, take a look at this screenshot of Chrome for Android. Do you notice something out of the ordinary? While you look, let me give you a little history.

Way back when Android Lollipop was released, Google introduced a feature called "merge tabs and apps" and enabled it by default for all Lollipop users. Basically, what it did was turn individual Chrome tabs into application windows in Android's application switcher. If you have an understanding of how Android works, this makes perfect sense; this turns tabs into full citizens of the Android application and intents workflow.

Starting with - I think? - Android Marshmallow, Google turned the feature off, but kept it as an option in Google Chrome, so that those of us that liked it could turn it back on. Obviously, this was the first thing I always turned on when setting up any new Android device; it just makes sense from an Android perspective. It smooths out the workflow, and makes sure that tab management becomes a thing of the past; they are discarded just like other Android applications.

Sadly, starting with Chrome 51, released a few weeks ago, the Android or Chrome or whatever team decided to remove the option altogether. The release notes stated:

When Android Lollipop was released last year, we moved Chrome tabs to live alongside apps in Android’s Overview app switcher. Our goal was to make it easier for you to switch between your open apps and websites. However, we heard from many of you that you could not find the tabs you created. This was especially difficult on phones that do not have a dedicated Overview button. While considering how to make Chrome work better for everyone, we brought the tab switcher back into Chrome so you can find your Chrome tabs in a single place. Look for a new way to manage your open tabs in coming releases.

This single change has thoroughly ruined the way I use my phone. I now have upwards of 60 - and growing - "open" tabs, because the Chrome team wants me to manually keep track of and close every individual tab that gets opened while using Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other applications. I now have to keep track of not only running applications in the switcher, but also open tabs in the tab switcher, the latter of which can only be opened with a button in Chrome all the way at the top of my ginormous Nexus 6P display. The tab switcher itself, meanwhile, is a finicky clusterfuck of imprecise swipes and physics nonsense, making it all incredibly frustrating to use.

Update: this paragraph was added later as clarification. In addition, if you tapped on a link in, say, Fenix (Twitter) and read the website in the tab and then pressed back, said tab was automatically closed. This automatic closing of tabs with the back button does not happen with the inferior new method, hence the asinine clutter build-up.

Trying to switch to a specific tab I may have opened earlier in the day is an exercise in frustration now, since instead of just opening the application switcher and finding it a few swipes up (I don't use many applications), I now have to first find Chrome or launch it from my homescreen, find the tab switcher button all the way at the top, count to ten as I try to use the asinine tab switcher, and then hope I can find it somewhere among the more than 60 - and growing - "open" tabs and UI input lag caused by having to render all these tabs in that weird 3D space.

As someone who keeps track of world news, things like UEFA Euro 2016, technology news, and so on, all throughout the day, I end up with countless interesting tabs that get opened on Twitter, other social media, instant messenger, and so on. The Chrome team has actively decided to break my workflow, and there's no way for me to get it back - probably just because instead of looking at the how or why, they just looked at their precious, precious user data, and called it a day.

Looking to the future, with (freeform) windowing coming to Android, the change makes even less sense. Having tabs as part of the regular application switcher surely makes sense from a multitasking and multiwindow perspective, automatically giving Android users the ability to have multiple tabs side-by-side, in a way that is consistent with using other applications side-by-side. How are they going to implement this now? Will Android users have to deal with multiple Chrome windows, each with their own tab switcher? Where do tabs of closed windows go? What madness is this?

I find solace in that I'm not alone. Countless friends have expressed their hatred for the removal of merge tabs and apps (I've seen some of my programmer friends with well north of 100 "open" tabs), and the Chrome for Android reviews in the Play Store are riddled with angry one-star reviews. Google's forums, too, are filled with angry users. I'm hoping the angry comments and one-star reviews will make the Chrome team reconsider and bring back the option to merge tabs and apps, the Only True Android Way™ to manage tabs.

I'm sure tons of people here will consider this whining, but imagine if you're a programmer, and someone randomly took away your ability to insert tabs, forcing you to use spaces instead (or vice versa). That twitch you feel? That's us right now, every time we use Android.

For the first time in my life, I actually rated an application on an application store. Guess how many "stars" (why is it always stars?) I gave to Chrome for Android.

Thread beginning with comment 631087
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[7]: Seriously?
by ahferroin7 on Wed 29th Jun 2016 14:42 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Seriously?"
ahferroin7
Member since:
2015-10-30

I'm going to just skip the first two items because there's obviously no way I'm going to convince you that neither of you want such a large number of things open, and the second item is pretty clearly explained by my final two replies in this post.

And for some unknown reason you think there's a difference between a system cluttered up with heaps of "saved app states" and a system cluttered up with heaps of running applications or a system cluttered up with heaps of tabs? In all of these cases it's still cluttered up with something because someone is too lazy and/or stupid to clean up after themselves.

There's actually a pretty significant difference. Persistent storage is cheap, RAM isn't, and most of the time, the application state takes up less space on persistent storage than in RAM (I'll be happy to explain why if you want, but I'm not wasting time on it if you don't care).

It seems like what Tom wants is a "close tabs when they haven't been used for a while even though I might be planning to use them soon" feature that actually does get rid of the clutter (at the risk of closing tabs that might still be needed soon despite not being used recently); but because this has never existed he's been (ab)using something completely different that only hides the clutter and never cleans it up.

Actually, I'm pretty certain that Android does clean up functionally stateless apps (which would include any webpage that was fetched with a GET request, which is a significant majority of them) when things get untidy.

[/q]With the old system, each tab could individually be frozen by the OS, and did not need to be reloaded when you pulled up a new tab in Chrome. Now, they are either all frozen or none are frozen, and opening chrome causes it to try and reload everything. Additionally, it was easier to close tabs when merged, because you could close individual tabs without reloading them and without having to go into chrome itself.

Because a phone is not able to read your mind and figure out the difference between "still wanted" and "unwanted" without being told?

Machine learning is a lot better than you think. Figuring this out is often not hard to do heuristically with almost zero effort based on usage patterns. For most people, it's enough to just close anything that's been open but not part of an active view for a couple of days.

You're right. I don't understand how people like you can be so stupid that they repeatedly fail to understand the difference between "converting a cluttered mess of tabs into a cluttered mess of applications" and "reducing clutter"; and keep bringing up extremely moronic false analogies that make the assumption that "shifted" is the same as "gone forever (whether you wanted that or not)".

Requiring someone to sort through multiple things to clear out clutter is not an improvement. I don't like clutter (to a point), but I also don't like having to go everywhere to clean it up. Tom may or may not have the same opinion on this, but I liked this feature because I had to go to exactly one place to clean things up, instead of having to potentially open Chrome itself, and then wait for it to reload everything, and hope it doesn't hang, and maybe finally get to the point where I can start scanning through the tabs to close them by hand.

Do you buy a new Roomba every month because the old one is clogged full of dirt, or do you have to empty the Roomba and clean out its filters because the dirt was only shifted and wasn't gone forever?

Counter argument: Is it easier and less time consuming to clean out a Roomba once a month or to manually vacuum your house every week?

Tom may or may not have gone in manually to close tabs, but a lot of people who use this did, and it was a lot easier for most people and significantly more efficient than the 'new' way.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[8]: Seriously?
by Brendan on Wed 29th Jun 2016 15:40 in reply to "RE[7]: Seriously?"
Brendan Member since:
2005-11-16

Hi,

There's actually a pretty significant difference. Persistent storage is cheap, RAM isn't, and most of the time, the application state takes up less space on persistent storage than in RAM (I'll be happy to explain why if you want, but I'm not wasting time on it if you don't care).


Why would you assume this is not obvious to everyone (and not a rephrased version of what I already said hours ago)?

The thing is it doesn't make any difference for "user interface clutter" (e.g. when you're switching between applications). It merely trades "RAM clutter" for "disk clutter" (and after seeing how hard it is for application developers to get right, it's probably inferior to boring swap space anyway).

Actually, I'm pretty certain that Android does clean up functionally stateless apps (which would include any webpage that was fetched with a GET request, which is a significant majority of them) when things get untidy.


Sadly the modern WWW is rarely so clean (javascript, cookies, authentication, web forms, ...). For pure "GET request" pages I'd expect the app's saved state to be little more than a URL (but still remaining on disk and represented in the app switcher forever if you don't "close" the app).

Machine learning is a lot better than you think. Figuring this out is often not hard to do heuristically with almost zero effort based on usage patterns. For most people, it's enough to just close anything that's been open but not part of an active view for a couple of days.


Wake me up when machine learning reaches the stage where it can accurately predict which mood my girlfriend will be in today...

Using "anything not viewed for 2 days" would have a relatively low risk of closing something you still want, but would also have a high risk of not closing things fast enough to avoid hundreds of open "tabs and/or apps".

Most of my browser usage fits into one of 3 categories:

a) I want it gone immediately after I've read it

b) I want it left open until I'm finished with it (could be hours or days) - e.g. because I'm using it as a reference for something I'm working on

c) I want it gone immediately, but want to return to it whenever I feel like in future (bookmarks)

Requiring someone to sort through multiple things to clear out clutter is not an improvement. I don't like clutter (to a point), but I also don't like having to go everywhere to clean it up. Tom may or may not have the same opinion on this, but I liked this feature because I had to go to exactly one place to clean things up, instead of having to potentially open Chrome itself, and then wait for it to reload everything, and hope it doesn't hang, and maybe finally get to the point where I can start scanning through the tabs to close them by hand.


A feature like "add tabs that haven't been used for ages to a list (where they're represented by a thumbnail or something and not loaded) and let me restore them individually, or close them individually, or close all of them at once whenever I want" would make perfect sense. That's not what we're talking about though - what we're talking about is "convert one type of clutter into a pointlessly different type of clutter" feature.

- Brendan

Reply Parent Score: 2