Found via Kottke, Leah Elliott has an excellent comic up called Contra Chrome, which is an “update” on Scott McCloud’s comic that was done back in 2008 to introduce Chrome. It’s pretty well researched, and calls out a lot of the bad behavior around privacy and surveillance that Chrome does right now (and is planning to do in the future).
I’ve talked before about how Chrome’s market dominance is a bad thing, so consider this yet another reminder: use something else. If you’ve not tried Firefox in a few years, you’ll likely be quite surprised at how responsive it’s become.
Kottke links to an article comparing time estimates between Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Waze by Artur Grabowski. The observations are interesting (if imperfect, as the author notes, since there were only so many variables he was able to control for): Waze tended to underestimate how long a trip would take, while Apple Maps tended to overestimate. As Artur notes, this has an impact on the user experience:
For Apple, Maps is a basic solution for its average user who wants a maps solution out of the box. Apple Maps does not directly drive ad or subscription revenue for Apple so there is less reason for Apple to incentivize iOS users to use Apple Maps over other solutions. However, Apple does care about user experience, and sandbagging trip time estimates so that users arrive at their destination on time results in a great user experience. Hence, I believe that Apple is intentionally conservative with estimated arrival times.
At the other extreme, Waze (Alphabet) makes money through ads when you use their app. What better way to get people to use your navigation app than by over-promising short trip times when no one takes the time to record data and realize that you under-deliver? If an unsuspecting user opens Apple Maps and sees a 34-minute route and compares that to 30-minutes in Waze, the deed is done. Now Waze has a life-long customer who doesn’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked and Waze can throw at them stupidly annoying ads.
That’s the thing: advertising definitely impacts user experience, and it’s often in more subtle ways than just product placement or overt advertising. It can impact how designers and developers think about what they’re building, and what they choose to focus on. You can see it elsewhere, too: think about the shift in newsfeeds away from a chronological feed and towards an algorithmic one. As Jason notes:
If that’s happening with your mapping app, just think of how your search results, Facebook newsfeed, and Instagram feed are manipulated to be more amenable to advertising.