Pardon me, Mr. Page: A few requests for the new Google CEO

Android backup, reliability in Gmail and Chrome privacy top my to-do list for Google

Larry Page is once again the CEO at Google, taking over yesterday from longtime chief Eric Schmidt. It sounds like he's ready to shake things up, forcing Google to act more like the startup it used to be. Product chief Jonathan Rosenberg is already on his way out.

Life at Google: Visiting the Googleplex

As a journalist, I think it's too early for me to predict whether Page will be a better leader than Schmidt. Given Google's incredible success, I have no reason to doubt either one of them. But as a user of Google products, I have a few pet peeves I'd like Page to address. Let's take a look at them one by one. 

Android backup: I prefer Android to the iPhone for a few reasons, including the fact I can tether my Motorola Droid to my laptops without paying a monthly fee, using third-party applications like PdaNet. I also like having access to Flash-based sites.

But the iPhone may still be ahead of Google when it comes to overall usability. One great example is the iTunes backup, which lets you restore a phone to factory settings or move from one iPhone to another, while automatically moving all of your applications, data, settings and placement of home screens and application icons to the new or newly restored device. Having replaced my Droid once and doing an additional factory reset, I know re-downloading applications is a cumbersome process and in many cases your application data is lost.

There are some tools that help the process along, but unless you root your Android, which typically invalidates your warranty, there don't seem to be any options that reach the usability level of iTunes.  

Restoring contacts is easy enough with Android, but Google needs a comprehensive backup process to make switching phones just as easy as it is with Apple. 

Eliminate those Gmail outages: I still use Yahoo Mail and am sometimes considered a dinosaur for doing so. But I stick with Yahoo because Gmail seems to have frequent outages and Google is sometimes less than forthcoming in communicating with customers when services go down.

In February this year, Google engineers took four days to restore email to 40,000 users, and there have been numerous other such incidents over the past few years.

I admit I don't have definitive proof that Gmail suffers more downtime than Yahoo, but a search of Google News for "Gmail outage" and "Yahoo mail outage" in the time period since Jan. 1, 2010 seems to turn up far more outages for Gmail.

Plus, I can't even remember the last time I couldn't access my Yahoo mail. This has to be one of the reasons Yahoo still has more users than Gmail. Why should I switch?

Put a preview pane in Gmail: Here's another reason to stay with Yahoo: The preview pane. The ability to see my list of emails and a full preview of one message seems to me one of the basic features an email service should offer. Yet, as far as I can tell, it doesn't exist in Gmail. You can turn on a special labs feature and right-click messages to see a preview, but it's not as convenient as Yahoo's preview pane.

Chrome: more privacy please. Chrome is my browser of choice because it just moves faster than Firefox 4 and Internet Explorer 9, and has long been free of clutter. Google offers a do-not-track extension for Chrome, but Google should also learn from Firefox, which has a nice feature that automatically deletes your Web history after you close the browser. Yes, Google offers a private browsing mode and lets you manually delete history, as all browsers do. But the Firefox-level privacy tool, so automatic you don't even have to think about it, is something Google should add.

For Chrome users on Windows, there is an extension called Click & Clean that will scrub your browsing history, cookies etc. automatically, but it's not made by Google. Page and team have done a great job encouraging developers to build on top of Google platforms, but it's hard to know whether to trust a third-party extension to protect our privacy. This is one that Google should take on itself.

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