Google recants, restores old UI to Chrome bookmarks manager

Google last week retreated after Chrome users revolted against a change in the browser, saying that it's given up on a radical redesign of the bookmarks manager.

Retreated, yes, but Google has not surrendered.

"Our team is committed to improving Chrome's bookmarks experience, but for the time being, we've decided to bring back the previous version," wrote Google employee Sarah Lee in a post to the browser's support forum [emphasis added]. "Our team will continue to explore other ways to improve the bookmarks experience. You'll see the previous version of the bookmarks manager return to your Chrome browser shortly."

Those who want to retain the new manager's look and feel will have to download and install the free Bookmarks Manager add-on from the Chrome Web Store once Google flips the browser bookmarking back to the earlier version.

Not surprisingly given the vitriol users poured on Google in April when it began rolling out the bookmarks manager redesign, reaction to the change of heart was generally positive.

"Thank you, Sarah; what a relief," replied someone identified as Soundpatrol in a follow-up message on the discussion thread. "The new bookmarks manager was clearly unpopular so I think your decision is the right one."

"Thank you so much for finally listening to our feedback," echoed Sol Ritzow.

However, some said that the new manager's UI/UX had grown on them. "Thank you for keeping the new version available through an extension," said Edward Lanctot. "While initially hating it, I've actually grown pretty fond of the new manager, once I learned you could select multiple items by dragging your cursor."

Google likely backed off the massive change because of the almost universal negative reaction. In April, when it told users that the new user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) was being pushed in the then-new Chrome 42, users heatedly blasted the revamp. "HATE -- HATE -- HATE the new format. Again -- HATE IT!!!!!!!!!" stormed one user with an extra supply of exclamation marks.

The new bookmarks manager sported large thumbnails of each site that appeared as "cards," folders into which bookmarks were automatically organized, and improved search that let users retrieve bookmarks not only by title but also by content. The large visual-oriented cards -- which really riled users -- were reminiscent of the thumbnails shown in Chrome's new tab page.

The previous bookmarks manager -- and the one Chrome will return to -- featured a simple list view of URL titles, the approach most browsers take.

But Dee's references to "the time being" and "the team will continue to explore other ways to improve the bookmarks experience" hinted that Google would keep experimenting. That made some wonder if their ordeals are really over.

"Consider the option that sending them all on holiday might actually increase the happiness of more Chrome users than anything they might actually DO, given this latest attempt at 'improvement,'" said Emettman of Dee's mentioning the Chrome team's plan to explore other changes.


Gregg Keizer

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