For years, I’ve used many Google (GOOG) apps, such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Chrome, Hangouts, Maps and, of course, its search engine. They’re great apps because each one is easy to use and doesn’t cost users a cent.
But on its quest to Internet superiority, Google sometimes gets a little too aggressive.
Just look at the recent change to Gmail. It now divides your inbox into different tabs including “social” and another interesting item: “Promotions.”
If you click that tab, you’ll see a list of promotional offers from various sites and services that you’ve given your email address to. And hiding among those? You guessed it — ads from companies you haven’t green-lighted!
Of course, Google has defended this new “feature” as being a nice service for users by claiming the ads are targeted and relevant. Maybe. But it’s a sneaky play that won’t sit well with users, and anyone paying attention knows that it’s really just Google finding another way to pay the bills.
If any company should understand the delicate nature of user relations, it’s Google. Many top Internet companies have crumbled — like MySpace — because the ads became too annoying and intrusive, while a big key to Gmail’s success to date has been its obsessive focus on the user experience.
When Gmail launched in 2004, it offered users a hefty gigabyte of storage and attachments of up to 25 megabytes. The search-oriented interface was unique, as was the conversation-view of the inbox.
From there, Gmail got better and better. There were vast improvements in storage, improved integration with other Google services and great anti-spam capabilities. Gmail ultimately became the dominant player in the email space, pushing out rivals like Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO) on its way to a global user base that now sits above 425 million.
It would be incredibly dumb for Google to mess this up.
Users can get rid of the “Promotions” tab. Just click the gear icon at the top-right of the screen and select “Configure Inbox.” Then turn everything off except the “primary” selection to funnel all of your incoming messages back into a single inbox. (If you like some of the other tabs, you can always keep those and just turn off the “Promotions” tab.)
But users shouldn’t have to do that. The “Promotions” tab goes against Google’s mantra of “Don’t Be Evil,” and risks alienating its users.
The best thing the company can do right now is dump it.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.