Even More Annoyances
eBay (1995 to present)
The world's biggest auction site has many problems, but its seemingly random approach to policy enforcement is what gets our hackles up. Do something wrong when you post an item--like charge too much for shipping--and the auction police delete your item without any warning, forcing you to redo the listing from scratch. We wouldn't have an issue with this if eBay were better at policing actual scams, such as bogus listings, rampant phishing schemes, and bidding circles in which scammers artificially pump up each other's ratings. Yet by all measures, auction fraud remains Netizens' single biggest complaint. Irritating? You bet.
Apple Pro Mouse (2000)
In 1981, Xerox released the Star workstation, featuring a graphical interface and a two-button mouse. But Apple didn't get around to adding a second mouse button until August 2005, despite the fact that it had supported contextual menus in the Mac OS for years. This was especially infuriating when Apple released its sleek Pro Mouse in 2000: Instead of right-clicking to access contextual menus, Mac mousers had to hold down the Control key while clicking. Was this Apple's way of guaranteeing a steady stream of customers for multibutton mouse vendors like Logitech, Kensington, and Microsoft, or was it mere stubbornness? We're betting on the latter. In either case, it was annoying.
Plaxo (2002 to 2006)
Change the tiniest detail in your Plaxo contact profile, and everybody in your address book would receive a "Hi. I'm updating my address book. Please take a moment to update your latest contact information" e-mail--a not-so-subtle nudge to get them to sign up for Plaxo themselves so that it would update such info without bugging anyone. Plaxo finally abandoned the practice in March 2006, saying it had accumulated enough members that spamming the world was no longer necessary. We had reached the same conclusion years earlier.
Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 (2003)
What do you call an e-mail client that can't handle e-mail? Outlook 2003. Microsoft's premier e-mail program stored all messages in a single, ever-growing data file. The more mail you got, the slower Outlook ran--until it stopped running entirely. Microsoft's solution? Autoarchive your messages, making them nearly impossible to find later or prompting annoying 'Would you like to archive your old messages now?' dialog boxes. No thanks, I'll just switch to Mozilla's free Thunderbird instead.
Apple Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)
Sure, the Borg-like design looked pretty darned cool. But the fanless 8-inch Cube was anything but cool in a literal sense. Put a pile of papers down on its top external vents, and the Cube would overheat and shut down. Worse, some Cubes shut down, hibernated, and restarted at random--over and over and over--due to loose DC-to-DC converter cards and finicky power buttons. That was most definitely uncool.
You've probably never heard of Harmonium, but you've certainly heard it at work--dozens of times a day. This software, developed by Finnish programmer Vesa-Matti "Vesku" Paananen in 1998 and distributed for free over the Net, allows cell phones to produce distinctive (one might also say cheesy) polyphonic ringtones. (Following them were master tones, which are snippets from actual songs.) The world has been a much noisier place ever since. Thanks for nothing, Vesku.
Intuit Quicken 2005 (2005)
Companies have two ways to guarantee a software revenue stream: Come up with compelling new features that entice users to upgrade each year, or take features away if they don't. Intuit chose the latter path with Quicken 2005, forcing users of older versions to pony up if they wanted to continue downloading data from their financial institutions over the Internet. Intuit QuickBooks 2007 earns a dishonorable mention as well, for forcing users to upgrade if they want to run Windows Vista.
Logitech Harmony 550 (2006)
For most people, programming a universal remote is something they do once or twice every few years. But Logitech apparently believes it's a daily activity, because the Harmony 550 software loads at startup (sucking down over 10MB of system memory), phones home periodically, and nags you with pointless messages. Thanks, I'll just get up and change the channel myself.