Google is amazing at imagining and creating technology that will improve our lives. For instance: Until recently, I didn’t realize the one thing missing from using my smartphone to get directions was knowing how many mini-cupcakes I would burn off in the process of following them. Luckily, Google Maps introduced a handy feature to correct that mistake.
Just kidding. Google Maps had been testing this inexplicable cupcake feature in its app but decided to give it the heave-ho Monday night after widespread outcry. For some reason, people aren’t interested in measuring out their movements in mini-cupcakes. Whoda thunk it?
The feature’s ostensible purpose was to encourage people to walk by showing them how many calories they would burn from the jaunt. In its counting, one mini-cupcake was equivalent to 110 calories. The Verge tested the feature and found that one would earn 1,400,344,433 cupcakes walking to the moon, for example.
I guess Google maps now automatically shows you how many calories you'd burn if you walk somewhere instead of driving pic.twitter.com/eixqCh00rn— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) October 17, 2017
Oh my god and if you click walking directions it auto tells you how much food you'd burn off what the fuck pic.twitter.com/B5djax2Li4— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) October 17, 2017
But as a few Twitter users pointed out, not everyone wants to be confronted with calorie counts automatically—people recovering from eating disorders, for example, would have good reason to avoid them. People also come in a variety of sizes and metabolisms and don’t burn calories at equal rates. Plus, not everyone treats his or her body like a piece of software to be constantly iterated upon, where food is just fuel to be burned off. Maybe sometimes when we ask for directions, we just want directions.
(Also, let’s talk about the choice of mini-cupcakes as the vessel for conveying this information. Why cupcakes at all? Why mini and not full size? And what type of mini-cupcake are we talking about here? Did Google even consider if these cupcakes have fillings? If you look up mini cupcakes in MyFitnessPal, calorie counts vary from those tiny Baked by Melissa minis, at 47 calories each, up to larger varieties of mini, which can go as high as 200. Just saying: This is vastly more complicated than it looks.)
Google’s about-face in killing off this feature was remarkably, and perhaps admirably, fast. But Google has been less quick to act in other, less frivolous instances that pertain to offline behavior: As Slate’s April Glaser has written, the Electronic Privacy Information Center recently filed a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google uses credit card data to track whether online ads lead to in-store purchases—a practice the company is a lot less likely to ditch amid a rash of Twitter outrage. Could Google one day be able to tell you how long it would take to burn off the food you’re planning to eat at the restaurant you’re headed to? That would make mini-cupcakes look like small potatoes.