I return to Duolingo a few times a year, enjoy lots of easy review for a week or so, and then leave again. Everytime, I am curious about the changes and news, despite knowing some of them are not for the better.
Duolingo has changed various things recently. Also, let's not forget some of the changes affect some users and not others (the famous A/B testing). I'd like to put here an overview of stuff I have either noticed or read about, for anyone considering whether to return to Duolingo or not. Some of the changes are good, some not. The rhetoric of the staff is bad as usual, decoding negative comments as passionate love for the product, and telling people right away that feedback is useless and the changes are set in stone. That is not a good strategy. Especially as they are forcing the changes on their paying Duo plus customers as well without an opt out choice. They paid for a different service than they are getting now.
1:the least important but most visible one: a new design of the owl and the pictures in the app, which will be moving to the website too. It seems to get most reactions, but it doesn't touch functionality per se. Yes, I think Duolingo is becoming more and more childish (too childish even for many children, from what I've read on their forum), but I wouldn't say that is the main change. Some are already calling for two versions of Duolingo. One for normal learners, one for the kids forced by schools to use it. As that seems to be the motivation behind turning Duo into more and more of a game and less and less of an educational tool.
2.I had a look and must confirm that the new font in the app is way too small for the learners of the Asian languages. In some versions, it may be all the font. That is a real accessibility problem, which Duolingo staff doesn't seem to realise. I don't know, why Duolingo cannot focus on the important part of the screen and make the letters bigger, or have a bigger font as an option in the settings. The font is eye tiring for me, so how must all the people with worse eye sight (for example most learners 50+) feel.
3.The ugly pictures of people unrelated to the sentences are gone! YAY! That means that the font in the Spanish Duolingo is actually bigger, at least in my version. Or perhaps it feels that way. I was actualy enjoying the app for a moment for procrastination thanks to this change. They finally got rid of the old fisherman supposedly saying "I'm a girl" taking over half the screen!
4.They removed the option to choose whether to choose retangles with words or type in the app. That is a huge change for the worse. And a reason for which Duo app cannot be entertaining for too long now, in my opinion, and is much less useful. I don't get why Duolingo goes for less and less individual choices of the users instead of the opposite.
5.In the app (at least in my version), you can test out only of the level 0 in each skill. I hate that. For the second half of my German tree (which is a sort of my Duolingo nemesis), I would be ok without testing out. But when I use it as very quick review of basic vocab that is not that often in my tv series or other more advanced materials (Spanish and Italian), non testing out would be too annoying and time consuming for too little value. I hope this doesn't spread to the website. I want to test out of anything. It would be a reason for me to do as CarlyD and leave.
6.There are still two main versions of the app. Mine, with the classical lingots and normal testing (but the hearts are not shown anymore), and the horrible one with gems and health. I understand Duo wants to make money (that's why there are so many ads, and duo plus), but this is not a good way. And they should remember they may push their users to look elsewhere. Duo may be number 1 among the free tools, but it is definitely not among the paid ones. The market has changed and grown.
7.The amount of lessons per skill is no longer visible in the app, only % of the skill done. That is unfortunate, in my opinion.
8.In some versions of the app (not mine), they seem to be reintroducing the leaderboards (I mean the ones not of your "friends"), in a useful mildly competitive way. It looks like they noticed how many people love the Duome leaderboards.
9:They are focusing on the Clubs, that is not new, I know. Yes, some of their functions are good (supplemental exercises on using the word in a sentence or describing a picture, those are steps in the right direction, even though not sufficient). But the main problem are the other learners. I am 100% convinced it is harmful for beginners to get input from other beginners even in classes. And it is worse on a sort of a forum without any corrections at all. And yes, the "pure duolingo learners" are able to make four mistakes while wishing you a Happy New Year.
10.Duolingo is working on professionalising the content. Which sounds good but isn't always that great. Right now, they are reworking the French tree, with several versions. Those with the professional made one complain about it being too slow paced. Duo says they are covering just A1 now (which is less than before) in more skills. And that they plan to add more, to A2. Well, wake up and look at Lingodeer. Despite all its problems (I've heard the european courses suffer from a lot of "childhood illnesses"), it aims for B1 in the languages. If Duo would make such a huuuuuuuge tree with tons and tons more example sentences on most vocab and grammar up to B1, it would a tool I would gladly pay for in my low level languages, but I am somehow not convined that's what's gonna happen. There is also a theory of two Duolingo versions planned and developped, one bad for the general public, and one supposedly better for universities (people talk about that when they talk about collaboration of Duo with Pearson, I think). If that is the case, I pity both the general public and the university students (americans will pay tons of money for college and get Duolingo. People outside of universities will want Duolingo and get worsened Duolingo).
For me, it is not that clear as for CarlyD. But who knows, perhaps I'll start encountering problematic political content too. I would say the website version is still a good basic exercise aside of other resources, at least for the non-asian languages. But it may be wise (as a few duo users suggested on the forum) to complete the trees you care about really fast, before they change something that matters to you. To somehow positively finish the relationship with Duolingo and have happy memories.