That's strange. Seemed like the mid-compact 52/36 had become the go-to that bridged the gap between compact and full-size - that satisfied almost everyone.
That's the theory, but I'm not sure it resembles practice.
Gearing is like crank lengths: the by-far most common options cover a tiny
range compared with the breadth of use cases. 50-34 and 52-36 are far too similar for one to be an extreme and the other to be a middle ground.
A very high-geared road bike today might have a 39-25 bottom gear, while a very low-geared road bike might be 34-32. And a large majority is probably clustered closer toward the 34-28 realm.
The strongest road cyclists can climb far more than twice as powerfully as the weakest road cyclists, yet that 34-32 is about 2/3rds as high as the 39-25. Which would be fine if the low gears on road bikes were generally overkill, but the reality tends to be the opposite: I see people bottoming out their low gears all the time, even fairly strong racers.
It's a terrible situation: everyone's road bike is equipped with top-end gears that provide at most marginal benefits to the vast majority of cyclists, but loads of weaker cyclists need to modify their gearing just to be able to ride the routes that they want to.
Not that I can blame the manufacturers for this: rejection of low gearing is mostly driven by the consumer. When someone spends 1% of their time doing 4% higher cadence than they'd like to, they're basically always told that it would be great to gear their bike higher. But when someone spends 4% of their time losing 12% in raw speed because their insufficient bailout plunges them into terribly lumpy high-torque pedaling form, there's a lot of feeling that hills just suck and the only suitable solution is to HTFU.
There seems to be a common sentiment that, if you don't have to get off and walk, then the gearing is fine. It strikes me as a much lower standard than people apply to pretty much any other element of their bicycles... if you were to slam someone's saddle down against the top tube, or let the air out of their tires and re-fill them with water, they'd certainly take issue with it, but barely being able to pedal uphill is sometimes "fine."
A lot of it seems to be a lack of intuition around the physics of power transfer.
I know people who will watch their power meters when their gearing is forcing them to sub-40 cadence, and comment that their legs aren't producing power very well... if it's pointed out how bottomed-out they are, they deny that gearing is playing a role. It's as if they're judging energy delivery only from leg force on the pedal, not by the sensation of the pedal giving way to that leg force.
And some of it seems to be that people are unsure about deviating from tradition.
One guy I know switched to road 1x with a 52-tooth chainring, and wanted to use an 11-32 cassette, but was bottoming out severely on climbs. He was very surprised at the suggestion of riding road with a big chainring of less than 50 teeth. He was sure that he'd spin out too easily... even though his ride data indicated that, with his 52T ring, he basically never used the two highest gears.
And some of this, I think, stems from a lack of knowledge of math and gearing. Multiple times, when I've taken a vintage bike with a 52-14 top gear to a road ride, people were surprised when I've spun fairly high cadences on a downhill: "isn't 52-14 about the same as my 50-11?"