Google is messing with our Search

Google Inc. has recently started using the Google search engine to push its Google+ product onto users, by showing links to people and pages on Google+ in a prominent location on the search results page. You don’t even need to have a Google account, or be signed into that account to get Google+ results, as Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land reports:

I got these results even though I was not signed into Google. In fact, I was in “incognito” mode in Google Chrome, which means as far as Google is concerned, I’m a brand new searcher it has never seen before [..]

Personalized search results is one thing, pushing Google+ into the search results when they are clearly irrelevant is another. But even the argument that you should just sign out to do a search is moot, as Sullivan mentions in a previous article:

More important, with Google heading toward 100 million users on Google+, if a good number of those are active users, then they’re logged in to Google. That means the “normal” results they see are personalized. Personalized results are normal; non-personalized are not.

In practice nobody will sign out, switch browsers or go into incognito or private browsing mode, just to do a search. Searching the web has become a reflex for nearly all internet users.

With the inclusion of Google Search, Plus Your World —what a horrible name— Google has added a switch on the search page that allows you to toggle between a personalized and an unpersonalized view of the search results. Toggling it to unpersonalized means you get no results from your friends, no private information and no personalization of results based on your Web History. This allows you to easily revert personalized search which Google enabled by default in 2009.

For now, personalized search results, including the Google+ extensions, is opt-in. Except for the related to Google+ sidebar, which seems to be always-on depending on your search. But this is of course more than just a foot in the door. It’s the equivalent of having their finger on The Big Red Button. If no one reacts to what is happening here —as seems to be the predominant attitude of Google fans online— how long will it take before they press that button and make it the default?

Aside from the obvious antitrust issues, Google is also transforming one of the core services of the web into something I don’t like nor care for. Just as I did not need Twitter’s dickbar showing Twitter topics that are currently trending, I do not need my search results to be personalized by what other people in my surroundings 1 are saying or doing. If I want to access that kind of information, I will visit Google+ or Facebook and access it from there. I also don’t need them to change the way I search and drop the plus-sign operator, because Google Marketing decides it looks fancy to represent people on their social service with a plus-sign before their names.

You can argue that because Google owns the search engine, it gives them the right to change things as they see fit. This is of course undeniably so. However, I would hope that after a decade of indexing our web content, making billions in the process with ads on the google search page alone, they would at least continue to respect the people that use search.

“The larger Google becomes, the more essential it is to live up to our “Don‘t be evil” motto.”

How is that working out for you, Google?

  1. Google+ circles, GMail contacts, etc.