January 13, 2012
2012 seems, in its infancy, to be a year in which Google can do no right. The reaction to Search Plus Your World has been, understandably, less than ecstatic. Not many people, including us, have been too happy about encrypted search (I know – that’s so last year. But it’s an issue that’s going to hound us through this year, so I feel justified in its inclusion). Then there’s this, which throws “do no evil” (an edict that seems to depend on the flexibility of a person’s understanding of the word “evil”) right out the window.
I want search to get better, not just different. For example, I’d like to think that efforts are being put into further development of contextual search. Because it’s all about context. It’s all about semantics. It’s all about understanding what a site is about, not what people think a site is about.
People are biased. And social networks aren’t places in which, typically, people are posting based on fact and not on their need to advertise their biases, their personalities, their subjective view of the world they inhabit. Is anyone’s baby, objectively, “the cutest baby in the world?” Nope. Chances are you couldn’t even prove it’s the cutest baby within a one-mile radius of your home. Social networks are great places to find out what your “friends” are currently eating, how awesome their boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives are, and the level of adorableness found in their pets; they’re not where I turn for information.
I guess we still always have Wolfram|Alpha. But, I mean, c’mon.
Further, Search Plus Your World impacts the function and purpose of another Google advancement: universal search. Search Plus, so far, clearly favors content from Google + (check out this article by Danny Sullivan for more info). Sure, if I search for, say, Britney Spears (note: I’m using this example because Danny Sullivan used it. I can’t conceive of a situation in which I’d ever search for Britney Spears; not saying it’ll never happen – just saying it’s highly unlikely) I’d like to be served up news, videos, etc. concerning Britney Spears. However, it seems that now, with Google’s Search plus Your World, you can’t even call it “universal search” anymore. It’s not truly “universal” if results are cherry picked based on whether someone has a Google + account. Results aren’t universal if they leave out other, non-Google social networks.
Google’s seemingly incessant push toward Search Plus Your World flies in the face of making the web a better place. The more people who search from within Google, the more search data is going to be encrypted and inaccessible to webmasters/content creators/etc. The people making the web will have less data regarding what people like about the web. How does that make sense?
If Google’s results are increasingly based on what’s happening with social networks, the results will be increasingly subjective, and you can throw “providing access to the world’s information” out the same window “do no evil” flew out of.