Today’s message is brought to you by Sore Thumbs. It was typed on an Android phone. For this reason you should click through and read it on the original site; but if you can’t, or care not to, I repeat myself, below.
Google’s incorporation of Google+ will form a turning point in the relevance of Google search–but not for the better. By using your social network to grade your results, Google introduces a bias toward telling you what you already know. This is consistent with the predominant use of search (Google) to retrieve previously viewed pages: all that stuff we used to bookmark.
But where Google would have once searched Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and strived to present the most relevant material from these sources, as a meta-service, Google now provides a competitive product and must regard the others as “bad” information. Google is no longer a neutral providing you what you want; it will now provide you what it thinks you should want, which is more Google.
Google is not moving unilaterally in branding access to data. Facebook kicked Google out before Google launched Google+. But in the past we laughed at people who blocked Google. Google searched 99% of the internet to find what you wanted; who cares about the 1% they couldn’t seach? You quit the internet if you quit Google.
Prior to Google+, Facebook’s presentation of data was poor. Search was difficult; Facebook always tried to twist every search into a hookup with new “friends.” This is all still mostly true. But Facebook has been improving in direct reaction to Google+. Good for the consumer, you may say. Yes, but only for the consumer of social media services. The search consumer, who wants a survey of the world, now has to choose which world he wants to survey.
I suspect Google bears most of the culpability. As mentioned, Facebook began blocking Google before Google showed us Plus (if I recall correctly). But I’m guessing Facebook caught wind of what was coming. After all, old Google would have only returned a link to Facebook; thereafter the user would still click through to the Facebook content. No harm to Facebook, just more traffic.
If Google had played Google Passport straight, it could have consolidated and brokered users’ various social identities and only returned properly privileged social content. But if Passport shifts from “access your data” to “access Google’s products,” no business can let their product lie in that crib.
Google’s move may be completely necessary. How did Google make money before selling advertising? How else to sell advertising without personalizing content? Investors giving Google money because it was cool and amazing could not be a sustainable business. Evantually someone has to pay the tab.
Facebook and Google discovered they were selling the same product–you, to the advertiser. Competition ensued. Okay, that’s life. But Facebook baited us with our vanity. Facebook sells you to the advertiser but also sells you to you. Here is your world; all yours! You decide who is in and who is out. Everyone in the whole world is your friend!
Google used to offer us the rest of the world. Information about us could be sold to advertisers, but we could get whatever information we sought in return. Now that Google has laid the foundation for giving us only profitable (Google-managed) information, they have poisoned their consumer product to spice their investor product. They’ve reduced themselves to chasing Facebook.
They may still win. Goole has a lot of information to weaponize. But they can’t win this fight by being Google. They can only win by being a better Facebook. And then who will be Google?
Ironically, Bing has taken a jab at it by jauntily using Google to help it grade results. It’s a bit cynical, but it’s really what we want to know now, and waht we will want to know even more urgently as Google gradually suppresses unprofitable results: What does Google say–and what is Google not telling me?
This is not to say Microsoft has nobler aims than Google. If Microsoft could buy and merge Google and Facebook, and make you pay a zillion dollars to get at your information and charge advertisers also for the same data, well, they’d do it faster than you can say ‘Windows.’ There’s a lot more money in being a club than there is in being a library.
Libraries are the resort of the social outcast and the intellectually insatiable. Google built the biggest library in the world, starving all the others almost to extinction. Now they are turning their library into a club. Where will we find the libraries?