Google has pretty much defined at least the last decade of the web. They have made and run some of the best tools on the web. I honestly can’t live without Google Search, Images, Maps, Mail, Translate, Reader, News, Code, Chrome, Android and a whole lot more. I hate to think how much money I must have made Google over the last ten years. Google is probably my all time favorite website. The only problem is that they are about to ruin it.
Last summer Google announced Google+ as a new social network for the company. At the time it was an incredible success and people liked it. Some of the features easily trump those of Twitter and Facebook and I should imagine that if it had happened three years later Twitter and Facebook either wouldn’t exist or would be owned by Google. Google also have a motto to not be evil, but now they’ve broken that.
This week Google has rolled out personal data from Google+ into Google Search results. Initially I thought that this would be a subtle and slightly useful/useless thing like the Google +1 button data, but it turns out that they have basically ruined the best product on the web. Below is a comparison of a search for Microsoft with and without a Google+ account.
I recommend viewing the image in full but you can basically see that most of the search data on the left is stuff that I have written about Microsoft and suggestions for people that I might want to communicate with on Google+. With the same screen height you only see half the results from the web. Even if you switch to the web mode (thus turning off Google+ results) you still have to see the people pane on the right hand side.
I liked old Google. The world of open-source, not being evil, simple designs and brilliance. The new Google is just trying to get Google+ everywhere as desperate ploy to get into the world of social networking. Google Search used to focus on finding the most relevant search results from the web. Ads were probably a step backwards but over time they have gradually proven themselves to be slightly more useful (although thanks to AdBlock+ I never see them). The new Google search results just seem to assume that I have no separation between my social life and information on the web. If I want to find stuff from Google+ I can damn well search Google+.
Twitter has already spoken out against the changes (to which Google reacted by saying that it could have been Twitter’s data instead) and frankly I don’t blame them. At the bare minimum Google should give all Google+ users the option to opt-out of social results completely because they are completely pointless. I would even suggest that they should take them out entirely.
The solution for most users, however, is to not use Google+ or just stay signed out of Google. Or use Bing – which isn’t looking so bad now.
I have changed the way that I use Google+ slightly to experiment with the new pages feature. I will aim to post new updates from my blogs on there as it seems a little more logical than posting on a profile. Just click the image above to follow me (and please do!).
It was inevitable that Google+ would eventually get pages and it has been likely for quite a while (I think it was Ford that had problems setting up a personal account and not knowing which gender to pick) however it needs to get a few things right that Twitter gets right. I don’t have a problem with Google+ letting brands in because it is probably the only way that it will bring income into Google+ and it doesn’t necessarily mean ads. I just think that brands should be completely optional.
I should be able to ignore brands if I need to. I know that The Muppets is pictured above however I will not be following them (they currently have five times the number of followers pictured) and I don’t want to. If I need to I want to be able to block brands from appearing at all.
With any luck Google will only let a select number of companies in even after they have finished testing the new feature because otherwise the spammers will come if there isn’t a charge and so far Google+ has done pretty well for no spammers.
Google+ has now kindly decided that we must use our real names on their website. Which is a shame, because I see nothing wrong with pseudonyms. They allow for them on all other Google sites, but not Google+. It isn’t really that interesting that people are now having to use their real names on Google+, because I would love to know how they judge that names are indeed real names. They do make a suggestion that both names should be in the same language, but what if you used the the Dutch spelling of Viktor and your surname was Smith. You may have had a Dutch grandfather or something.
Another method might to be check birth records, but I should imagine that would be a complex and long winded task. Of course, they may not even be using computers and actually using people as a judge instead. Though that would be weird and they are most likely using an AI program that will probably have source code on Google Code by the end of the year that judges names based on names it already knows.
It is very tempting to change my Google+ name to a famous dead president and just keep on using Google+ like I did before. I am technically not pretending to be anyone else (as the new rules state you can’t) and if I have used a dead president’s name then I can theoretically get away with it because the president can’t report me.
I’m not actually going to go and change by Google+ name to George Washington, but it definitely complies:
- It is a first and full name in a single language. They don’t know its not my real name.
- It has no unusual characters.
- It just represents me.
- It may well be the name of another individual, but they are not alive and Google doesn’t know its not my real name. There are supposedly loads of John Smiths in the UK, it is the name of another individual but could still be your name.
So if Google decide to kill my Google+ profile, I could theoretically change my name to George Washington and they couldn’t prove it wasn’t my real name provided there were no references to the real George Washington. Interesting loophole. More importantly, however, this means that businesses are being kicked off of Google+, so I expect in a few days there’ll be an option to set-up business accounts.
Google, you wonderful people. You’ve gone and announced another social media platform. Another. Google+ could be your big make or break. If you get this right, you’ve won. If you get this wrong, we’ll just throw it into the same bin as we threw Buzz and Wave in. The reason you could get this so right is because you’ve realized that the real world isn’t about sharing that you’re having a coffee or that you’ve just read a blog post on Congestion in New York or that you’ve watched a YouTube video of cat, well, being a cat.
You’ve realized that the real world is about people, and how they interact. People want to be people. Make a service personal, and you get closer to the people, and make a service that is the edge of our minds, you can’t get any closer.
Oh Google, please, please get this one right.