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.