Oh, the hand-wringing and excoriation!
This week, the techo-chamber exploded with indignation when Google had the gall to “personalise” search results by adding a couple of social features.
“Worst mistake in the company’s history” screamed one observer. (Our Matt Rosoff, who is seriously smart, so his view is worth considering.)
“Google just made Bing the best search engine,” concluded Gawker’s Matt Honan, who’s also very smart and makes a reasonable observation.
“Outrageous!” yelled pretty much every other tech pundit, especially after Twitter, et al, began howling about how Google is abusing its monopoly yet again by promoting its own services (Google +) at the expense of theirs.
So in the wake of this apparently earth-shattering and obnoxious move, I have a simple question:
Has anyone who isn’t a tech pundit even noticed that Google has changed anything?
And, for those who have noticed a change, a follow-up question:
What’s your reaction to it?
If I hadn’t heard the screams of the techo-chamber all week, I’m not sure I’d have noticed the change. But I have now noticed it. And, so far anyway, here’s my reaction to it:
It’s a very minor positive improvement, one that could easily be made a lot better.
Here’s how the change has manifested itself in my search results: There are now a few avatar-photos and a little link at the top that invites me to look at “personal results”:
If I click the “personal results” link, I get some Google + postings on this topic:
Same for another search:
And the “personal” version of that one:
Would I have noticed this change if not for the screaming? Probably not. I’ve been dimly aware in the past year or so that little avatar pictures have started getting mixed into my Google search results and that people I know have “liked” or “plussed” or whatever certain results. That’s been curious and interesting, but it’s certainly not a big deal, and I’m not sure I’d call it an improvement.
So is this new personal results thing a positive improvement?
Yes, I guess. It gives me another sort of interesting option to check out, and it gives me this without totally cluttering the page or making it less useful.
Could the new option be made a lot better?
You bet it could.
It could be made a lot better if Google included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Gmail results in the “personal” tab. Because I actually don’t know many people who aggressively use Google +.
If Google mixed Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Gmail results in the “personal” tab, and organised these results in a way that wasn’t too cluttered or cacophonous, I could see it actually being a pretty cool feature.
But I’m still not sure I’d ever click on it.
Because there are very few Google searches I do in which I care about “personal” results.
The searches in which I care about “personal” results are the ones I do in my email box or Twitter feeds.
The broader searches, the ones I do on Google, work just fine without “personalisation.”
I suppose if Google ever becomes expert at doing personalised product searches, this could be helpful. If I were searching for a product and I noticed that three friends had bought one version of it and three other friends had bought another version, and there were a super-simple way to ask them pros and cons, I might want to use that feature.
But otherwise, I’m not sure I care about “personalised” search results. The generic kind work perfectly well. And I’ve already got Twitter, Facebook, et al, to tell me what my friends are interested in.
So I ask again:
Has anyone who isn’t a tech pundit noticed this change? If so, do you care?