Google Minus

Google has one mission in the world: to put a relevant, compelling ad in front of its users. Search, mail, Android and every other Google activity is somehow related to this goal. The average Google user has one mission when using Google: to get the best search results on the Internet.

Until a few days ago, these two goals lived in harmony. Google’s ads in search didn’t mess up or distract from actual search results, which are still the best around, and the ads were relevant enough to sometimes be useful. Then Search Plus Your World came to town. It pushes results from Google+, Google’s social network, into your search results, and it nags you to join Google+, if you’re logged in with a Google account. If you’re not logged in, it puts Google+ results (not Facebook, not Twitter) along with pictures, on the right side of the search page, where the text ads used to go.

The issue with Search Plus for those of us logged into Google is that it defaults to being turned on, and if you toggle it off, that toggle only lasts for as long as you have your browser running. It’s bad enough that you have to go through a few tedious steps to un-toggle it permanently. What’s worse is that the Google+ results given to the not-logged-in Google user are irrelevant and contain pictures in the top right-hand column. Since we’re all trained that Google search doesn’t have pictures on the right, those pictures are incredibly distracting. And since Google+ is in its infancy (and may well die a crib death), the most noticeable results are the least relevant thing on the page.

I am a Googlebot. I’ve been using Gmail since it came out, I’m on my second Android phone (a Galaxy Nexus), and I bought both of them on the first day they were available. I use Docs, Apps and all the other good Google stuff. So it pains me deeply to say that I see a shark fin, a speedboat and a guy in a leather jacket on water skis when I look at Search Plus. Facebook and Twitter won’t allow them to search their sites, so it probably makes sense for Google to start its own social networking service, Google+. But it makes no sense for them to push out shitty search results just to pimp Google+. The fact that they would even consider lowering the quality of search results to push people to Google+, much less do it, indicates that something is seriously wrong at that company.






83 replies
  1. 1
    dr. bloor says:

    This is all the fault of zombie Steve Jobs.

  2. 2
    Schlemizel says:

    short-term gains, short-term gains. Their prime product is well ingrained so it will take a while before the degradation impacts the bottom line. Right now the goal is to pump up the profits of a supplemental product so that quarterly profits continue going up. There is no concern about damaging future profits – or the brand as a whole.

  3. 3
    Michael D. says:

    Time to start using the Machine that goes BING!

  4. 4
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    I don’t understand why Google won’t allow sortable headers in gmail. I like to keep a month’s worth on email in my inbox which I can sort by sender, subject or date. Every other email interface gives you headers, why the fuck can’t Google give you an option to turn them on or off? I’m forced to use gmail for work so I’m stuck otherwise I wouldn’t use it at all.

  5. 5
    Schlemizel says:

    @Michael D.:
    Because Microsoft is so much warmer and fuzzier? ;)

  6. 6
    cmorenc says:

    Yes Google’s business model is vastly different from Microsoft’s, but nevertheless it’s disturbing to see a similar sort of kludgey design mentality creeping in at Google – where they embed elements in long-established software that seek to forcibly nudge you into some new add-on product venture they’re trying to get widely adopted.

  7. 7
    JGabriel says:

    How to change your default search engine in Chrome:

    1) See that wrench in the upper right hand corner? Click on it. Select Options.

    2) Chrome will open the Options — Basics page.

    3) Look for the Search section. Select Bing or Yahoo from the drop down menu. If you want a greater selection, click on the Manage Search Engines button/

    .

  8. 8
    meatbrain says:

    Lifehacker published a tip yesterday on disabling the display of Google+ search results by default.

  9. 9
    Alex S. says:

    It’s about (digital) world domination. You don’t get to rule the world by being nice.

  10. 10
    mistermix says:

    Bing? Are you guys kidding me? Google something and look at the left side of the page. See the “More Search Tools”. See how you can change the time range of your search? I use that multiple times every day to filter out old results. Bing has nothing like that.

    That’s just one example. Bing is years behind Google. Bieber knows Google needs some competition, but in search, they are way, way ahead. That’s why it’s so disturbing to see them screw up.

  11. 11
    dan says:

    Qikster!

  12. 12
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    it’s called being on the stock market, where profits matter way more than innovation. When I got out of the Navy, I worked for a small company (I was the fourth employee, and was let go because I was way to green to be the second programmer) has grown over the past decade to a multi-million dollar enterprise, but has chosen to stay private, I suspect, for this very reason.

  13. 13
    norbizness says:

    Would you like to hear what I use? Too bad, I’m not going to fucking tell you.

  14. 14
    MattF says:

    It’s been pointed out many times, but one more time won’t hurt: with Google, you are not the customer, you are the product. The contrast between Google and Apple, Amazon, and, yes, even Microsoft, is fundamental.

  15. 15
    Steeplejack says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:

    Could you use Outlook or Mozilla’s Thunderbird e-mail client? I’m not the biggest fan of Outlook, but I use it with Gmail partly for the reasons you mention. Outlook retrieves my mail from Gmail so I don’t have to use the clunky Gmail interface. Outlook’s interface is not perfect, but I really like having (a useful subset of) Word for composing mail. And you can do all the sorting and sifting of messages.

    I don’t have any experience with Thunderbird, but I’m pretty sure you can set it up to retrieve your Gmail just as Outlook does.

  16. 16
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:
    Just because you are stuck with Gmail for work email doesn’t mean you have to use the web interface.

    You can enable IMAP support and use a desktop mail client like Thunderbird, then be able to sort and view your email as you want. Plus, no ads!

    @Steeplejack:
    OK, I swear your post wasn’t there when I wrote mine. Curse you WP!

  17. 17
    El Cid says:

    FWIW, Google is moving into ventures to make money very different than advertising, including selling products (and designs and licensing) they make themselves. From the system known as Google TV, the Chrome laptops, to perhaps directly Google-made products (maybe including consumer goods like TV’s), and even its autonomous car work.

  18. 18
    eldorado says:

    i got fed up when they messed up logging in to multiple gmail accounts a few months ago.

  19. 19
    Jon says:

    But it’s “open”!!!

  20. 20
    Norwonk says:

    For years, I’ve been asking myself how Google makes money, when all its services are free. I guess the answer is: They don’t – at least not enough to justify the share price. And now desperation is setting in.

  21. 21
    Steeplejack says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    Hey, it happens to me all the time.

    Do you have experience with Thunderbird? I keep saying I am going to check it out, but I never do, because I don’t want to disturb my fragile e-mail ecostructure. But I am troubleshooting a (not Web-savvy) friend’s computer this morning and was toying with the idea of installing it for her. (She has a Hotmail account, I think.)

  22. 22
    Steeplejack says:

    @eldorado:

    Again, problem solved with Outlook (and probably Thunderbird, too).

  23. 23
    Maude says:

    Thanks for this post. I use Yahoo Mail. They changed the mail program to a real pain in the neck. I went back to old mail.
    If anyone has new Yahoo mail and wants to back to classic, disable java script. After you go back, enable it.
    We, in the third world hellhole, find this type of info useful.

  24. 24
    mistermix says:

    @El Cid: None of those ventures are money makers. They are all ways to get more Google in front of more faces, to sell ads.

    Google had $9.3 billion in revenue (not profit) from ads last quarter, and $385 million in revenue from all other ventures, combined. They don’t break out profits on ads vs others, but net profit was $2.7 billion so the bulk of it sure wasn’t coming from other ventures.

    http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html

  25. 25
    BH says:

    I find most of the opposition to this new feature to be whining about “distractions” that can easily be turned off. The web is constantly evolving, and you can either yell “you kids get off my lawn,” or you can adapt. Socially curated results are going to become more and more important as sites continue to improve their SEO game. Google+ is not just a social networking site. It’s also becoming Google’s primary method for sharing, “+1-ing” (liking), and commenting on what people are finding on the Internet. If Twitter and Facebook wold agree to it, I’m sure that Google would incorporate their results. Conversely, does anyone here expect to see Google+ results from a search on Facebook or Twitter anytime soon? I doubt it.

  26. 26
    Krankor says:

    @JGabriel: That’s exactly as “tedious” a set of instructions as turning off Google’s personal results is.

  27. 27
    syphonblue says:

    I don’t see any difference in my search results…

  28. 28
    mad the swine says:

    Wait, Google has ads? I haven’t seen an ad on Google for years. :P

  29. 29
    daveX99 says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I don’t have any experience with Thunderbird, but I’m pretty sure you can set it up to retrieve your Gmail just as Outlook does.

    Tbird can indeed read your gmail. Mine does! (well, it reads my gmail, not yours) Any email program should be able to retrieve your gmail. You are not required to use the web interface!

    -d.

  30. 30
    RSA says:

    Google has one mission in the world: to put a relevant, compelling ad in front of its users.

    We could also say the same thing about commercial television, most newspapers, most magazines, and whatever other industries I’m forgetting that make most of their money from advertising. It’s kind of built into American culture.

  31. 31
    Zach says:

    Is this what they’re calling everything that’s changed? I’m confused why they took the #1 complaint from the Reader re-design (that they fixed quickly) and decided to roll it out for everyone who uses Google.

    I generally hate folks who flip out whenever Google or Facebook decides to change something, but why in the world do I have to mouseover the Google logo and the mouseover the “more” button before I can click over to Google Finance to see how much money I’ve lost? Yet, the top bar is 5 times taller than it was a week ago and has zero new information.

    It sort of blows my mind that Google never implemented something like “We see that you only use gmail, Finance, Reader, Scholar, search, and images. These are always on the top menu bar, but we might show you some new things we wanna advertise now and then.” I’m sure there’s some way to customize it, but the default is really dumb.

  32. 32
    Nutella says:

    @syphonblue:

    The Google+ column has mysteriously vanished for me today. It was there yesterday, wasting space.

    What confuses me is this: Google makes all their money from ads. The crappy Google+ search results take up a lot of space that could have shown ads. Aren’t they cutting into their revenue? Or are they thinking they’ll force every business into getting a Google+ page to keep up?

    Not many remember, but Google once had many competitors in search and none of them were dominant. Google shot ahead when they solved the problem of untrustworthy search (how can you know if this thing is on top because it’s most popular or because it’s a paid ad?) by simply slicing through it and providing two columns, organic search on the left and ads on the right. That clear distinction is what made Google into a billion dollar company. Now they’ve thrown it away. It’s so bad that different users doing the same search get different results. They have made it impossible to answer the question “how do I know if this thing is on top because it’s popular or because it’s a paid ad?” which will drive their users away as soon as they can find someplace else to go.

  33. 33
    MarkJ says:

    I really haven’t noticed any kind of difference in my Google search results. I did join Google+ because I have a few friends that are on it and why not?

    Quite frankly, I think the “circle” function in Google+ gives it a major advantage over Facebook – if you want to make crude jokes to your friends without having co-worker “friends” see them, you can set a post just to be viewable by your friends circle. I also like that Gmail is fully integrated into Google+ – it’s nice to have a full on email program attached rather than Facebook’s “message” service.

    Google provides lots of valuable services essentially for free. Feel free to complain about minor changes if you will, but if you don’t like it you can always pay for something else.

  34. 34
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @mistermix:

    So wait… Bing! sucks too hard for you to even contemplate a switch to another search engine, but Google+ integration means Google is about to jump the shark? Cooler heads may give it a chance to see how it works.

    So far the main thing I’ve noticed that has changed in the last few months are that search links that I’ve blogged about are pushed to the top… and I find this incredible handy.

  35. 35
    Jennyjinx says:

    Actually, Google does index Twitter in it’s SERPs. My Twitter account has been the first result for my name until Search Plus. Now it’s the second result. And G+ has 65 million active users right now. At 7 months old, that’s not anything to sneeze at. Consider how long it took for most people outside of the tech community to even notice Twitter. G+ not going the way of Plurk or Friendfeed anytime soon.

    You an hide the personal results directly from the search page. The option is in the upper right hand sidebar when you’re logged in. I’m not seeing the image results to which you refer when I’m not logged in (using Firefox, IE and Chrome to verify). Maybe that’s location specific?

    Twitter is pissed at Google because they were enjoying having their site being at the top of many search results. Google search is a traffic generator and Twitter was hoping to make money off of those search results. Unfortunately, they pissed around and Google decided to make their own interests top results. There’s nothing wrong with that considering most companies and personal websites enjoy the free traffic they get from a Google product.

    An alternative search engine to any of those listed here (Google, Bing or Yahoo) is Blekko (the link is a search for Balloon Juice). Supposedly they filter out the spam sites and other nonsense that doesn’t really interest people.

  36. 36
    catclub says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: I think you can use thunderbird to go get your mail at the google servers. Then thunderbird can sort by headers, etc.

    (I could be wrong, but am pretty sure thunderbird can handle a gmail account.)

  37. 37
    Alexandra says:

    @MarkJ:

    Quite frankly, I think the “circle” function in Google+ gives it a major advantage over Facebook – if you want to make crude jokes to your friends without having co-worker “friends” see them, you can set a post just to be viewable by your friends circle.

    Facebook has had this feature for years. It’s called ‘Friend Lists’, but they’ve been tucked away in the settings. A little, er, Googling reveals all sorts of features on how to use Facebook properly.

  38. 38
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    Wow… Talk about First World Problems.

  39. 39
    Kiril says:

    Web redesigns are sometimes clunky, and sometimes you get used to things being a certain way and don’t feel like changing. I get that. I have patience and have adapted in the past, so if I don’t care for a redesign I just give it time and get used to it.

    But recently, it seems to me there is an awful lot of change for its own sake which is also less user-friendly or degrades already existing functionality of web apps and sites. It really is strange. Web sites are being redesigned to be harder to manage, less visually appealing, and oddest of all, seemingly the new trend is to show less information on a page, forcing endless scrolling. Has anyone else noticed this?

    If you want to see real rage, start a conversation about the XBox 360 interface redesign for Netflix…just utter crap, courtesy of Microsoft development.

  40. 40
    J.W. Hamner says:

    Can someone give me an example of a search result that you’ve made that has been screwed up by it personalizing the results?

  41. 41

    […] latest Google gripe is a pretty esoteric one, but one that seems to hit me multiple times a […]

  42. 42
    WereBear says:

    @Alexandra: A little, er, Googling reveals all sorts of features on how to use Facebook properly.

    Until, that is, they change it again. I don’t put anything on Facebook I don’t mind the world seeing… because they probably will.

  43. 43
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    This is the year that Google Goes Bad.

    The way you have to look at it is to see Google as two parallel companies: one is Nerd Paradise, where every socially-awkward software engineer in the world can find bliss and release undertested software projects; the other is Ad Selling Bastards, Inc., made up of MBA types who’d sell their mothers into prostitution if it helped the quarterlies.

    The interaction between the two has always been uneasy, and because it’s an internal relationship and not a business partnership, you have to make assumptions about what’s happening behind the scenes. But I think the big push is on to integrate around their big, creaky, broken social network, because social networking data sells at a premium, and “people” in the Google way of things are just data generators.

  44. 44
    The Raven says:

    Vivek Gundotra, the head of Google’s social networking efforts, has probably done Google more harm than competition from Facebook.

    Oh, well. They are still funding interesting research, at least.

    BTW, https://joindiaspora.com/ . “Share what you want, with whom you want.” “Choice * Ownership * Simplicity.”

  45. 45
    Doug Danger says:

    “Socially curated results are going to become more and more important as sites continue to improve their SEO game.”

    Socially curated results = George W. Bush.

    There’s a reason places like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft hire smart people and then let them make decisions for users.

  46. 46
    Tractarian says:

    The fact that they would even consider lowering the quality of search results to push people to Google+, much less do it, indicates that something is seriously wrong at that company.

    I’m not saying everything’s hunky-dory over in Mountain View (I’m a Google+-hating Gbot, myself), but why do you think this “lowers the quality” of search results?

    All it does is add extra search results drawn from Google+, correct? So your normal Google results are right there, but instead of ads on the right column you get the Google+ results. Those extra results may be worthless, but is there any reason you can’t just ignore them the way you (I assume) ignore the ads?

    I mean, is this outrage really all about “distractions”?

    Google has said that if Facebook and Twitter allowed Google to show search results from those sites, they would be included along with the Google+ results. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

  47. 47
    dcdl says:

    I use Mozilla Firefox and use an add on called FoxTab (has all the pages I go to the most showing) and just have a Google search bar and no ads.

  48. 48
    Tractarian says:

    I might add, it sounds like mistermix is taking his cues from John Gruber and MG Siegler, two Apple fanboys advocates who also have expressed righteous indignation over the Google+ search results.

    I like reading those guys, but they are way to emotionally involved in the Apple/Google rivalry to be taken seriously on this topic.

  49. 49
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    Google? What is this google you speak of? ;)

    The only time I use Google is if a web site requires it (or it’s apis, etc), then I give it temporary permission(s) (via No Script), otherwise I block it. Facebook? Never. Twitter? Nope.

    I hate everything on the internet so I block it all unless I find I need it, then I only give temp permissions.

    Fuck them all! :)

  50. 50
    Violet says:

    I don’t have anything on the right side of the page when I do a google search. Wonder why?

  51. 51
    Lord Omlette says:

    If you’re ever really bored and worried that Google has no real search competition, please give DuckDuckGo a try. It’s an alternate search engine that respects your privacy.

    http://duckduckgo.com/

  52. 52
    mistermix says:

    @Tractarian: I read Gruber but I thought that Danny Sullivan’s article (linked above) was well thought-out and clarified why putting a pic at the top right of the page was so distracting, and what’s worse, that distraction will be pushed out to the most easily distracted, those who don’t have a Google account. And it should be obvious, to address your other point, that anything that distracts from the search results lowers the quality of those results.

    Generally, I find Gruber’s anti-Google hits unpersuasive at best. I read him to keep track of what’s happening at Apple.

  53. 53
    BrYanS says:

    Google has one mission in the world: to put a relevant, compelling ad in front of its users. Search, mail, Android and every other Google activity is somehow related to this goal.

    I’ve been wondering how Sketch-Up fits into this goal. A lot of people are using it to draw out their design, especially furniture construction, but I don’t see what Google’s goal it with it. How do they make money?

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    @Tractarian:

    I mean, is this outrage really all about “distractions”?

    No, it’s about google harming the integrity of its search results, and doing so more in order to pimp its own products than to provide services and benefits to the user.

    @El Cid:

    FWIW, Google is moving into ventures to make money very different than advertising, including selling products (and designs and licensing) they make themselves. From the system known as Google TV, the Chrome laptops, to perhaps directly Google-made products (maybe including consumer goods like TV’s), and even its autonomous car work.

    The vast majority of google’s revenues come from search. This is what they know and what they do best. They don’t even make money off the sale of Android phones, but from google search on smart phones.

    The Chrome laptop has been a conspicuous disappointment. The company has been getting rid of projects, streamlining to concentrate on a smaller set of features and services. And yet they are still stumbling.

    Google TV, Google Plus, other upcoming projects are attempts to deal with threats to search. FaceBook and Twitter and other services (even Apple’s Siri, if you think about it) are becoming walled off subsets within the InterTubes, reducing the impact of ad search, and so messing with google’s main money maker.

  55. 55
    RSA says:

    @BrYanS:

    I’ve been wondering how Sketch-Up fits into this goal.

    Sketch-Up is free, but the Pro version is $495. I don’t know whether that’s it, but it’s probably part of the strategy.

  56. 56
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @Brachiator:
    I still don’t get this “integrity of its search results” business.

    Why is how much somebody pays for SEO more valuable to me than what my friends/contacts think?

    And I’m still waiting for an example of a screwed up search because of Google+.

  57. 57
    Brachiator says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    Why is how much somebody pays for SEO more valuable to me than what my friends/contacts think?

    What your friends and contacts think, or what you think they think, is valuable to you. Most of the time when I am doing search, it is work related. What my friends or contacts think is irrelevant here. Google’s latest effort should have been opt in, not opt out. Simple as that.

    And ultimately, google here doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about you, your friends or their contacts. They are pimping their own products. In the past, they have been more conscientious in NOT doing this. The change in outlook is not a good sign.

    And I’m still waiting for an example of a screwed up search because of Google+.

    Not really the point.

  58. 58
    kindness says:

    Maybe it’s time you bought an iPhone.

    Just sayin’.

  59. 59

    […] system. It reminds everyone that Google lives by satisfying the ad makers, not the users. “Google has one mission in the world: to put a relevant, compelling ad in front of its users. Search, mail, Android and […]

  60. 60
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @Brachiator:

    What your friends and contacts think, or what you think they think, is valuable to you. Most of the time when I am doing search, it is work related.

    Uhm, my friends don’t have any opinions about the things I search for work. However the opinions of any of my work contacts would be quite valuable if I was searching for something work related. What is it you do where there is such overlap between these circles?

    Not really the point.

    It’s entirely the point if what you care about is the quality of search results and not typical tech nerd conspiracy theory rantings.

  61. 61
    James Hare says:

    Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t find it distracting at all. I’ve never understood how people get so invested in web page designs — they’re going to change! If nothing else, advertisers eventually demand a “fresher” look as a condition of running ads. It may not be ideal for end users, but that’s what you get for “free” services. Most paid services DON’T change their web interfaces constantly because paying users wouldn’t appreciate it.

    I’ve worked with web developers. They work pretty hard on interface design and try to make sure changes are really improvements. I don’t know how some of them deal with people shitting all over their work (which is the inevitable response — nobody ever seems to say “they changed it and it’s GREAT” even if they feel that way).

    Web developers and web designers are people too. When they make changes to a website, it’s usually for business reasons. Hating on the design feels like hating on them. They’re not at fault — advertisers and management demanding “fresh” looks every 6 months or so is. There are only so many workable user interface designs.

  62. 62
    Martin says:

    @BrYanS:

    I’ve been wondering how Sketch-Up fits into this goal. A lot of people are using it to draw out their design, especially furniture construction, but I don’t see what Google’s goal it with it. How do they make money?

    Sketch up was bought at a different time in the company’s trajectory. It doesn’t really fit at all into the current plan.

    The thinking behind buying it was that by giving users an approachable 3D modeling app, that they’d add 3D content to maps/earth, and by making the utility of maps/earth better through crowd sourcing, that drive usage and therefore ads. Turns out that crowd sourcing every building on earth isn’t really a viable solution to a problem. I’m guessing they lose the product at some point here.

  63. 63
    Brachiator says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    Uhm, my friends don’t have any opinions about the things I search for work. However the opinions of any of my work contacts would be quite valuable if I was searching for something work related. What is it you do where there is such overlap between these circles?

    If I require the opinions of any work contacts, I can ask for them as needed. Pretty simple. I don’t need to see them or anything about them displayed on my computer screens.

    @Tractarian:

    I like reading those guys, but they are way to emotionally involved in the Apple/Google rivalry to be taken seriously on this topic.

    I don’t think much of Gruber, but think that MG is an honest journalist, which immediately removes him from any fanboy camp as far as I’m concerned.

    But debate over the google changes is popping up in various tech discussion areas. It’s got nothing to do with the Apple vs Google tech religion wars.

  64. 64
    Martin says:

    Bottom line with Google is that their business model makes you the product and advertisers (and carriers) the customer. No matter how hard they work to deliver good services to their products (and I admit, they work hard, and build good services), eventually the drive for profits, keeping the stock price going, and so on is going to pervert that effort. The long arc of business bends toward the profit model, and if the profits are by selling YOU, then the business is going to become more and more blatant in that effort. It’s inevitable.

    By comparison, Microsoft and Apple’s profit models never included selling you. Yeah, MS has some segments that do that, but they’re inconsequentially small at this point. Apple has none.

    There’s nothing wrong with Google’s business model (Facebooks is almost exactly the same), but users ought to know where these free operating systems and free services come from, and it comes from selling your information and access to you. I’m not interested in being sold, or having someone else control the door to my life. I’ll pay my money up front, and take the products and services that are designed for me as the customer.

  65. 65
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @Brachiator:

    If I require the opinions of any work contacts, I can ask for them as needed. Pretty simple. I don’t need to see them or anything about them displayed on my computer screens.

    So… once again… you are asserting that you think corporate SEO gives you better search results than the opinions of your colleagues. Good for you I guess? I disagree, and I bet most users will too. I would argue that social integration is actually an effort to create “integrity” in its search results. Something that has never existed before… see Google Bombing: Santorum, Rick.

    It might not work and it might really suck, but this “sky is falling” rhetoric that that happens every single time any company changes anything… with zero examples of… or facts related to… tech nerds’ predicted DEATH OF EVERYTHING AWESOME … is so freaking tiresome.

  66. 66
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    Funny, I don’t get any of this crap, searching in Yahoo. Never switched, I didn’t like what I read of Google’s data mining. I suppose Yahoo does it too, though?

  67. 67
    Can't Be Bothered says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how much people overreact to every slight change in tech. “But I’m used to it, this way!” It’s smart of them to push their social network now. Call me when they aren’t BY FAR better than their nearest competitor in search. Frankly, I LIKE the new feature. It’s just one more search tool. This is such a huge nothingburger.

  68. 68
    Can't Be Bothered says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    umm.. yeah. That’s every site on the internet. I’ve also never gotten the paranoia about data mining. You can have innovative free sites everywhere that know about you and try to sell you stuff or crippled innovation and charges. The trade off doesn’t bother me a whit. Just go with the better search company.

  69. 69
    Brachiator says:

    @Martin:

    Bottom line with Google is that their business model makes you the product and advertisers (and carriers) the customer. No matter how hard they work to deliver good services to their products (and I admit, they work hard, and build good services), eventually the drive for profits, keeping the stock price going, and so on is going to pervert that effort. The long arc of business bends toward the profit model, and if the profits are by selling YOU, then the business is going to become more and more blatant in that effort. It’s inevitable.

    I have no idea what you are getting at here. The profit model applies as much to Apple as it does to google or any other company. But this says nothing about how any business achieves its aims.

    And this stuff about google making “you” the product could be magnified by a … google .. when it comes to the perniciousness of social media like Facebook and other services, in which dopes make themselves, their friend, their family and their entire lives lucrative markets for advertisers. That millions so eagerly embrace this stuff simply amazes me.

    @J.W. Hamner:

    So… once again… you are asserting that you think corporate SEO gives you better search results than the opinions of your colleagues. Good for you I guess? I disagree, and I bet most users will too. I would argue that social integration is actually an effort to create “integrity” in its search results

    You may argue anything you like. It’s not applicable to what I do.

    It might not work and it might really suck, but this “sky is falling” rhetoric that that happens every single time any company changes anything… with zero examples of… or facts related to… tech nerds’ predicted DEATH OF EVERYTHING AWESOME … is so freaking tiresome.

    Even more tiresome is the mantra “change is inevitable” absent context or evaluation. See. Apple. Final Cut Pro.

  70. 70
    Martin says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    So… once again… you are asserting that you think corporate SEO gives you better search results than the opinions of your colleagues. Good for you I guess? I disagree, and I bet most users will too. I would argue that social integration is actually an effort to create “integrity” in its search results. Something that has never existed before… see Google Bombing: Santorum, Rick.

    That’s bullshit.

    2 months after Google opens up Google+ to businesses they add this feature? Why wasn’t it there from the outset if improving the results was the goal? Why is there no API for other social media to hook into? If improving the results is what they care about, they should also care about the 800 million Facebook users and the 200 or so million Twitter users and not just the 60 million Google+ users, or just the non-corporate Google+ users.

    Sorry, they’ve had years to improve the results, but they waited until they had a Facebook competitor and something to leverage to actually get around to it.

  71. 71
    Peter says:

    @Jennyjinx: You know, Plurk is still around. I use it a hell of a lot more than my twitter or Facebook.

  72. 72
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @Martin:

    2 months after Google opens up Google+ to businesses they add this feature? Why wasn’t it there from the outset if improving the results was the goal?

    I won’t argue that improving their advertising revenue isn’t what they are ultimately after, but I presume they aren’t stupid enough to think that “ruining their search engine” is the way to meet that end. I think it’s perfectly understandable why they didn’t want to link their search engine inextricably to Facebook… and I don’t really understand why you would think they’d want to. That doesn’t change the fact that social integration and personalization of search results would be a great boon to most.

    Like I’ve been saying: Show me some examples of how it’s screwing up your searches. The only thing I’ve seen linked so far is a search for “music” showing Brittney and Snoop Dogg on the sidebar(ZOMG!)… it’s almost like an… advertisement!? Never seen those on the sidebar before!

    Otherwise I don’t really get what you guys are complaining about other than “change is bad” and hypothetical slippery slopes of which nobody has provided any evidence.

  73. 73
    Martin says:

    @Brachiator:

    The profit model applies as much to Apple as it does to google or any other company. But this says nothing about how any business achieves its aims.

    Actually, it does. Apple makes money by selling me their products. I’m the customer. They have a vested interest in making that relationship a positive one, in not screwing me over. They’ll still do that, because all companies do that, but screwing me over isn’t a key milestone on the path to profitability for them. It is for Google, though. They’re sitting there with my personal emails on a server that their customers (advertisers) desperately want access to – and with 90% of their revenue/profits coming from those advertisers, they can’t ignore that. How long can they actively resist giving them that access?

    Apple also has my personal emails sitting on their servers, but 95% of their revenue/profits come from the owners of those emails. Their incentive to open up access to my data is zero. Actually it’s less than that, because earning my trust has value to them in getting me to give them money for other things. So, giving out my data, in theory, costs them money. For Google, it makes them money.

    Businesses like Apple (and MS, and most others in tech) have incentives which are roughly like what we want politicians to have with voters. We support campaign finance reform because we think that the way money flows in campaigns should serve as a reinforcement between politician and voter. We oppose SuperPACs and those kinds of things because we think that having politicians more dependent on some non-voting entity erodes the relationship between politician and voter by making politicians more dependent on lobbyists and big money donors than the are on the people that vote for them. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a number of free services have the same kind of divergent incentives that big money in politics creates.

    Understanding how a company makes money helps consumers understand how they’ll be treated. Services with no apparent mechanism to sustained profitability are almost certainly going to throw a landmine down in front of you as a lot of NetFlix users are discovering. The problems they’re facing today could be predicted back when they introduced online movie streaming. They were able to delay the inevitable, but eventually the day comes. Google and Facebook are in similar boats. How do they keep the business growing and profitable over the long term if all of their money comes from ads? They’re going to have to deliver something new over time to advertisers to keep that going. That’ll be new services when they can think up new services, but that might also be your data. By contrast, if you’re paying them up-front for the service, then their growth model baseline is simply to add more customers and not fuck up that side of things.

    For companies like Apple (or any other conventional company – Ford, Levis, Nike, Microsoft, Dell, etc) they grow their business and make it profitable by going straight through you. It’s about having products that you want to buy, making it easy/fun/cheap/whatever for you to buy. There’s a lot of positive incentives between you and them that don’t exist with companies that make their money from some other source.

    I know this sounds like a moral argument – it’s not. I don’t have a problem with Google’s business, but if you want to know what your relationship to Google really is (and you should if you keep all of your data on their servers – you’d do the same if you were keeping all of your stuff in someone else’s house) then you need to look at who Google actually collects their money from and what Google’s incentives are to not fuck that up. Do it for every company that you have a vested relationship with and you’ll have a clearer idea what your role is, why they make decisions the way they do, and what you can expect in the future. But I’ve never understood why so many people that get this concept in politics don’t apply it to other things that they’re equally dependent on. If you’re distrustful of Romney because he’s in the pocket of Wall Street and you think that will influence his behavior toward the electorate, why wouldn’t you be just as distrustful of Google because they’re in the pocket of Madison Ave. and wonder if that will influence their behavior toward their users? I don’t see why Google won’t bend to the same pressures that Romney or the GOP or Fox News or any other agency will. When money is the issue, behavior will always tend to follow money, no matter the context.

  74. 74
    Martin says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    Otherwise I don’t really get what you guys are complaining about other than “change is bad” and hypothetical slippery slopes of which nobody has provided any evidence.

    I’m not arguing that change is bad, or that this is screwing up already screwed up results. I don’t give a shit about search at all.

    My argument is that Google is creating more reasons for users to distrust that they are good stewards of your data because they keep blurring the line between your information (and the information of your friends/coworkers) and what they deliver to advertisers in order to make money.

    The specific complaints by Gruber and other tech writers isn’t about screwing up results at all. It’s about Google using a search/ad monopoly to win in the social media space. Pivoting off of my comment above, if you like Facebook, you should be alarmed by this development, because Facebook’s long-term viability is now in jeopardy because Google is using their search/ad monopoly in a manner that Facebook can never hope to compete with, and doing it in a way that threatens to choke off Facebooks revenue. Same holds for Twitter, because they all have similar business models. I don’t use Facebook, so I don’t give a shit if it goes away, but I think it’s safe to say that people wouldn’t want to trade their Facebook for greater integrity in their Google search results.

    That’s the game right now. That’s the real potential consequence of Google’s change. Personally, I think it’s unfair and bad for the market, and will lead to bad outcomes for users, not just of Google but also of other social media services. The effect on search is immaterial.

  75. 75
    Brachiator says:

    @Martin:

    They’re sitting there with my personal emails on a server that their customers (advertisers) desperately want access to – and with 90% of their revenue/profits coming from those advertisers, they can’t ignore that. How long can they actively resist giving them that access?

    A theoretical problem, for now. I see your point, but as I noted, Facebook and other social media applications that actively pimp you, your friends and your entire personal history to advertisers and businesses is even more pernicious.

    Apple has got to make profits and maintain their margins. HP and other companies moan that the PC market is a commodity business and that they can’t make money anymore, even when they loaded up their PCs with crappy bloatware.

    So, for now, Apple may be a little different, but it’s not because their model is inherently superior. They are certainly getting pressure to share user information with publishers and others who whine about iBook and News stand apps.

    Services with no apparent mechanism to sustained profitability are almost certainly going to throw a landmine down in front of you as a lot of NetFlix users are discovering. The problems they’re facing today could be predicted back when they introduced online movie streaming.

    Netflix’ problems were more complex. It was funny listening to tech people talk about how rational Netflix’ move in separating the DVD and streaming business was, because streaming is the future. The only problem is that while some of these moves were good for Netflix, they were not good for customers. Also, to, the media companies are doing stupid stuff to hinder Netflix, which in the long run (as usual) will just hurt both media companies and consumers.

    And there ain’t no such thing as a clear sustained path to profitability. What works for you today can be a huge handicap tomorrow. Ask Kodak.

    And sharp observers have noted how Siri is a new challenge to google. If you can talk to your phone to get information about a purchase decision, you may not be using google, even as a background aid to your search.

    If you’re distrustful of Romney because he’s in the pocket of Wall Street.

    That’s hardly why I am distrustful of Romney. Not even close.

    I agree with some of your points, but I also think that developments on the InterTubes, social media and other areas are shifting even what “conventional companies” do to separate you from your money.

    The specific complaints by Gruber and other tech writers isn’t about screwing up results at all. It’s about Google using a search/ad monopoly to win in the social media space.

    Yep. Exactamundo.

  76. 76
    Tractarian says:

    It’s about Google using a search/ad monopoly to win in the social media space.

    I guess I just don’t understand why this is so offensive to people. Especially considering Schmidt’s statement that, if Facebook and Twitter would just open themselves up to Google search, they’d be included in the social media results as well.

    @Brachiator:

    No, it’s about google harming the integrity of its search results, and doing so more in order to pimp its own products than to provide services and benefits to the user.

    By “harming the integrity of its search results”, you mean “providing distractions from its search results”, right?

    And unless Schmidt is lying about including Facebook and Twitter in the social media results if they opened up to search, then it is all about providing benefits to the user.

  77. 77
    Brachiator says:

    @Tractarian:

    By “harming the integrity of its search results”, you mean “providing distractions from its search results”, right?

    No. It’s about promoting irrelevant results that push a google product that have nothing to do with what I am searching for.

    And unless Schmidt is lying about including Facebook and Twitter in the social media results if they opened up to search, then it is all about providing benefits to the user.

    Schmidt is not telling the whole story.

  78. 78
    Martin says:

    @Brachiator:

    Apple has got to make profits and maintain their margins. HP and other companies moan that the PC market is a commodity business and that they can’t make money anymore, even when they loaded up their PCs with crappy bloatware.
    __
    So, for now, Apple may be a little different, but it’s not because their model is inherently superior. They are certainly getting pressure to share user information with publishers and others who whine about iBook and News stand apps.

    I don’t think Apple’s model is necessarily superior, but I think it’s much simpler in terms of its relationship with users, and the trade-off to that is often higher prices/fewer choices. On the other side, Apple puts the pain on the rest of the industry, rather than on users. HP and others decided to trade out some of that trust with users to lower end-users prices in exchange for collecting money from the crapware vendors. Without judging the wisdom of the decision, it means HP are treating crapware vendors as customers as much as you or I and the crapware vendors will get proportionately as much input on the products as you or I. If they’re the key to profitability, then the next HP PC will be tailed for their needs rather than ours. That’s fine, but looking at my relationship with the company, it’s a lot more complicated than if there was no crapware at all, and it’s a complication I don’t want and that I’m willing to pay for. Apparently a lot of others are as well.

    The same argument holds for cellphone OEMs and their relationship with carriers, cable TV with advertisers, even retailers like Best Buy with various elements that you see with their extended warranty business being so critical, and so on. Apple’s business model since 1997 has been quite straightforward: get everyone out of the bed but them and the customer. There’s no AT&T branding on my iPhone, there’s no crapware or AT&T services on there either. Same with my computer. Same with my music player. Same with the Apple retail stores. That’s why Apple rejected Adobe Flash. That’s why the app store works the way it does. They can’t do it 100%, but they keep pushing that as far as they can get away with. Has its costs, though.

    Apple does get pressure from publishers, but why would they yield to them? They make NOTHING off of the bookstore, the music store, etc. They make ALL of their money off of the devices. Selling your info is an obviously horrible decision. If they made a lot of money there, I’d agree with you, but in 2010, the book publishing industry had $30B in revenues. Apple is expected to significantly surpass that for last quarter alone. If that revenue mattered, Apple should buy the industry. They could. All of it. Easily.

    Netflix’ problems were more complex.

    Sure, but they were apparent from the outset. Anyone who knows the industry knows that studios/networks are pulling $30-40 or so per month per household out of cable. As soon as Netflix moved to undermine that revenue, with no means to replace it, it was clear that they were going to get fucked. The studios are not going to toss away 75% of their revenue willingly. Jacking up the cost of licensing was obviously going to happen, and Netflix had no mechanism by which to get the other $20-$30 per household that they were short. Netflix might be more efficient to operate than cable, but those weren’t the costs the studios had to bear, cable paid for that out of their advertising revenue and what they kept from the rest of the subscription fees. Any customer that feels like they were screwed by Netflix doesn’t understand the business. Had they, they would have realized that getting screwed was inevitable. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking advantage of the cheap access to content, but it was always going to be a short ride. Truth is, so far nobody except cable (DirecTV/Dish/etc) has a viable business model. Not Netflix, not Hulu, none of them. They’re all going to either blow up, get bought by someone who does have a viable model (hence Dish+Blockbuster), or screw you by either adding ads or jacking your rates up massively.

    And there ain’t no such thing as a clear sustained path to profitability. What works for you today can be a huge handicap tomorrow.

    No question. My focus is on how gracefully do they fail. If Google finds itself under pressure, their biggest asset is your data. If Apple finds itself under pressure, their biggest asset is a fuckton of cash and the loyalty of their customers. My data is pretty low on the list of things Apple is likely to raid. It’s pretty high on the list of things Google is likely to raid. But no, it’s not like there’s any absolute safety in either one, or anyone else out there.

  79. 79
    Martin says:

    @Tractarian:

    I guess I just don’t understand why this is so offensive to people. Especially considering Schmidt’s statement that, if Facebook and Twitter would just open themselves up to Google search, they’d be included in the social media results as well.

    Because there’s no money directly in search. And there’s no money directly in social media. There’s only money in ads. That’s it. Google owns ⅔ of that market. Facebook and Twitter opening up to Google only makes money for Google and makes none for them. That’s not an issue of greed, btw, because it undermines their revenues/profits to such a degree that they’re out of business.

    In the search/online ad space, Google is an effective monopoly. That’s not bad in and of itself, so long as they aren’t using it to leverage into new markets. This integration with Google+ is them trying to leverage into new markets, and there’s every reason to believe that they can/will put Facebook and Twitter out of business simply by yanking their revenue foundation out from under them, rather than by Google+ proving to be a better product.

  80. 80
    Brachiator says:

    @Martin: A few observations

    The same argument holds for cellphone OEMs and their relationship with carriers, cable TV with advertisers, even retailers like Best Buy with various elements that you see with their extended warranty business being so critical, and so on…. There’s no AT&T branding on my iPhone, there’s no crapware or AT&T services on there either.

    And yet Best Buy stores in the UK went bust, and the US is weak, not just because of competition from a giant like Wal Mart, but also amazon.

    The thing about crapware is interesting because Android phone sellers insist on installing bloatware and crapware because (they claim) the carriers demand it. And yet consumers put up with this.

    Sure, but they were apparent from the outset.

    Apparently not to Netflix.

    Truth is, so far nobody except cable (DirecTV/Dish/etc) has a viable business model.

    Not really. Here’s the problem. Cable and broadband costs are too high. Movie prices are too high. Video demand prices are too high. The cable companies insist that people want to park their butts at home in front of their TVs, watching stuff on a device tethered to a cable.

    The fact is that people want for audio and video what amazon provides with Kindle apps. They want to watch stuff on the device they have with them (tablet, phone, tv, laptop, whatever) where ever they are at the time, and to be able to continue to watch it when they damn well please. And some people think they want a la carte service (even though this may be more than they can afford when they add up all that they would really like).

    Some of the products being unveiled at the CES show are at least aware of this burgeoning demand.

    But the media companies, the cable companies, the broadband carriers, don’t see a clear way to satisfy the demand, and a jealously protecting old business models that don’t give consumers what they want.

    Netflix and other companies may well get pushed aside. But nobody has a handle on the best or most profitable business model here.

    Any customer that feels like they were screwed by Netflix doesn’t understand the business.

    It’s not a customer’s job to understand the business. And even here, understanding is irrelevant to whether a company can satisfy a customer’s desire.

    Coming back to the main point here, I agree with you that Google is trying to leverage into new markets and to deal with the challenges presented by Facebook and Twitter. But as you imply, this is not my concern or problem. I only care that Google continues to be a good product that works for me. If they lose that focus, they may find themselves in a vulnerable position despite all their engineering smarts and marketing strength.

  81. 81
    Dylan says:

    @J.W. Hamner:
    I have had problems with personalised search results several times. I’m an IT tech, and often need to search for long strings of text (like error messages, or concepts like “installing sql server 2008 r2 correctly for sharepoint 2010”)

    I have found that no matter how I rephrase my searches, I keep getting the same results, which I’ve alredy read and discounted.

    Then, if I do the same searh from home, or a computer in a different office, I get a completely (or mostly) different set of results, and often find the one thing I’m looking for.

    It’s unbelievably frustrating to have Google second-guessing what might be the most relevant results for “me” when quite often I just want the most relevant results for “everyone.”

  82. 82
    Martin says:

    @Brachiator:

    The thing about crapware is interesting because Android phone sellers insist on installing bloatware and crapware because (they claim) the carriers demand it. And yet consumers put up with this.

    Well, in order for consumers to resist, there needs to be a place to go, and the iPhone is the only place to go. I think that contributes to the devices popularity, but it’s really not enough choice to really change the trajectory of the market.

    On the economics of the iPhone, it really comes down to discipline, and only Apple seems to have it. Apple sells the $199 iPhone 4S to the carriers for about $629. So the carrier is on the hook for ~$430 which they recoup entirely from the 2 year contract. Competitors are selling similar handsets to the carriers generally for under $500 and often for $350-$400. Lately there’s been more over $500 such as the Nexus, by they’re comparably cheap. So the carriers there are on the hook for generally much less. This is why they can do BOGO deals and the like. But in spite of their lower costs, they still insist on branding the phones, telling the OEMs what to build, telling Google what to put in Android, and putting the crapware on. Apple told them from day one to fuck off and continues to say that. I don’t see any reason why the other OEMs can’t do the same other than a lack of discipline. Apple isn’t magical. Whatever they do here, anyone else can do if they so choose. Nobody is willing to dig in and do it. It’s damn hard.

    It’s not a customer’s job to understand the business.

    Depends. If you’re buying cheese, you’re right. If the company goes under or the product vanishes, who cares? But if you are establishing a dependency on the business, then you have a vested interest in understanding the direction of the business and if you get screwed, well, maybe you could have seen that coming, because now the cost isn’t just borne by the company but by you as well.

  83. 83

    […] “The fact that they would even consider lowering the quality of search results to push people to Google+, much less do it, indicates that something is seriously wrong at that company,” wrote Mistermix, a self-proclaimed “Googlebot,” from the blog Balloon Juice, […]

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  2. […] system. It reminds everyone that Google lives by satisfying the ad makers, not the users. “Google has one mission in the world: to put a relevant, compelling ad in front of its users. Search, mail, Android and […]

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