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.