If you are signed into your Google account you are about to see some drastic new changes in your search results.
Google’s new Search Plus Your World format will get you personalized search results which will include listings that you have previously shared with others and what others have shared with you, along with the usual results from other websites.
Amit Singhal of Google introduced the new search. “Today we are introducing Search plus Your World, a new Google search experience centred around people. For the first time ever, you will be able to find personal results from your world -- your photos, your friends, your stuff -- in search.”
If you and your friends are really active on Google Plus (that’s the perimeter of Your World for now), you will get plenty of personalized search results. You can find privately shared content from friends and family, in addition to the normal search results.
Sounds good in theory eh?
But Google has been getting a lot of flak already for the privacy concerns of the new search format.
It is a little disconcerting to see your posts and images - especially the ones that you had previously shared only with a select group of people - suddenly appearing on what looks like a public search page. Of course, the search results view is personalized and visible only to you, but it can take a while to get used to.
Google also offers the option to toggle between personalized and non-personalized search, so if you do not want to be bothered with the pictures of your friend’s pet boa constrictor while you are searching for a feather boa, you can turn personalization off. You can also permanently opt out of personalized search through the Search Preferences page.
The trouble is when the new search is going to bring up the past. In your callow youth, you may have privately shared pictures of yourself in various stages of inebriation. You aren’t proud of it and are trying to put it behind you. You don’t want that to be brought up time and again in either your or your friend’s search results, do you?
Also, at the moment Search Plus Your World is restricted only to the information that you have shared on Google Plus. But Facebook is THE source, when it comes to personal information of users. If sometime in the future, Facebook starts sharing its coffers with Google, imagine the kind of personal information a simple Google result will dredge up? And the Google’s official stand on this issue (as told by Amit Singhal to Danny Sullivan of Searchengineland) is that if others are open, they will be (re)designing things to see how it would work.
All in all, internet marketers simply cannot ignore Google Plus anymore. Most of the personalized search results are going to be tied to the G+ profile, so though Google is being criticized for promoting itself on search, it cannot be expected to be doing much else, can it?
In the coming weeks though, other social platforms may also begin to be featured on Google search results. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt says that they are more than happy to integrate Facebook and Twitter data to Google search if they grant access to their data. But will this mean that your Facebook data may become visible to people on your Google Plus list? Google will need to create different pockets for Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus because the kind of information that users share on these 3 networks and even sub-groups within each network are markedly different from each other.
The Plus format seems to have both positive and negative aspects. I guess we need to adopt a wait and watch approach before pronouncing a verdict on Google Plus Your World.
Note to self: Delete Michelle’s Freaky Pictures album from Picasa.