A Rant About Google Social Search

January 15, 2012

I have posted before that I have never been a fan of Google Instant and with Google’s decision to include and prioritize their own social network in search results, I decided it was time to begin looking elsewhere for my search.

Others, perhaps most notably Twitter, have also been not too happy about this trend, as it pushes Twitter out of the way in order to promote Google Plus. Of course, this is not so simple and other factors go into the Twitter vs Google issue, including indexing issues, but I digress.

I had heard about DuckDuckGo before and tried it a few times, but never seriously, so wanted to give it a chance. Overall, I have been impressed with Duck Duck Go and my thoughts on them are in the above post, A Week With Duck Duck Go

Why I Dislike Google Search

I find Google Instant to be a distraction, unneeded, and a waste of resources.

This is especially true when I am trying to think about a query and pause long enough for Google Instant to catch up, only to be bombarded with flashes of whatever Google thinks I am going to search for. More often than not, this is of no help and only serves to help me loose my train of thought.

Search suggestions are one thing, and can be very useful, but actually loading results makes no sense to me. With them, at least, considering, if not implementing, pre-loading of actual web pages in a similar ‘instant’ manner, I worry about what the added strain this will put on web-servers, as well as other security/usability concerns.

While it is possible to stay logged into Google and disable Google Instant that way or, I think, retain a persistent cookie, both of these methods directly contradict my preferred method of browsing securely and minimizing tracking, for what little that is worth.

So, to disable Google Instant, I usually just browse with scripts blocked on Google, enabling as needed for things like image searches, map searches, or other google services that simply do not work without Javascript.

With the display and prioritizing of Google Plus accounts within search results, as part of their Search Plus Your World initiative, I feel that they are pushing their own service, at the expense of quality results, providing yet more unneeded fluff, and generally degrading their service.

At the end of the day, if I search for PHP, I don’t want to see what the most recent Google Plus posts from Rasmus Lerdorf, no offense Rasmus, or the last person to copy and paste some post about PHP to their Google Plus Account, or added PHP to their list of likes. Nor, do I want to see overly personalized results, they already did that too much before this change.

If I wanted social search, I would go search Google Plus or browse facebook/twitter, ect. Instead, when I come to a search engine, I am looking for answers to a question, not whatever people in my circle are browsing. Aside from these aspects, I see too much potential for gaming the system to prioritize listings for this to be in any way a good thing.

If there is one silver lining of this, perhaps now we will see less prioritized Google Plus listings within the actual SERPS, at least when logged out and blocking scripts.

While those who are logged in can disable this by pushing a button, I run into the same issue of non-persistent solutions or having to always log into a Google Account each time I want to search.

Keeping scripts disabled is also an option, but really, I just want quality relevant search results I can trust and with Google pushing their own Social Network into the serps, I don’t know that they are able to offer that anymore.

Another issue I have with Google Search, which is a blessing and a curse, is the implementation of ssl search via Google. Some of these changes result in redirects in-order to maintain ssl search, while also providing tracking data.

Is Google Still Relevant For Me?

Of course, so many people use Google and will continue using them, enough that ignoring Google all together is not even close to being an option. With their Android marketing plan, millions of non-computer users are also now only using Google services, so maintaining a healthy relationship with them is essential.

And, realistically, there is a lot of potential for reaching people through this search change, including what I see as probably a lot of bad ways where it could be gamed and spammed to get improved serps. While this is merely an hypothesis and I have not actively explored it, I can see how promoting circles and getting likes/friends could be an easy way to get a foot hold in serps, which are otherwise only filled with quality well established websites. This would have the result of further diluting the actual relevancy of Google Plus and search at the same time.

By only including their own Social Service within the results, their motivations can and will be called into question, including several initial Anti-Trust investigations in Europe, but even if they decide to include facebook and twitter, I would still take issue to artificially inserting sites into the serps.

For my personal searching needs, I would rather, whenever possible, use other options, which is why I have been trying out Duck Duck Go for the past few days.


One Response to “A Rant About Google Social Search”

  1. Phil Says:

    The whole thing is wrong, so wrong. I wonder what will happen because of it. I actually hated facebook but now I have taken it more seriously because of this

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