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Pretty much every company does this. Your phone company keeps a list of all people you call. (And happily give that list to anyone that asks nicely.) They collect information from your phone about dropped calls and keystrokes. Retail stores move stuff around and see if it changes your buying habits. Grocery stores track every item you buy and then have targeted ads print on your receipt. Amazon changes the price you see based on some profile it has built on you. Google does nothing worse than any of these companies -- when you have users, you accumulate user data. You can just leave it lying around for the government to collect, or you can fold it into your product to make it better. Google uses it to make their products better, and they have written policies on when the data gets anonymized and when the data gets discarded completely. Does your phone company or grocery store do that?

Furthermore, Google is one of the few companies that actively tries to educate you on how they care about your privacy. There are ads in the subway. There are ads on TV. There are ads (right now) on the top of every Google property. They really want their processes to be transparent so that you know what you're signing up for when you use Google products. It seems irrational to hate Google when every other Internet company is collecting the same data that Google is, but they hide their policies it behind 300 pages of legalese and Google buys ads to make it easier for you to understand.

I think there has to be some deeper issue than "they changed their privacy policy" or "my friends' pictures show up on the results page" that is causing all the Google hate. Because it just isn't justified for the privacy policy change or Search Plus Your World.




@jrockway - I know you just started at Google. Anyway, here are the deeper issues.

1. I had mentioned this in another post to you before. Anyway, some people(not all) are upset because your company said you were better than everyone else. "You can make money without being evil" "What is the best for users?" All that crap Google said to us and continues to say like it still exists. Google was the poster child of the business of the future. Everyone felt you were the ones that were actually going to do good. Facebook/MS/Apple never posed as is this. You did. And that is where the anger comes in. When you are told one thing and the opposite happens people get mad. They should have tried to manage expectations.

2. Thousands of businesses depend on your search engine. With some of them 80% of their business comes from you whether thru paid ads or not. Many of these companies never would have built their websites if Google didn't exist. When your company changes things to place their irrelevant content over the content of other websites/companies people are going to be pissed. What if Apple created their own applications for 50% of the categories in the app store and then placed their apps at the top of each category? Wouldn't you expect some sort of anger? Do you think Zynga would be pissed if Facebook placed all of their games higher than Zynga's games? Its the same thing.


When you are told one thing and the opposite happens people get mad.

What is so evil about adding social networking features to everyone's account? You have a Docs account and a Picasa account too, even if you don't use them, and nobody complains about that. What's the difference between Docs and Google+?

Thousands of businesses depend on your search engine.

This I understand. People are upset that they have to play with us even though they don't want to. Nobody likes to do things that they're forced to do. But this seems like shooting the messenger; it's not Google being evil because users won't use any search engines other than Google. That's just loyalty to a pretty nice product.

Google's customers are the people that click on search results. So while re-ranking your site may kill your business, you're not a user and that re-ranking makes the experience better for our users. If the social cues that Google now adds are truly irrelevant as you say, they shouldn't affect users' behavior at all. Users are not going to stop searching for something to buy just because they have to scroll the results page. If the social features are relevant, though, then users are getting a better experience. And that's a good thing, even if individual pages get less traffic from Google. Instead of being able to SEO the entire Internet, businesses can now only affect the search results for a tiny percentage of users. That's a good thing because SEO can't scale, and SEO isn't good for users or the Internet at large.

If you look at the Google experience from the standpoint of customers, it's pretty good. Users get relevant search results and ads. Advertisers get their content on top of everything else. It's a good compromise between advertising and usability, and it works really well. It's a bug that you could rank highly in Google without buying ads, and Google is trying to fix the bug. Manipulating Google results shouldn't be something you feel entitled to be able to do. If you want to rank highly in Google, be relevant for the user currently searching. Engage him in social media or email, provide relevant information about what you're selling, and, generally, be a "good match" for what the user wants.

What if Apple created their own applications for 50% of the categories in the app store and then placed their apps at the top of each category?

They already do this. Apple's apps are included for free on every phone. And you aren't allowed to replicate their functionality, either. It's expectee. Apple makes phones, Apple gets to put whatever they want on the phones. Google makes search engine results pages, Google gets to put whatever they want on search engine results pages.

This isn't quite the right analogy, though. I can see why MapQuest would be upset about Google Maps and why Yelp would be upset about Google Local. But even in those cases, Google ranks things as you'd expect. Yelp results often appear over the Google business pages, because Yelp is more popular for reviews. So overall, I don't see Google as being evil. They're being competitive and they make good products.


"Google makes search engine results pages, Google gets to put whatever they want on search engine results pages."

- Are you sure you've read the ten commandments? If you haven't here's the link. http://www.google.com/about/company/tenthings.html

In case you don't get the time to visit the link, let me include the very first paragraph of the very first commandment; it goes something like this

"Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line."


Since people are taking what I've said out of context, I thought I'd clarify this statement:

It's a bug that you could rank highly in Google without buying ads

I shouldn't have mentioned ads here. Position on the results page should only depend on the quality of your content; if your site has the best content on the Internet for the user's search terms, you should be the top result. You shouldn't be able to change your position in the organic results any other way, like by exploiting bugs in Google's ranking algorithm. The specifics of the ranking algorithm may change, but if your site is the best, you won't have to worry about it.


So how would you explain the Google+ profile ranking for a query like "Mark Zuckerberg". Is that really the "best content" on the web for that query?


Most likely lots of your friends have added him, so he shows up highly as he is popular (though for ironic reasons) member of a site you are a member of.


wait... "What if Apple created their own applications for 50% of the categories in the app store and then placed their apps at the top of each category?"

So ummm none of Google own products are featured at the top of each search category? Most of the time this is not a good user experience but users and businesses have no real option!




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