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The author is prompt to admit that this is pure speculation on his part, and so we don't know how and why Google became what it is; but I find his explanation very convincing.

Serving personalized results to users may increase click-through rates but it degrades the idea we form of what Google is and what it does.

> Serving personalized results to users may increase click-through rates but it degrades the idea we form of what Google is and what it does.

If it serves me better results, then how so?

Who says it serves you better results? If I type in "tea", am I searching for Tealuxe in Harvard Square or am I searching for the botanical and scientific material on a common drink or am I searching for recipes? The new "social+local" Google biases my results towards the former.

A search engine used to be a tool for reaching out into the world and finding something new. Now it searches through what I already know? What's the point in that?

Search engines were never a content discovery tool for me. I use HN, Twitter, Facebook for that. Some others use Digg, Pinterest and Reddit. When I search on a search engine, I am looking for a solution to a question that I have.

Better can mean 'more liked' and 'more accurate' which are not necessarily equivalent. Accuracy being something of a fuzzy category, of course.

Here’s how: http://dontbubble.us

I always thought that search personalization was of course better, until that page made me think about the downsides.

The problem of course is that what Google actually IS and what people THINK Google is are two completely different things. Google is an ad company, always remember that.

The argument that "it's a business" is weak and not very helpful.

Google makes its money from advertising, but in order for it to place ads it needs to serve relevant results; serving "tailored" results because they generate more clicks is short-sighted (well, that's the argument anyway). If people become so distrustful of Google that they stop using it, and use a combination of DDG or Wolfram Alpha for example, then there will be no more ads for Google to serve.

We're admittedly very far from this, but the fact that high-profile people such as PG start to complain about it publicly (and not just old anonymous grumps like me) should make Google think.

We'll see.

"It's a business" is a weak argument, but potentially a helpful one. Your optimal search experience generally won't line up with theirs. In retail, for example, there are all kinds of tricks used to keep customers in the store as long as possible without making the experience so unbearable that customers just won't come anymore. So if you go to the grocery store for some fruit and vegs and yogurt, you will need to visit opposite ends of the store, through the seasonal items and past racks of candy, because this apparently results in increased sales. If they were optimizing for you, they would have the basics near the entrance, and the Peeps and cinnamon brooms at the farthest corner. They might still have the best produce in town, but as they figure out how to wring more money out of their customers (on average), the experience becomes grating for some portion of their clientele.

>"in order for it to place ads it needs to serve relevant results;"

or Google could serve ads by developing a suite of web apps, or a mobile operating system, or a even a social networking site.

Google could even serve ads on other people's websites when people visit those websites without going through their search service.

Google is not an ad company. People just like to say that because they think it's clever or surprising or something. Google does not produce ads. They sell ad space. So does Facebook. So does NBC. These are product companies selling ad space.

And without a great product, the ad space wouldn't be very valuable.

Totally agree. This is why Google cares so much about the quality of results.

Are you aware that Google runs an entire ad network? It's said to dominate the field of online advertising.

Anyone know what proportion of their revenue comes from ad placement on their own product pages?

I didn't understand the reasoning behind the retort.

>Are you aware that Google runs an entire ad network?

Which would mean that they would want to keep such third party sites interesting, fast and high quality as well. Chrome, Analytics and their other similar products/services are hence justified.

I'm saying the search engine, email, phone OS, and social forums are Google products which are just tangentially related to their advertising business. It would be interesting to know what the real split in revenue is in the discussion about what their real "product" is.

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