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Posted at 01:38 PM ET, 01/13/2012

Google’s new search ruins everything

What happened, Google?

“Here are personalized results from your social networks!” Google says, hopefully, every time I visit.

Not really. But “Here are personalized results from the three people you know who are on Google+, two of whom are Google employees” doesn’t have the same ring, somehow.

Look, if I wanted personalized search results from my social networks, I would be on Facebook.

Google’s made a mistake. Again.

You’d think it would understand by now. The Internet falls squarely into two categories. You use it to navel-gaze. And you use it to get information about things beyond your navel.

Facebook is lord of the first domain. Google rules the second.

Facebook will tell you everything you want to know about yourself and everyone you care about. What are they listening to? What are they reading? How’s Marsha’s baby? Did everyone go camping this weekend and not tell me?

Google will tell you everything else. How do I baste this turkey? Who was that guy on “Modern Family” last night? Is it a brain tumor? What’s a Santorum?

They’re two separate kingdoms. Land and ocean. Earth and sky. Math club and cheerleading squad.

Some creatures make it as amphibians. Some people are prom queen and salutatorian. But most of us are forced to choose. Generally, even if you’re the dominant species on land, you aren’t going to last very long in the water. If you’re the king of the deep, the thing to do is find the largest, most impressive land beast there is, shake its paw, wish it the best of luck, and go your separate ways. Instead, Google and Facebook are swiping at each other. But Facebook has wisely avoided jumping into the water, for the most part.

Meanwhile, Google flung itself belly-up on the beach and tried to conquer the land. It may not be a fail whale yet, but it’s getting embarrassing.

Has Google visited the Internet lately? The signs suggest not. It hasn’t even been to the movies, or it might realize that there’s already a Social Network out there that is doing fine, thank you.

At the time, we gave it the benefit of the doubt. When Google+ came out, few of us pointed out that going up to most Internet users and saying, “Hey, kids, you tried ‘social networking’ yet?,” was vaguely creepy and made you sound woefully out of touch. Now everyone’s coming out to point and laugh.

I miss when Google came up with innovations I actually wanted. Gmail. News search. Even Instant wasn’t so bad.

Lately it’s been one flop after another. Google Wave. Google+. And now this Google Personal Results, which grafts something nobody wants to use onto the simple, uncluttered search we all depend on.

“Hey,” Google says. “Remember that one thing that, in spite of all our recent flops, we still do better than anyone? How about we mess with that and make it less convenient for you, in order to promote something else we do less well?”

“That sounds awful,” we say. “Don’t do that.”

But Google never listens. It’s like the time Michael Jordan decided to become a baseball player. No. It’s worse. It’s like if Meryl Streep quit acting now to become a baseball player.

“Personalizing Your Google Results With Google+” is an exact synonym for Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face. It reminds me of when a talented musician forces his tone-deaf son to perform a guest vocal on his album. “Get him out of here,” we sigh. “That’s not what we came for, and it makes the whole album worse.”

There’s an old saying, “Don’t mess with perfection.”

Google, once, was as close to perfect as you got. But they kept messing with it. There’s innovation. And then there’s messing with a good thing. Most of Google’s recent efforts fall squarely into the latter category.

Ever since Google started to cultivate a robust lobbying presence, I worried. That’s generally a sign that innovation is on its way out and litigation is on its way in.

At the rate it’s going, Google will next be rolling out a new search engine. “Life is complicated,” the cheery promo video will say. “Why should search be any different?” In order to find what you want on the Internet, it will force you to call someone up on the telephone and click through eight interactive graphics. “Innovation!” Google will yell.

This isn’t only Google’s trouble. When Twitter switched over to the New Twitter, everyone had the same complaint. Old Twitter, they said, looked like a better, more streamlined version of New Twitter.

But Google’s been hit especially hard.

Google’s new strategy seems to be to Become All Things to All People. But the trouble is that people already have other people doing most of those things, and they’re quite content. Google+ still boasts fewer users than MySpace, as Carl Franzen points out in an excellent post.

Now it’s making a critical mistake. Sure, “Social” is where everyone is, these days. But there is still a desire for information beyond the navel. The land may be “in” these days, but the ocean’s not going anywhere. And Google’s quickly trading in its Simple, Efficient, Best Search birthright for some pretty dubious social pottage.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for Bing.

By  |  01:38 PM ET, 01/13/2012

Tags:  Google, oy, why

 
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