I read recently via Slashdot that Google has further refined their searches to even further tailor them to the individual. They’re including results from Google+, specifically from your circles (assuming you’re signed in, which most people are these days). I get the goal (read: targeted advertising based on data collection) but half the fun – for me at least – of searching is discovering new things. By tracking my every move and adjusting my search results accordingly, Google is removing that element.
It makes me wonder if I’ll reach a point where I only ever see things that I’ve seen before. Google will have so tailored my search that it only displays results based on sites I’ve visited, products I’ve purchased, comments I’ve made, et cetera. That’s probably okay for a great many people but to me it kind of feels like a form of censorship. Okay, before the hate emails and/or comments begin flowing, let me say that I understand that I’m not limited to Google’s initial offerings. I know I can turn off the features (i.e. sign out) and search “old-school”. I know I can scroll down to see results beyond the tailored top ten. But that’s not normal behavior. Most people check the top five if they even go beyond the first or second result. And that first and second result will now be populated from content within the bubble Google created for me.
So, yeah, now I’m the boy in the Google Bubble, not experiencing life outside my self-inflicted world. Sure, I’ll probably find what I’m looking for faster and/or something that piques my interests at the time. But what about that sense of mystery and discovery that goes along with a random search where you don’t know what sites will come up? One could compare it to stocking the pantry and refrigerator with only your favorite foods over and over. Ad infinitum. Yes, I’ll invariably find something to eat that I’m comfortable with and that fits me. Over time whatever is at my disposal is probably all I’ll crave. I’ll forget about other foods. My “world” will be smaller and my sense of wonder and subsequent experiences will be diminished.
Somebody on the Slashdot article I mentioned above had this to say, and I think it echoes my thoughts. Mostly.
“When I’m searching it’s because ‘my world’ doesn’t know the answer and I have to go elsewhere. Filtering out people I don’t know first makes it harder to find things.”
I suppose the new challenge is finding the balance between becoming one of those “off the grid” people, where I cloak my online existence so I can achieve non-tailored results, and the technophile-Google-junkie I already am. Or maybe I’ll just use Bing and mix it up with some StumbleUpon. Who knows!