Google once touted its search engine as the best objective search engine capable of serving up the best, most neutral search results. This last week, they’ve integrated social search into their search results. Now their search results are personalized based partially on your location as well as recommendations from your friends. Other search engines such as Bing had already been utilizing social signals into their search.
In the last year, social media has become one of the most popular ways of finding things online.
But the question is are we filtering our internet experience too much?
The coming of the internet marked a revolutionary time in history. No longer were people confined to their own paradigms. The entire world opened up to them. Whereas before, we got our information from the local newspaper or through water cooler talk. We could now get information from around the world. We were unlimited.
Google was revolutionary with their search engine in that they served up search results from objective signals. Their search results weren’t purchased. They were simply another yellow pages. They provided completely unfiltered and objective results.
That meant that if I was in a debate with my friend about who the greatest basketball player was, I could search on Google and get a list of objective results to settle the debate. If we were in a political discussion, I might be able to search and get differing points of views from republicans, democrats, and independents.
Last week, Google announced that was going to change. They’ve integrated their social signals from Google plus into their search results. That means that when people that you know hit that +1 button on something they like, that item will rise in the rankings in your search results. In essence, Google is loosing its objectivity.
Of course, search engine specialists are looking at different ways to work this new system. More social signals will be integrated into search packages. Google will likely accomplish its goal of growing Google+ and getting more people to join and interact.
All of this is great for Google, but for people looking for objective search results are we getting put back into the box?
If I did a search for different political points of views on taxes and all my closest friends are independents, are all my results going to come back showing only the independent point of view? What if I wanted to see what the Republicans and the Democrats wanted to say on the subject? Are those results going to get buried on the second page?
If I wanted to search for the best basketball player in history and all my friends are Lakers fans, are Larry Bird and Michael Jordan not going to show up?
Granted, our friends opinions are important, but at the same time, don’t we want to grow beyond ourselves? Traditionally, that was the reason we would pick up a book or a newspaper and read about the outside world. We wanted to expand our horizons beyond the water cooler. Along came the internet and we had the ability to expand our horizons even further.
But now, there’s been a leash put on how far we can expand. If I wanted to see what my friends are saying, I could have gone directly to Google+ or Facebook. The reason we search for things using a search engine is to find the objective results that are beyond our local opinions and biases. But now these too are filtered.
Now that the most popular search engines are all filtering their search results using social signals how do we get outside that bubble?
Is there a way to escape the bubble?
Is search becoming too subjective?
These are questions that come to mind with the recent changes to search.
Are we headed in the right direction?