Google has rightly or wrongly been in the news a lot recently.
Unfortunately, the search giant has been making all the wrong headlines, particularly in relation to online privacy and so-called ‘personal data mining’. The issue of user privacy has been much discussed on both sides of the Atlantic, and sadly for Google the debate could not have come at a worse time. Google is about to announce its first quarter earnings this week, and would, no doubt, prefer to concentrate on that, assuming things have gone according to plan of course. In an effort to switch the focus back to where Google’s would like it to be, chief executive, Larry Page, who is celebrating his first year anniversary, has published an open letter setting out the company’s vision for the future.
Larry Page has promised to deliver what he terms ‘next generation search’.
In essence what he means is personalised search in which query results become less generic and more tailored to every individual user. Effectively what this means is that the company will allow private data to be collected by each of its services, and shared with its other platforms. This has been the controversial issue that has divided opinion. Some industry experts believe the changes will revolutionise search and make it more responsive and valuable: other, however, see the move as invasive and slightly sinister. Last month the European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, suggested that “transparency rules” had not been applied. Data regulators in France also cast doubt on the move’s legality. Google said at the time that it believed it complied with EU law.
The truth probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. Mr Page shied away from discussing the more controversial aspects of personalised search, and preferred to concentrate on the positives, claiming that the company’s changes would make internet searching a more targeted and intuitive experience. Google has consistently argued that it believed it had complied with EU law.
In his letter, Mr Page defended the move and suggested that users will in fact appreciate the changes Google is now making.
“If you’re searching for a particular person, you want the results for that person – not everyone with the same name. These are hard problems to solve without knowing your identity, your interests, or the people you care about.”
He also suggested that the more information people post about themselves and others to its Google+ social network, the better the results will become. 100 million users are now subscribed to the service. Unsurprisingly Google sees as a testament to its success; however analysts believe the headline figure does little to mask the wider issues that are involved, like user engagement. Speaking to the BBC, technology analyst at BGC Partners, Colin Gills maintained that the search giant still has much work to do:
“They still need to work on engagement. Time spent on the Google+ is still minuscule when compared to Facebook and revenue from the site is immaterial.”
So what is Google’s long term vision for search?
Well, it’s working on driverless cars and augmented reality glasses at the moment, but the real vision is essentially the same as it’s always been: to be forward-thinking and to be the best. The chief executive wrote:
“I’ve pushed hard to increase our velocity, improve our execution, and focus on the big bets. The one-sentence summary of how to change the world… work on something that is uncomfortably exciting.”