Google is strong-arming users by forcing them to have a social search experience built around one service provider, Google. Not only is this anti-competitive, but it goes against users’ best interest.
The company has effectively co-opted your identity by encouraging you to join Google Plus and placing it at the top of their search results when your friends search for you.
Google isn’t the only one battling to be your center of identity, though. Facebook and even Twitter would like to serve as your primary online identity, but as far as I’m (and you should be) concerned, it’s not up for them to decide.
We Deserve Control
Ironically, in the past few years, some of the greatest open-web advocates have been snatched up by Google and Facebook in an effort to claim openness.
Being open has been manipulated over time to appear as though the company is giving users the option, and more importantly, control, of their own data. Facebook lets you export your data, but it’s not in a way that makes it efficient for others to import (there’s no way you are going to download a file then upload it to another site just to register). As for Google, I’m not sure about its exporting practices.
In all the discussion about Google determining which social service provider should serve as your identity, nobody that I’ve seen has suggested that the user should have that control. Why is that? If I want my identity on Google to show up as nickoneill.com (which it does for me), then I should have control over that. I shouldn’t have to go through a tedious search engine optimization process that extends beyond the skills of an average internet user, I should simply be able to select it.
Facebook doesn’t deserve to make that decision for me, nor does Google. Yet in launching the “search plus your world” product, Google essentially flipped its middle finger at you, the user, to tell you one thing: “we are now your identity, take it or leave it.”
As the web giants duke it out, the users, not the companies, will be the greatest victims because nobody with any significant voice is sticking up for them.
As an addendum, I should add that I believe the benefits for consumers gained from both companies has been radical. Yet, it’s important that as the web evolves, the users have control of their identity. Unfortunately, actions like Google’s, the government’s (e.g. the Stop Online Piracy Act), and even previous actions of Facebook, have shown that individual rights are often not a consideration when making decisions about the future.