The search-engine giant debuted badges for the U.S. edition of Google News Friday. They are available for more than 500 topics, and readers can earn different levels based on how many articles they read, starting with Bronze and advancing to Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Ultimate.
The badges have already attracted some online skepticism, as well. Mashable wrote:
We can see how it might be helpful for your Google News page to keep track of which types of articles you’re reading, making it easier for you to further customize your personal Google News site. We have badges here at Mashable for using our Follow social layer, and we like them.
What about on Google News, though? Does this matter? Is it important to show yourself how much you’ve read, or have proof of same to lord over others? Or is this just a non-compensated loyalty program that benefits Google the most?
TechCrunch was even more forceful, chiming in:
Whether you think gamification is the road that leads to a brighter future — or instead straight to the irreparable infantilization — of the Web, even the harshest of critics have to admit that there’s more to the concept than simply slapping some badges on a website, game, or application, foursquare-style. The more I read up on this new Google News badges stuff, the more I think some people over at Mountain View didn’t quite get that particular message.
Is this a half-baked attempt to get more people to turn on Web history, share their personal browsing behavior, and generate more traffic and clicks for online publishing “partners?”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but come on, badges?
From the post on the Google News Blog, introducing the badges:
Your badges are private by default, but if you want, you can share your badges with your friends. Tell them about your news interests, display your expertise, start a conversation, or just plain brag about how well-read you are. You can also add custom sections by hovering on a badge and clicking, “add section,” to read more about your favorite topics. To get started with badges, visit Google News from a signed-in account with Web history enabled, and then visit this page on our Help Center for instructions.
This is just the first step — the bronze release, if you will — of Google News badges. Once we see how badges are used and shared, we look forward to taking this feature to the next level.