Google Plus users just got a pretty horrible new feature: search your name, and instead of finding out information about yourself, you're asked to provide it. Quite simply, Google won't give you information until you give it information. Guh.
As Drew Olanoff of The Next Web noted today, instead of giving you the results you are looking for, a Google vanity search now prompts you to fill out the remainder of your Google Plus profile. It's a clear example of Google prioritising Plus over Search. It's allowing a social network to hijack your Search screen until you feed it personal data. (When I tried this myself, the prompt took over the entire window of my 13" screen.) Google is increasingly acting like an overbearing second grade teacher. If you don't share, you can't have any for yourself.
So what happens if you do try to "complete your profile?" Mine was nearly complete, at 85 per cent. I filled out my university information and added a photo to my "scrapbook" (related: what the hell is my scrapbook and who can see it?) which were the only two missing fields in the "Update your profile" window. But that only took me to 95 per cent. I tried editing my profile directly from within Google Plus itself, dutifully filling out each and every field, including the really intrusive stuff like my relationship status and "who are you looking for?" (I'm just looking for myself!)
I'm still only at 95 per cent. I have no idea what I need to do to get to 100. Maybe it's some philosophical lesson that represents the fundamental loneliness of the human condition by never allowing you to reach completion. I have no idea.
But even worse than the constant nagging is that I'm not sure what I get in return by giving Google any more data. The benefit of actually filling all this stuff in is not at all obvious to me. Because perversely, the more information I give Google Plus, the less relevant my search results become.
For example, I see more photos of myself when I don't include search plus your world results, or am logged out of Google altogether, than when I do things Google's new way. When I don't include Google's social results and search Google images for my name, I tend to see lots of photos of myself—be they ones tagged with my name on Flickr, or various headshots I've used across the Web. By contrast, when Google adds social results, when I search Google images for my name I get a mish-mash of Google Plus image uploads. Some are photos I've taken of other people or even objects. Others are simply photos that I've commented on. The top image result for my name when I include Google's social results? It's a photo of the ocean.
Google's solution is, apparently, to nag me even more. When I try to click through to that photo of the ocean, or any other photo it thinks is me when I'm logged in, I'm prompted to turn on Plus' facial recognition feature. I wasn't even using Plus. Why is Google asking me to turn on a feature in one of its products when I'm using another?
Look, I know Google Plus is still very young. Yet in the few months it has been around, it's gone from being something I found intriguing and interesting, to boring, to mere pollutant in my search results.
And it's not as if I haven't tried. I've given Google Plus lots of my data already. I've automatically uploaded photos from my Android phone, I've filled out all the fields in my profile, I've dutifully put people in circles and tried to dive in. In fact, I very much want Google Plus to succeed. I want Facebook to have a strong competitor. I want to see someone else take on Twitter in the realm of open, real-time conversation.
And yet the bottom line is that the more social data I give Google Plus, the more Google Search gets wrong. But rather than looking for its own solution, the company is essentially asking me to fix it. I'm sorry, Google, but I've given you quite enough already.
Original image: Alberto E. Rodriguez-Staff/Getty Images Entertainment