Around the middle of Janurary, Google rolled out “Search Plus Your World” (hereon called SPYW), which means that logged-in users will get their organic search results augmented with socially shared content and markup, ostensibly from Google+. Danny Sullivan already wrote up two pieces about that (“Google’s Results Get More Personal”:http://searchengineland.com/googles-results-get-more-personal-with-search-plus-your-world-107285 & “Real-Life Examples of How Search Plus Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy”:http://searchengineland.com/examples-google-search-plus-drive-facebook-twitter-crazy-107554), which cover the changes brilliantly, so I suggest reading those, before carrying on.

In case you didn’t read them though, the important points are that when you’re logged in, you’ll see:

* Normal web listings, as they would normally be
* Normal listings pushed up or down, by your search history, and/or social connections
* Public Google+ posts, photos or Google Picasa photos, and
* Private or “Limited” Google+ posts, photos or Google Picasa photos shared with you

There’s a bigger picture here though, and to see it we have to move beyond what Google+ is, and on to what it represents, bearing in mind Larry Page’s recent statement:

bq. This is the path we’re headed down – a single unified, ‘beautiful’ product across everything. If you don’t get that, then you should probably work somewhere else.

That sounds like Larry trying to channel a bit of the late Steve Jobs. A unified, beautiful product, and if you don’t like it, get out.

h2. The Pledge

In magic, every trick has three parts: the pledge, the turn and the prestige. In the pledge, you’re shown something ordinary, like a deck of cards or a book. You’re asked to inspect it, to check it’s real. The point is of course, whatever is going on is so subtle that you won’t see it, even when looking. In the turn, the magician takes back the item and makes it do something extraordinary. A card gets shuffled in the pack, and the magician blindfolded. The book is shredded and the person put in another room. The places are set for something amazing to happen.

And then we get the prestige: the card is inside the bottom of your shoe, or the magician has had someone else write down a word, and it’s the one you chose. The part where everything defys the laws of nature and is put back together.

So what’s Google’s Pledge? Well, it’s to build a search engine. Lots of people were doing it back when they started. But they did a good job, and removed the clutter, and build a good product and refined it and many years later, here we are. They’ve monetised it well, and become a verb and done all the things that aspiring Valley companies aim to do.

The clever part though, was not stepping on too many toes along the way. By (pretty much) staying a search engine (although what they searched got bigger), Google quietly trundled along.

h2. The Turn

And then Google got weird. Forays in to social, sponsoring of projects that had no real basis in searching for things. Gmail, a great product for email, but bearing no real relationship to search arrived. And the Android came along. Again, an interesting product, with no relationship to search. And most recently, Google+.

With all these projects, it looks like Google’s trying to compete with dominant players in an important space – with Gmail it was Hotmail and Yahoo, in the case of Android, Apple (and iOS specifically), and with Google+, obviously the target is Facebook.

But here’s the thing, saying that they’re trying to compete with those services misses the point. In waiting for the prestige, people keep forgetting that Google swapped the order of the trick around. But the trick takes so long to pull off, everyone forgot that they were told what would happen.

h2. The Prestige

You can actually see what the prestige will be, over on Google’s “About page”:http://www.google.com/about/company/…

bq. Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful

Or consider the quote given to “The Guardian”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/12/epic-ftc-google-search-plus-privacy

bq. Our goal with search has always been to provide the most relevant results possible. That’s why for years we’ve been working on social search features to help you find the most relevant information from your social connections no matter what site it’s on. Search plus Your World doesn’t change who has access to content, it simply helps people rediscover information they already have access to. We’ve taken special care with our new features to provide robust security protections, transparency and control for our users.

Google doesn’t care about social, or mapping, or your inbox, or even search really. Google cares about information; specifically storing it and holding it in a format that’s useful, so when you go to look for something they’ve got the answer, and ads to show you alongside it.

h2. The Future

Google will continue to expand in to everything. They’ll push new technologies in every sector, so as they take off, it’ll fund their insatiable appetite for information. They’re working on driverless cars which will be vastly safer and more environmentally friendly. And of course, they’ll be able to suggest restaurants to you on the journey, and know your travel patterns and be able to advertise to you better because of it.

Google aims to be the Dyson of information, sucking everything in and, when you need them, giving the perfect advert back. A profitable way to run a search engine, certainly, but the best one? I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

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