Does the great Google unification create more problems than it solves?

one googleYesterday Google announced it would be “simplifying” its privacy policy so that all separate Google product accounts would be tied together for a single signup system. As expected, privacy advocates are outraged by the change and Google’s failure to allow users to opt-out. To Google’s credit, there are some issues here that needed to be fixed–but in the process, it could sacrificing user trust and search accuracy. 

In Google’s defense…

…This has been a long time coming. Everyone has complained about Google’s fragmentation problem, and defenders of the brand have been begging for a solution. Google began as a search engine, and has relatively quickly branched into a variety of Web sectors.

Everything Google has been doing over the past year or so speaks to this path. The launch of Google+ was the largest indicator that a far more centralized system was coming our way. G+ tied into Gmail and integrated a variety of other properties into the social site. Little by little, Google’s been chipping away at the separation between its bits and pieces. Beforehand, it seemed like there wasn’t a core, a central to the service—if anything, Gmail or Search was the user starting point, and from there we would find our way to other products.

Something needed to happen. Prior to this single signup system, some users were swimming in Google accounts. For the most part this was alleviated by tying your one Google profile login information to its products across the board, but it still meant there were a variety of different privacy policies. Now, the 70+ entities are streamlined and connected (with a few exceptions, such as Chrome and Wallet, which have separate policies).

With its hands in so many different pots, Google does need to find a way to centralize everything, one hub where people go to get and manage their Google experience. And after being criticized for it so much and taking clear steps toward that end, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Google is making good on promises to unify and simplify its services.

Sites are often criticized for their pages and pages of legal jargon-filled privacy policies—and Google is cutting down on that significantly.

Is Google losing touch with its roots?

Less and less distinguishes Google from Facebook and Facebook from Google, but the search giant does something very well that Facebook is trying to get in on, and that’s offer an app platform. It has Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, YouTube, Google Shopping, Google News – and that’s not including the variety of games and other tools available in the Chrome Web Store and the Android Market.

Until recently, Facebook has had a comparatively meager inventory of apps. But that’s been changing quickly, and the Open Graph and new class of apps that take advantage of it are going to disrupt the entire market in a big way.

Both Google and Facebook know that the Web revolves more around apps every day, and they want a piece of it—and a unified service that can leverage your data succinctly across all of these branches is easier for them to access.

The difference is that Facebook began as a centralized service, or one big entity with little branches of apps stemming from it, and it’s now growing those options under its brand name. Google comes from a more open foundation with many properties that have somewhat existed independently, but now it’s trying to rope them all together.

There’s no sense in playing the “who’s worse with your privacy game” (you could argue for either to win), but it’s worth noting that Google is also a mobile company and wants to make a bigger play for the enterprise dollar. This is made many times more difficult when it’s constantly being investigated the world over for its privacy practices. Already, Irish privacy regulators are investigating the change-up.

Of course, Google also has its Search reputation to protect. Search has also come under fire and the new changes, which ultimately focus on Google reading you as a consumer more accurately, don’t speak well to concerns over specifics about its algorithm and how it “socially” surfaces content.

It’s about Ads…

If there were any remaining argument about whether Google was a search company or an ad company, it can be extinguished now. Bringing user information across services is an Adsense priority, and doesn’t really benefit a (non-personalized) search experience in any way. Google’s trying to centralized itself but also simultaneously making a move that isn’t in the interest of what it’s tried to sell as it’s main focus. 

Still, fragmentation has haunted the brand, and cutting down on jargon-filled text is always a good idea. But change is always difficult, especially when Google’s priorities and identities (now identity?) seem to be in flux. 


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