Google +1 = Social overload

Google's new +1 program adds a social layer into search -- but do we need it, or is this more about what's good for Google?

I'm not sure how to say this, but I'm starting to think I might be antisocial.

It's not because I've spoken to more smartphones than humans today, mind you -- no, that's just part of an average Thursday. My newfound sentiment stems from the fact that I'm completely unmoved by Google's new social search effort, Google +1. If anything, I'm actually mildly annoyed by it.

Google +1 officially entered the world on Wednesday and is being rolled out to users as we speak. The service is kind of like Facebook's "Like" button, only instead of broadcasting your approval on some sort of wall, Google +1 puts your recommendation right into your friends' search results. Google's +1 button will soon appear next to everything in Google-based searches and -- like the hoard of social approval buttons before it -- will eventually show up on sites all over the Web as well.

If that blasted +1 button had a "Dislike" widget, I'd be clicking that thing like there was no tomorrow.

Google +1: A Two-Part Problem

My problem with Google's +1 program is really two-fold: First, my virtual life is already overflowing with a surplus of social services. I get recommendations from friends and colleagues on Facebook. I get links all day on Twitter. My inbox oozes with references and referrals. The last thing I need is one more place to find endorsements and share suggestions.

That aside, Google +1 invades what I view as a sacred neutral ground. When I perform a Web search, I don't want to see what my old college roommate thinks of the results. I don't want to know if 20 random people approve of this link or that one. I want a clean, clutter-free page showing me the most relevant results based on aggregated global measurements -- you know, that whole "algorithm" thing. To me, all the social stuff in search amounts to a bunch of added noise I simply don't need.

The +1 movement reminds me a bit of Google Social Search, a project that expanded earlier this year to put shared links smack in the middle of search pages. In a way, +1 is also somewhat reminiscent of Google Buzz, which briefly breached my Gmail inbox this time last year. As I wrote back then:

"The last thing I need is yet another social networking site to keep up with when I should be working. And the last place I need it is on a website that serves as one of my main productivity tools."

That pretty much sums up my beef with Google +1, too. I can certainly see the benefit of the program from Google's perspective. And hey, some users might love the added social layer. But for those of us who value the clean and pristine approach Google itself ushered into search, it'd sure be nice to have a +1 "off" switch option.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at his geek-humor getaway: eSarcasm.com.

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JR Raphael

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