Google adds Profiles to search in monopoly-like move

Google's come up with a way to entice more people to use its Profiles social networking feature -- it's adding Profiles info to searches for people's names, letting them control just what info makes it to Google's top result page. And while some say it's a good way to preserve your online reputation, others say it's just Google's way of leapfrogging its competition in social networking.

In a blog post announcing the new feature, Google's Brian Stoler says the addition of Profiles information to searches is intended to give people greater control over what people find when they search your name. The Profiles results, which appear in a special onebox at the bottom of the main results page:

offer abbreviated information from user-created Google profiles and a link to the full profiles. We've also added links so it's easy to search for the same name on MySpace, Facebook, Classmates and LinkedIn.

Google Blogoscoped's Phil Lenssen says the new feature is powerful and a boost to Profiles' competitiveness in the social networking arena, since adding your info to Profiles is a surefire way to get yourself to appear high up on Google's results pages--the first place everyone looks. But he also questions exactly how the feature will work going forward:

I wonder in what ways there’s also room for abuse here – what mechanisms does Google have in place to ensure Tony is Tony, and not an impersonating scammer? (Note you can get a “verified name” via Google Knol.) Reversely, what happens if Tony changes his job title to “Twitter CEO”, will that now be an easy way to get that “info” into the first pages of Google results without even a single backlink voting (backlinks are one crucial way of Google determining the order of organic results)?

Good questions. But in the end, it probably doesn't matter that much to Google. As Computerworld's Seth Weintraub says, the real effect of adding Profile info to Google searches is simply to help Google dethrone more popular social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. The move, in effect, makes Profiles the new de facto business card:

LinkedIn will still offer more work related information while Facebook will be a more casual social gathering place. Google will now try to replace both of those. Believe it. Google automatically connects you to Googlers in your contacts. They get access to your full profile, and you theirs. Instant Social Network.

The move is ingenious, but also fraught with monopoly overtones. Just like Microsoft in the early days of the browser, Google is a huge firm in search with a very small presence in social networking. Isn't adding Profiles to search just about the same tactic Microsoft used when it decided to add IE to Windows? Just asking.

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