Google's +1: Do not Like

Dear internet - help us fix our search results. Love and kisses, Google

Like it or like it - there's no "unlike" option - Facebook's Like button is all over the web like an unpleasant disease. It's not enough to like something any more; you have to Like it publicly or the site owners will cry. And now Google's got its own version, the +1 button.

It's very Google: +1 is, of course, a kind of geek applause - and a term that's completely meaningless to non-geeks. Part of me thinks it's brilliant, and part of me thinks it's terrible.

Brilliant first. Sometimes searching on Google feels like wandering into a fight between search algorithms and search engine optimisers, with useful results lost in a sea of Google-optimised irrelevance.

Personal blocklists, site previews and the down-ranking of link farms has improved things, but I'd much rather browse a web that's curated by people I know and trust - so for example when I search for The Bible I'd like to find out about the reformed band's tour, not the Good Book.

The terrible? It'll be used to tailor ads with even more precision: all that plus-one stuff is going to make advertisers very, very happy. Unscrupulous site owners will try to abuse it.

It'll be used to create Google bombs, with people hilariously plus-oneing a rubbish link with hilarious consequences. And it's pushing Google Profiles, which the firm clearly wants to use as the cornerstone of a social network.

In your Facebook

Those issues don't really matter, though, because the enemy of my enemy is my friend - and +1 has a very obvious enemy in the form of Facebook.

I don't like the way Facebook is trying to bring the entire web inside its walled garden, and I particularly dislike the way in which some operators demand you click Like before you can see their content - a trick that's already being used by spammers and scammers to pollute my news feed with even more crap than before.

The problem with +1, though, is the same as with Facebook's Like: there are a lot of stupid people out there, and some silly sod gave them access to the internet.

I don't fancy my search results being filtered according to how many dumbasses like a particular link. Differentiating between people you follow and the great unwashed helps, but it only helps a bit.

We connect with different people for different reasons. I might follow someone because their thoughts about tablets are interesting, but I might not want their opinions to colour any other kind of search.

Right-wing creationist nut-jobs can have interesting things to say about iPads; I don't want their input in my political or science searches, thanks very much.

There's an even bigger problem, though. Manually helping Facebook or Google rank links and add metadata makes me feel the way I do when I think about checking in somewhere with Gowalla or Foursquare: why on Earth am I doing somebody else's work here for free?

Since when was it my job to make billionaire corporations' products work properly?

Carrie Marshall


Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.