Has somebody replaced Google with idiots?

Google Plus Your World
Google Plus Your World: other social networks aren't welcome here

Remember Google, the really good search engine with loads of great free products and a nifty mobile OS?

Bad news: someone's sneaked into Google HQ and replaced everybody with rubbish robot copies. How else can we explain the way everything's suddenly gone bits-up?

This week's disaster is Google Search Plus Your World, the best marketing boost Bing has ever received. Last week it was paid posts for Chrome that broke Google's own rules - oh, and that whole "making money from bootleg Olympic tickets" thing.

There's more. Nobody's saying it publicly, but it's an open secret that Android manufacturers are unhappy with Google's purchase of their rival, Motorola Mobility.

Android is mired in patent claims - 70% of firms now pay Microsoft money so they can use Google's "free" OS, leading Microsoft's Frank Shaw to crow that "we are the 70%" - that also affect Chromebooks, while carrier crapware and unavailable updates mean that Android customers aren't always getting the best experience. Meanwhile the best-selling Android tablet on the planet isn't a proper Android device: it's Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Is it just Google's turn for a media kicking, or is there something seriously wrong here?

Google's self-harming

The truth is that most of Google's problems are self-inflicted. It didn't take patents particularly seriously until it started getting clobbered, and its desire for market share means network operators and manufacturers, not Google, run the Android show. That's where the fragmentation comes from. And adding social to search... I'll come back to that one in a moment.

There's an element of tall poppy syndrome here, of course - the bigger you are and the more markets you're in, the more people will dislike you - but the wider issue is that Google often appears delusional.

Here's Eric Schmidt on Android fragmentation: it's not fragmentation but differentiation, he argued, because "Differentiation means that you have a choice". It's a classic bit of "we have always been at war with Eastasia" doublespeak.

And then there's Google's new search results. What on earth were they thinking? Using Google+ to add social to search is inevitable, but it's been crowbarred into Google in such a way that people are seriously urging everyone to switch to Bing.

Irrespective of Google's intentions, the new search looks like Google using its muscle to force people onto Google+ and Google Profiles by ignoring public content from rival social services. It's not great for advertisers either, as their ads have been bumped in favour of Google+ promotion.

What Google's done here is incredible: it now prioritises content from its own service above content from rival social services - even if that content is more relevant. That means Google has done the unthinkable and sacrificed its own integrity. By indexing the Googlenet rather than the internet, it's broken search.

Perhaps it's time for a new motto. Never mind "Don't be evil". How about "don't be stupid"?

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.