I don’t know what all the hand-ringing is about: I thought they were already doing this. It sounds like they’re going to ramp up the tracking a bit, and privacy advocates are upset.
When someone is searching for the word “jaguar,” Google would have a better idea of whether the person was interested in the animal or the car.
I don’t want this. Do you know anybody who does? It’s not because of “privacy;” it’s because this kind of thing actually makes it more difficult to get the search results that I want. Google: you don’t know what I’m looking for, and no amount of tracking is going to enable you to figure it out. I will get the results that I need by using a thoughtfully constructed set of search terms and operators. If you want to improve your search results, just get rid of the spam and the space-wasting links to Wikipedia for everything. That will be far more effective than trying to divine what I want to see by spying on me.
Despite years of effort in developing algorithms to detect spam, Google’s results are still polluted, sometimes overwhelmingly, by link farms and obvious spam pages. Either this is the intended outcome or the problem is just too hard for their engineers. What gives them the hubris to think that they can tackle the much harder problem of providing meaningfully personalized search results?
Google’s success rests on their one good original idea: an algorithm that was able to rank pages in importance and return the best search results without human intervention. They leveraged this by building an innovative server infrastructure that was able to crawl the whole web and return these results in a fraction of a second. Their future success will depend on repairing this system by learning how to defeat the scum who have figured out how to game their system. So far, they are losing. Crude attempts to “personalize” their search results are not going to cut it.
Unfortunately, it is now clear that Google is committed to this long, slow path of fail. Its CEO recenty chided employees (many of whom have become nervous about some of their Google’s recent decisions):
This is the path we’re headed down [...] If you don’t get that, then you should probably work somewhere else.