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Summary:

Another part of Google’s master plan has quietly debuted on a couple of their sites: Google Profiles. Most easily accessed at the moment through Google Maps (look for the “My Profile” link in the top menubar if you’re logged in to a Google account), they’re also […]

ScreenshotAnother part of Google’s master plan has quietly debuted on a couple of their sites: Google Profiles. Most easily accessed at the moment through Google Maps (look for the “My Profile” link in the top menubar if you’re logged in to a Google account), they’re also currently integrated with Google Reader (“Settings” and then “Friends” will take you there). Google promises that Profiles will link up other Google products as well, though as yet they’re not saying which ones or how quickly this will happen.

Profiles can contain various bits of information; it’s up to the user to decide how much to enter (and thereby share with the world). There are data entry fields for name, nickname, photo, occupation, location, and 5000 characters’ worth of “about yourself.” You can also create multiple links to your own web sites. If someone else browses to a review you’ve written via Google Maps, or to a shared item in Google Reader, they can click through to your profile to see the information that you decided to share.

There are quite a few unanswered questions yet about this new service. For example, although the help page on Profile says “You control what goes into your Google Profile, sharing as much (or as little) as you’d like,” there appears to be no fine-grained control over this at all. Your contacts see everything, others see only your nickname, occupation, location, and links. If you want to share your photo publicly, you’re out of luck.

It’s not clear why Profile is a separate service instead of being part of Google Accounts, especially given that the two are clearly sharing a database; if you edit your name or nickname in one, it changes in the other. But you can’t change your photo via Accounts, and changing your default address in Accounts makes no difference to your location as reported by Profile. The lack of a unified editing page seems like a grave oversight.

Finally, it’s disturbing to not quite know what the future plans are here. Google says a Google Profile “is simply how you represent yourself on Google Products” – but is that intended to remain true for all time? With the combination of Profile and Accounts, plus the social features recently added to Reader, plus other properties in the Google arsenal like Jaiku and Orkut, it’s entirely possible that Google is planning a run at being the social networking king. On the other hand, it’s also possible that they could shop the combination around to other sites as their own answer to Passport and OpenID – a universal web identity backed by a trusted brand.

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  1. Interesting info. I believe , with the recent coverage of Google Earth , that Google may be lining up a group of outlets , to bundle and sell as a total service , for the purpose of becoming a tracker of international travelers. This would become a possible private sector rival to the system the U.S. government is pushing for. The coming year is gonna be full of privacy issues in the court system. Time will tell.

  2. So how is this different from when Microsoft tried Passport?

  3. if Google tries to “be the social networking King”, they will get their head handed to them (via Facebook).

  4. Matthew Niederberger Monday, December 17, 2007

    interesting post, especially the question you posed about accounts and profiles sharing the same server, so why present it as two seperate entities. nevertheless, I don’t believe that what Google is doing, does not differ to much (in general terms) to what Microsoft is doing with Live. yes the information is shown more freely in Google Profiles, but who is forcing you to enter the ‘correct’ information. for years I had linked my MSN/Live account to zip code 90210 (from the television series) to get the 250mb storage space, up until they upgraded it for europe too. Google does not force the average user to enter legitimate information, it does however for business’ if they want to appear on Google Maps. too much fuss? the average user is still in charge of his/her information, as long as we don’t need to upload our payslips or photocopies of our ID cards I do not think there is too much to worry about…. yet.

  5. Matthew Griffin Monday, December 17, 2007

    I think you’re guess about Google making a run for “king of social media” is right. Passport and OpenID have been around for awhile and haven’t really done that much. A move like this from Google is obviously pointing to something bigger.

  6. I think, Google is in the first stages of setting up a match making service. Look at all the other match makers: they basically have profiles, search and some messaging. Google can do all that too. Only missing so far: profiles.

    Voilá.

  7. I think Google is positioning itself for proximity marketing. It’s trying to obtain wireless spectrum; already in radio; will soon move into hardware; has or knows where all the content in the world is. All it needs is to sew up all the pieces, and make sure ads are served according to where and when and how people behave…so – go ahead, tell them who you are and what and when and where you do. Either marketing will take the next big leap forward, or you have no idea how bad spam is yet – IMHO.

  8. Oh come ON! Do people now have anything else better to do then rag on Google? Google is taking all the same steps as MSN and Yahoo! did in their prime but everyone treats them differently somehow. It’s a profile, same as Yahoo! which gives a user the ability to not have to keep track of whatever personal info they wish to share in many different areas. Google REALLY needed to do this and it’s a long time coming. Its really irritating having different profile sections per EACH Google product and service you use. Sheesh! As for the match making service .. Orkut .. need I say more? It is a failing social networking service none-the-less but one all the same. If anything dating wise was to be accomplished it would be incorperated into Orkut. I say again, MSN has the SAME service, as does Yahoo!. It’s yet another step into diving into different markets by offering different services or improving the ones they already have obtained. Google obviously has finances above and beyond the ever so slowly dropping Yahoo! stock (which rumors still flying that MS might eventually aquire them), and even Microsoft itself, however Google is still behind (way behind) in services that these giants have been offering since their fledgling days. Lets cut Google a break shall we?

    MA

  9. “Lets cut Google a break shall we?”

    Go to Webmasterworld to rub Google’s butt. Here you talk the real issues and the best part is that they are not being deleted.

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