Google made a major change to the search results page that appears when you search for a person's name. Google Profiles, for people who have set them up, now appear on those pages. Today, Google opened a discussion about Google Profiles and called for voting on ideas about what they include.Yesterday,
Profile options are already being changed in response to popular requests; a new section of contact information that you can expose only to selected groups of people has just been added, for example. This opportunity to influence how Google describes you via your profile could be a very important one, and it's worth your while to take a look at the discussion and cast some votes for and against ideas. As we write this, only 600 people have so far.
For example, Google Social Graph API creator, Brad Fitzpatrick, posted a request to add rel="me" markup to the profiles so that the smart applications (like this one) can tie together all the accounts from various websites people list on their Profle pages. Several other people asked to have music playlists or GTalk IM status messages included in Google Profiles. Others asked that Google Profiles by tied to Gmail contacts for easy viewing in other applications.
There's a lot of optional fields you can fill out in a Google Profile now. You're asked to list where you work, where you went to school, where you've worked in the past, what your "superpower" is and other information. When Google Profiles got pushed to center stage yesterday, we voiced a concern that most peoples' concerns about what shows up when people search for their name on Google is too much information. Being told that the answer is to give Google even more info about us, in order to have any influence on our public appearance, seems ironic at least.
The Potential For Innovation
The potential for innovators to make use of these profile pages, if they are marked up well and made available, is really incredible. Just imagine: Dear Google, please show my software to all the people you know with Google Profiles who have listed their Delicious accounts, have bookmarked in Delicious more than 10 links around the web with one of 10 common food-related tags, who live in California, Oregon or Washington, and who have YouTube accounts as well. I want to gather a list of the videos that are most popular this week with food lovers on the West Coast.
That might be a pipe dream, but it certainly wouldn't be technically difficult if markup was good, the data was exposed well to developers, and Google Profiles caught on well enough to build a large data set. Imagine the incredible variety of potential permutations of profile fields, cross referenced with data found on linked-to third party websites, that such a scenario would offer.
There are simple issues and there are complex ones that come up when public profiles become important on the biggest information discovery site in the world. There are privacy concerns and there are wishes and hopes for data-centric innovation. Who doesn't have thoughts about how they would like to be described to the world? Now's your chance to vote on it.