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New Google Users Now Forced to Join Google+

New users who sign up for a Google account now have no choice but to join Google+. The sign-up form now requires a first and last name and a gender (‘other’ is allowed). It also asks for a phone number. At the bottom of the sign-in form, there’s a checkbox allowing Google to use +1s to personalize content on non-Google websites. It’s checked by default.

“Your Google Account is more than just Search,” the first box on the sign-up page now says. No kidding. When you click to the next page, you are instructed that you have joined Google+. Yesterday, Google trumpeted that it has 90 million Google+ users, but it made clear that it can count basically anyone with a Google account. Google has been saying it all along, but now we’d better believe it: Google is Google+ now.

More Than Just Search

Earlier this month, Google revealed Search, plus Your World. Before that day, public Google+ content was smushed into all logged-in searches, occasionally to the detriment of our Web searches. But SPYW split search in two, offering one side that was personalized with Google+ content and another that was “global.” Furthermore, users could turn off personalization for good in their preferences. I thought we dodged a bullet there.

I even gave Google’s social search results the benefit of the doubt. It looked like Google would try to pull in other identities from blogs, even Twitter and Facebook, if they could make a deal. That seemed okay. It seemed like Google’s “plus Your World” didn’t have to mean Google+ if we went out of our way to turn G+ off.

But then John Battelle made a point that unsettled me (in a good way). Google is not about search anymore, he wrote. “It’s about deals.” That’s not an open Web. That’s a cartel.

The Only Game In Town

No matter how many outside services I added to my Google profile, Google+ was still the only game in town on the social side of Google search. My network isn’t really on Google+ – except for the ways in which they haven’t yet opted out – so I don’t find what I’m looking for. I opted out. My instincts about Google+ social search messing up the Web were true in practice. But at least I could opt out.

But now, as the unofficial Google Operating System blog discovered today, new users have to wait to opt out until they’ve opted in. Once you’ve gotten the whole “Google is more than search” spiel and seen the “Welcome to Google+!” messages, you can dig into your settings and delete it all.

You’re All Set

And in the meantime, do you count as one of the 90 million so-called Google+ users? Do you count as one of the 60% who “engage daily?” Why is Google so shady about Google+ activity numbers? If it was going well, they would be straightforward about it, right? I gave Google credit for letting users opt out of services they don’t want, but it’s getting harder and harder to do.

For the really sneaky, Google Operating System points out that you can still access the old sign-up form if you know the URL. Let’s see how long that lasts.

What do you think of Google’s new personalization features? Do you use Google+? Tell us how you use the new Google in the comments.

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