Google Operating System discusses the integration of Google Profiles into most Google services and products and the unification of disparate profiles into a single master profile. Whether and how this might ultimately be integrated with Google’s newly reinvigorated social network, Orkut, is unclear. Although they are much less extensive, Profiles may turn out to be to Orkut what Shopping became to Froogle — a successor and repositioned product. As Google Operating System points out, the new Profiles are already in use in several areas on Google, such as Maps and Reader.
Many things are interesting about this. First, it makes good sense for users and for Google to offer a unified, single profile system. People already have what might be called “profile fatigue;” why fill out unique profiles for each product on Google? Second, and more provocatively, it potentially turns Google itself into something of a social network, assuming widespread adoption.
Privacy advocates will be concerned about how Google might use the information across its network and whether there will be appropriate privacy safeguards. (Think Facebook data mining, only potentially more pervasive and effective.) Google will assert that it won’t improperly use personal information.
Profiles could play into personalized search as well as ad targeting (local, demographic) in the same way that Web history is starting to play into personalized search. For example, for local search and AdWords, the existence of user location on a profile could help with disambiguation and more accurate geotargeting in many cases. (In mobile, “My Location” will offer much more precise targeting next year.)
The existence of uniform profiles also could serve to reinforce Google usage in many ways by helping provide broader and deeper integration of its products. It could also boost Checkout and will likely be integrated with Google Accounts eventually (with shipping and credit card information). Required Google registration for products like GMail and for My Maps represents a foot in the door for enhanced profiles. Of course, it remains to be seen how many people fill out Profiles — and how extensively.
There’s more discussion at Techmeme.