Last week, Google quietly rolled out a new feature on its search page which allowed one to filter search results with their personal information. The “personal” tab was available over the Memorial Day weekend before Google killed it off Tuesday morning for some users (it still shows up for others).
The personal tab essentially worked by sifting through a user’s Google account — encompassing Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, a myriad of other Google Apps — and presenting any information from those apps as the search hits for whatever you type into the search box.
It works basically the same fashion as what the Maps, News, Images, and other tabs from the same bar provide. Instead of shooting back a bunch of relevant links, Google shows you what’s revenant to your personal account instead.
The personal tab is still showing up for some users. You’ll see an agenda, which pulls from Google Calendar, then a box below that which pulls from Gmail, showing a selection of messages. Other times, a “Your Photos” widget appears, which shows images that show up when somebody googles your name. At the bottom are between two and three sponsored search results (public records searches, etc.)
Not all users had a “personal” filter available to apply, but at this point, its become lost to everyone. So what happened? We asked Google:
“Why did Google withdraw the “personal” tab feature on Google Search after its implementation for only a few days? What was the reason for releasing it in the first place? Why was it pulled? Will the company be releasing it again, or some version of it soon?”
A company spokesperson emailed back:
“We are always experimenting with ways to make Google Search more useful for our users. At this time, we have no further plans to announce.”
As you can see, there’s virtually no tangible information to glean from that response. But there are likely a few reasons why Google was quick to make a silent reveal and silent pull-back for some users.
This small trial may have simply been an easy way for Google to tease out what is just one part of a larger Personal feature for its entire suite of apps. Think about it: the Google ecosystem is filled with a ton of different applications and tools which are sprawled across your devices. A browser function is useful, but what would really be a game changer is a function on your Android phone and tablet as well.
At first, it’s a little alarming to see all of your personal details from your calendar and email (and any photos with your name attached floating on the web) in the shell of a Google search results page, and as such personal security may spring to mind. But anybody who’s not you with access to that info also has your email address anyway.
While the ability to filter your personal information within Google search is convenient, it’s possible that Google may want to cull out this kind of information more broadly as well. What if the Personal tab also gave you updates on where your own information on the rest of the internet pops up? Googling yourself might not simply be a concerted action — maybe you begin to get push notifications to see where else your name is coming up on the web.
Maybe an app will allow you to track the trends of where your name is showing up more frequently than others. Perhaps the Personal tab can extend to revealing personal hits derived from YouTube and other sites under the Google ecosystem.
Whatever the case, Google is going very mum over what it plans to do with the Personal tab moving forward. If we ever see it again, it will likely be in a much grander version than what this past weekend entailed.