Alongside the launch today of iOS 6, and mostly hidden behind the coverage of that update for mobile devices, Apple released Mac OS 10.8.2 a few hours ago. With that package comes an update to Safari which enables SSL support for Google searches from the browser.
What does this mean? Less information for Web site owners to work with when discovering what is most valuable to their visitors — why they came, what they were looking for, why did they stick around? This hurts Web users, too, as site owners are less able to tailor the content and experience to what visitors want.
Previously passed along, but now more often blocked, is just what was typed into the search engine that brought the visitor to the site. Some sites I’ve come across now have in recent months upwards of 50% of this information withheld by Google.
More and more of this data that helps to make the Web better is becoming “not provided” by Google. As I’ve argued, “not provided” hurts the Web. Poynter.org says the same thing, pointing out that news agencies are being left in the dark.
As more people provide Google their information by signing up for Gmail, Google+, YouTube, or any of the other reasons they prompt you to create an account and grow their network, other site owners are provided with less because the visitor was logged in to Google.
Google has said “not provided” is a technical limitation of SSL search, although it’s one miraculously circumvented for AdWords advertisers — the search giant’s No. 1 source of income.
I don’t believe this is malicious by Google. I think it’s just a mistake that’ll hurt the Web if left unfixed.