Google not acting in our best interest with ‘Search plus Your World’

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Google’s latest move to integrate Google+ with the Google search engine results page (SERP) got me worried.  Google says from now on, the results you see in Google Search will include personalized Google+ data related to the search. It basically ties Google+ as a social network to Google search to produce a product that “understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” The new features are called “Search plus Your World”. These features can be turned off but, honestly, how many people make the effort?

It’s all great and sounds like it will help you connect to people and social network brand pages better. Except it doesn’t: the results will exclude two social networks more relevant to most people today than Google+. Facebook and Twitter.

Google says the two companies won’t allow access to the data they need to make this possible so they’re going it alone for now. Well, they’re including Quora, WordPress, FriendFeed and LiveJournal but really, how many people do you know that use Quora,  FriendFeed, WordPress and LiveJournal? Ordinary people use Google Search and Facebook. Twitter as well some. Google+, Quora, FriendFeed, WordPress and LiveJournal, while very cool tools, are nowhere near Facebook.

See this Google+ post by Matt Cutts for example. Matt Cutts is the Head of Google’s web spam team.

Matt Cutts, Head of Google's Webs Spam team

Twitter has already complained about this and Google have basically responded that they are a “bit surprised by Twitter’s” reaction. But this post is not about their war of words. It’s about us the users of Google Search.

The move is disingenuous at best. Google is using its Search monopoly to compromise search itself. All just so they can promote Google+. I haven’t seen Search plus Your World in action but their blog posts and employee updates on Google+ about the issue say it.

Google is pretending Google+ is a very large social network and that Facebook and Twitter don’t exist, or that they simply don’t matter in delivering relevant socially personalized results. Google is pretending Google+ currently gives users around the world the full social deal. It doesn’t. They’re also pretending they don’t owe their users a detailed explanation of the absence of Facebook and Twitter in the socially personalized results. Most worrying of all is that they are pretending they can just search parts of the internet and give us the false sense that they’re searching the whole internet.

How about Google demonstrates how this is in our best interest and how it gives us a complete personalized “world”. How about they make it clear why the data that is available publicly from Facebook and Twitter is not enough for the new features.

I don’t know about you, but when a product as important as Google search tells me it’s searching my online social world, I’d like to believe they’re covering all of it, not just some 10% of it. As a user I’ll always know I’m not getting the best socialized results available out there.

The sad thing about all this is that Google actually is a great company but this episode here seems to point to the fact that it’s not interested at all in helping us find stuff we care about in our world. It wants us to, hopefully, find stuff we care about in the Google world.



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30 Comments

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      makes perfect sense if you’re not a monopoly. And if you’re honest with your users that the social results are not really social in the internet sense. Just in the Google empire sense

      Reply
        1. Welly

          and in any case, google did not hide the fact that the social nature of the searches only comes from google plus. they did not claim that they are searching all social sites did they? the most important point in all of this brouhahaha is that you can turn it OFF. much like your typical privacy settings in fb.

          Reply
          1. L.S.M. Kabweza

             google did not hide the fact that the social nature of the searches only comes from google plus

            the social stuff is not just coming from Google+. It’s coming from everywhere except FB & Twitter.  https://plus.google.com/109412257237874861202/posts/F4TZwGmURfN

            It’s even coming from a social network owned by Facebook called FriendFeed that no one uses

          2. Welly

            :D well that’s not the point I was putting across now is it? point is it’s not a secret that they aren’t getting data from FB & Twitter.

        2. L.S.M. Kabweza

          Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter are no angels in all this. Just didn’t expect Google to get down to their level ;)

          How about using the data that’s publicly available on these platforms to provide us a full social experience? 
          Do they need firehose access to find the correct Facebook page or Twitter profile for, say, Coca Cola or Justin Bieber?

          Reply
          1. Welly

            this is just my understanding, but I dont think it’s just about giving a user a link to a facebook or twitter page about a person or brand. the search results must be relevant to the search and for them to be relevant, google needs some leeway to search that content, not firehose access per se, and it is this leeway that they have been denied, no?

          2. L.S.M. Kabweza

            they haven’t been denied anything. 
            What Twitter denied them was firehose realtime access to tweets. 
            Twitter profiles and stuff has been showing on the Google results page all this time. The only difference is now is that instead of Twitter profile results, you’ll get Google+ profiles. something like this: http://parislemon.com/post/15682237911/twitter-keeps-right-on-responding-to-search

          3. Vusa Dube

            But publicly availible twitter and facebook info is availible on google search. What facebook and twitter won’t give facebook is ability to search in user’s stream within those social networks. In other words google has no way of tuning my search results based on my interactions on facebook & twitter. So facebook & twitter search results will be the same for everyone (that’s over simplifying it tho) . Google needs access to information from face to know that user Kabweza comments a lot on groupon etc within facebook. Otherwise it’s not social for google to just search public facebook results and give to you.

  1. Blahtino

    i dont see what the fuss is about, g+ currently doesnt have a huge user basein zim so it probably wont affect our searches, so i say meh… and anyways it’s not google’s fault that the other social networks don’t want to play along

    Reply
  2. Blessingd136

    The aims on any enterprise are to not only succeed but also crush all competition. Fair play is for those that want to come last. It makes perfect sense for Google to do this. Shareholders are their first consideration.

    Reply
      1. Anonymous

        I think Google will be vindicated: both Facebook and Twitter do not have clean hands & shouldn’t be playing victims. Google had a deal with Twitter some time back, with Google getting (and paying for) a firehose feed for their realtime-search. When the time came to renew the deal, Twitter demurred.

        Facebook is even worse, they were malicious in their smear attack on Google (via a hired 3rd party) last year. Also, Google tried to negotiate with Facebook for graph data but Facebook’s conditions where a little too steep (one of the conditions was that Google would not build a social network of its own).

        These two companies overplayed their hands- they thought they could strong-arm Google (since it had no social effort at the time). I don’t feel sorry for them. One thing I can tell you though, is we’ll have agreements before the year is out.

        Additional reading: Erich Shmidt’s perspective (and my main source for this comment): http://marketingland.com/schmidt-google-not-favored-happy-to-talk-twitter-facebook-integration-3151

        Reply
    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      Maybe. I’d think though the important link is the instant one coming as you type. You’re probably likely to select that one than the social links down on number 4 of the page. 

      We’re now used to clicking instant results. Facebook has taught us this: you type in a name and you select one of the names that comes up as you type. Rarely do you click on “show all results” to find a name on the full results page.

      Reply
      1. Robert Dondo

        it discounts the argument by the twitter team that ” …finding this information will be much harder for everyone..”  

        They make it sound as if Google is shutting out other websites (social networks), which is not true.

        If anything, its ‘like’ the promoted tweets on twitter or featured content on Facebook.

        Reply
  3. Raymond Swart

    Great article I’m not sure why exactly but I’m going to go with Google
    on this one but only because I don’t know all the facts. Why wouldn’t
    Facebook/Twitter let Google use their Data? As you said Google may have
    to make it clear, and until then yes we’re going to be get inaccurate
    socialised search results, lets hope G+/Facebook/Twitter sort out their
    differences before Bing gets FaceBook and Twitter on their side which
    would give them the upper hand for this kind of search technology.

    Reply
  4. Madziva

    Just my 2c in this issue. I would like to think that google has always projected themselves as a company that is revelled by nerds, programmers, serious computer people in the past. People look into google and they see it as a company that does have an ethic standard that sides more with the OPEN source community. If you are going to group apple, microsoft, linux, facebook; Google was going to fall on the same side with linux. They make cool and relevant products, focusing on quality and delivery rather than be driven by an appetite for profiteering or crushing opponents. Probably reason why people would quickly rush to adopt Google + because it is a product not from Microsoft but from a company that is open and fair about information. So with this idea of google+ data replacing facebook, twitter, linkedin which used to come on top of search results it clearly redefines Google as just like Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

    Reply
  5. Madziva

    After going through a Quirky article on the same subject, me thinks some nerds are going to create just a standalone SEARCH engine for THE WEB, MOBILE, MOBILE APPS, SOCIAL, WIKIS. It will not have things like email, social networks etc. It will be like the first google but then Everyone will be given equal treatment…facebook results, twitter, g+ will all have the same priority from the SEARCH. People will support it out of sympathy and the need to have an independent platform to rely on for the ZILLIONS of information on the internet!

    Reply

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