Google+ turns against Facebook, Twitter and other social network search results

Google+ is innovating at lightening speed. Latest news hot off the press is that Google merges Google+ into their search engine, in a service called “Search plus Your World”. Google+ offers users to search the public web as well as private content from Google+ circles, photos and posts and other Google services such as Picasa.

Google+ profiles will be a part of the Google search, meaning that when you search for a person Google will finish your search query with the most likely in-your-Circles match. Google, in other words, is assuming that you’re looking for someone you know and not some random person with the same name. Similarly, when you search for a topic, Google will helpfully return results with “prominent people” who are experts in that topic, and lets you add them to your circle directly from the results page. To use Search plus Your World you need to be signed in to Google+ and searching on Google’s secure search at Google has also added a button letting users switch between Search plus Your World and the traditional search. As Google sees it, you’re getting more relevant results from people you’ve chosen to connect with. However the social media industry are not convinced and the launch has sparked criticism. Critics are not happy about Google only showing results from their own social network and disregarding Facebook, Twitter and others.

Twitter in particular pounced on Google’s search changes “bad for people”. In a statement, Twitter spokesman Matt Graves said “As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results. We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.” Google’s reply was very clear: “We are a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer”. Google’s agreement with Twitter gave the search engine access to public tweets. The agreement expired in July and was not renewed. Now Google is implying it was Twitter that chose not to renew the deal. Twitter came back fast with a clear example in form of a tweet with an image by Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray. “Folks asked for examples,” he wrote. “Here’s what a user searching for ‘@WWE’ will be displayed on the new @Google.” Clearly, the results show the World Wrestling Entertainment’s website, Google+ page and other relevant Google+ profiles — but no Twitter page. Macgillivray’s example shows that, at least in some cases, people who are searching for a Twitter handle will no longer necessarily find its page at the top of Google’s results, though it varies from case to case. Other voices have suggested that the solution may be Google completely omitting search results from any social network.

Latest news is that the Federal Trade Commission will include Google+ in its ongoing probe of Google. According to Bloomberg, The FTC sees the launch of Google’s social network as relevant to its investigation into whether Google is violating antitrust laws by giving its own services favorable treatment. So what do you think? Is Google crossing the line when people can’t find the best possible search results because Google is favoring their own services? Or are we just forgetting that Google isn’t a public service but a business? And most important of all, should Google include social media data in the search results or should they just go back to showing results that reflect the collected view of all Web users?


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