The Facebook vs. Google war has been brewing for quite some time—its origins can likely be traced back to Facebook’s launch, when Google was put on notice that it needed to jump on social and soon. Things have only escalated since, with both companies chopping at the bit to control as much consumer data as possible and taking measures to keep the other from doing exactly that.
So it’s no surprise that Facebook–and others–are fighting back against Google’s new Search Plus Your World feature. Earlier this month, Google showed off its new social search integration: while search results were formerly peppered with topical tweets from your connections, the Google-Twitter alliance has run its course and now Google is using its own social network to fill in this blanks. Now search results also surface Google+ content for a personalized search experience.
The move didn’t go unnoticed, and Twitter was quick to criticize. One member of the Twitter team (who happens to be a former Googler) even said it was a “bad day for the Internet.” Tampering with search has gotten Google into hot water before, and this situation has been no exception. “We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations, and Twitter users,” the site said.
Of course, the move took some of Twitter’s traffic, so it’s an obvious source of contention. But Twitter isn’t the only one acting out. Engineers from the microblogging site have collaborated with others from Facebook and MySpace to provide Internet users with a much more accurate social search application (although it was headed by a Facebook engineer). A free bookmarklet available at www.FocusOn TheUser.org gives you access to Google’s own search algorithms but also surfaces the most popular social results—whether they’re coming from Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere.
“How much better would social search be if Google surfaced results from all across the web?” the site reads. “The results speak for themselves. We created a tool that uses Google’s own relevance measure—the ranking of their organic search results—to determine what social content should appear in the areas where Google+ results are currently hardcoded.”
“All of the information in this demo comes from Google itself, and all of the ranking decisions are made by Google’s own algorithms. No other services or APIs are accessed.”
Google has been accused of using less than ethical tactics to promote its social application—and the critics have a point. How can you call something social search when you’re searching Google+ content only, which falls far short of the activity going on at Twitter and Facebook? And it’s now made the social network a requirement for new Google users—new account signup includes G+ membership as well.
Google Search and Google+ need to stay separate entities. Google’s toeing a dangerous line here, and while you can turn social results off, you can’t turn real ones on. It’s a bad precedent to set when you’re already accused of controlling the world of search as it is, and these new adjustments don’t instill a sense of trust in the search engine. But Google+ could quickly become a thorn in Google’s side (and it’s central product) if it doesn’t recognize this growing dissent.
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