Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have ganged up on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) controversial personal search results feature with Focus on the User, an effort to show what Google's search results would be like if they retrieved results from other Web services.
The initiative is an answer to Search, plus your world, the social search service Google launched Jan. 10 to inject users' search results with posts, photos and other content from their Google+ accounts. Twitter, pundits and the Electronic Privacy Information Center criticized the feature for failing to include results from Facebook, Twitter and other social Websites.
Google has argued that it does not have access to the data from Facebook and Twitter it requires to augment Search, plus your world. The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly taking on the issue as part of its antitrust investigation into Google's search business.
While Twitter was critical of the service, Facebook had remained silent on the issue--until Jan. 23.
The output of Focus on the User is the Don't Be Evil bookmarklet, which taps Google's own ranking of its organic search results to determine what social content should appear in Google+ results--such as results from Facebook, Twitter and other sources--instead of just the Google+ posts, photos and brand pages that currently surface in Search, plus your world.
The tool only accesses data already indexed and ranked in Google.com (via Google's rich snippets tool), challenging Google's assertion that it required a deal with Facebook, Twitter and others to use their data in Search, plus your world.
Users may go here to drag and drop the Don't Be Evil button to their Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari browser toolbar to try out the results for themselves.
Users can test Don't Be Evil by entering queries such as "movies," "music" or "photography" on Google.com, then clicking the bookmarklet button. This click will generate search results from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, among at least a dozen public Websites that trade in social data.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on the bookmarklet as of this writing.
How does this Google+-modifying hack work? For results where Google decided that it's relevant to surface Google+ pages as a result in any of the areas where Google+ content is hardcoded, the bookmarklet searches Google for the name of the Google+ page.
From there, the tool identifies the social profiles within Google's top 100 results. "The ones Google ranks highest-whether they are from Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Quora, Tumblr, Foursquare, Crunchbase, FriendFeed, Stack Overflow, Github or Google+ - replace the previous results that could only be from Google+," according to the Focus on the User FAQ page.
Blake Ross, who is director of product at Facebook, told AllThingsDigital software engineers from Twitter and MySpace helped him create the bookmarklet.
"No special contracts were signed, and no lawyers were harmed in the making of this video," Ross joked in a video about how Don't Be Evil works, adding that the bookmarklet's results do not favor one Website over another.
Indeed, Search Engine Land Editor Danny Sullivan applauded the effort in a post, noting "the tool makes this point better than all the debates that have happened so far around Search Plus Your Word, because it shows what Google could have done to better serve searchers, if it had wanted to."
Also check out the always-sage John Battelle's report on Don't Be Evil, which included an in-person introduction by Ross himself to the effort.
Finally, Ross and his cohorts released the Don't Be Evil code to open source.