Google Search Head Preaches Patience for Personal Search

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2012-01-30 Print this article Print

Danny Sullivan, the Search Engine Land head who has been dogged in his criticism of Google's Search plus your world feature, scored a nice interview with the company's search head, Amit Singhal.

If you've been following the SPYW coverage, you should read it because it reveals much about the company's mindset concerning the way it took the service to market.

SPYW is the personal search feature that incorporates users' Google+ posts and photos in users' search results. The service came under fire by Twitter and then Facebook for failing to include those sources in search results.

Media wed to the notion of the independent Web criticized SPYW for this reason and noted that this makes results less relevant and geared more toward Google. Of course, because Google is seen to be favoring its own content over that of rivals, the antitrust klaxon has been sounded.

I've been using the service for two weeks and there's no question my results are more Googley -- Googley in the sense that on any given day if I search for "movies" or "music," 70 percent of the links will be Google-related -- Google+, Google Music, etc, with the remainder being from Yahoo, Bing or some other service.

A Google spokesperson told me that SPYW is still, like all Google search, based on relevancy, albeit personalized to each user. Somehow though I don't think Yahoo Music or Movies are very relevant to Google searchers.

I think Google designed that as a defense against claims that it is excluding rivals. Instead, Google excludes Facebook and Twitter. Why?

A person familiar with Google's plans told me last week that Google was stung by the lapsed real-time search deal with Twitter and the fact that Facebook hid most of its data from Google.

The Twitter issue was especially embarrassing because that service drove the lion's share of real-time search results for Google. Singhal confirmed as much for Sullivan:

Fundamentally, what we learned with our great Realtime Search product is that once you build a great product that users love, then someone else can decide the fate of that product [because when the Twitter deal wasn't renewed, the Google's Realtime Search service depended so much on Twitter that it had to be closed]. That was a very bad experience for Google's users, and it was a bad experience for our teams. They put their heart and souls into building a great product, just to see that go to waste. We're very open to incorporating information from other services, but that needs to be done on terms that wouldn't change in a short period of time and make our products vanish.

I bolded the last part, which is key because it indicates just how gun shy Google is about working with Twitter and Facebook. Singhal admitted that even if Google had Twitter's firehose feed again, Google might not use it.

Also key to the interview is that the average Google user, which makes up the majority of Google's 1 billion searchers, isn't overwhelmingly irked by Google's changes. Or, if they are, they aren't expressing their discontent in the Google Web search forums, as Sullivan noted.

For now, the complaining seems limited to the tech-savvy independent Web torch carriers who are familiar with the politics of these Web and social goings-on.

In other words, Singhal's suggestion that the complaining is much ado about nothing may have meat. Then again, as he himself noted, it's early days. The product isn't done, and users haven't completed their evaluations.

There is still plenty of time to judge SPYW as a ploy to favor Google results above others, or an improvement over Google's universal search approach, which roiled search waters when it was initially rolled out five years ago.

As I write this, I think it's both. Personal results are, of course, subjective. Some people will find them super relevant; others will long for Google's independent-leaning legacy. Where do you stand? |

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