Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) thought it cracked the incredibly hard nut that proved to be social search. Instead, it drew the ire of Twitter, media and other high-tech pundits with its new Search, plus your world personal search feature.
Search, plus your world lets searchers who are members of Google+ and are signed into their Google account see Google+ photos and posts they’ve created, as well as those their Google+ followers have shared expressly with them on search results pages. Users can also search people they follow in Google+ in the search autocomplete function of the search box and directly in search results.
Google will also surface Google profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest. While this may all sound great for avid Google+ users, media members noted that Google wasn’t surfacing content from Facebook and Twitter, Google’s premier rivals for consumers’ attention and time spent online.
Twitter General Counsel and former Googler Alexander Macgillvray tweeted that the play is a “bad day for the Internet.” The microblog went on the attack with the statement, via John Battelle:
“For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet. Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. 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.“
Twitter, of course, and Google enjoyed a relationship in which Google indexed Twitter’s firehose feed of tweets, but that agreement lapsed last July. A Google spokesperson responded thusly to Twitter’s complaint to eWEEK:
“As always, our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and comprehensive search results possible. That’s why for years now we’ve been working with our social search features to help you find the most relevant information from your friends and social connections, no matter what site that content is on. However, Google does not have access to crawl all the information on some sites, so it’s not possible for us to surface all that content. Google also doesn’t have access to the social graph information from some sites, so it’s not possible to help you find information from those people you’re connected to.“
Google’s suggestion is that because Twitter and Facebook don’t provide access to their full feeds and social graphs, Google can’t surface the content.
For Twitter, the issue appears to be about money; it wanted more than Google was willing to pay for the firehose access, and Google said on Google+ Twitter effectively ended their deal. Facebook has always been close-fisted about providing access to its content, though some of it, such as profiles, are searchable on Google.com.
While Google is in a tough position to try to protect its interests, media members such as Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan and MG Siegler openly questioned Google’s motives.
Why couldn’t Google find a way to get the data it needs for consumers, which supports the notion of a free, more independent Web? Moreover, there is plenty of data outside those companies’ firehose feeds for Google to index.
Google just chooses not to grab it, according to Siegler, When asked about this by Sullivan, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt flipped the question around to Facebook and Twitter, implying that they were the companies that weren’t being reasonable.
Google search quality engineer Matt Cutts countered Jan. 11 that Google does in fact index content “from the open Web, not just content from Google+.”
Siegler in an earlier post argued that this is the kind of move that could set the antitrust wolves at Google’s door at a time when the Justice Department is looking into whether Google favors its own products in its search results.
There is no question posts from Siegler, Battelle, Sullivan and others will be skimmed on Capitol Hill. The question is whether the DOJ and Congress plan to challenge Google on it.