Google Vs. Twitter: Is “Search Plus Your World” Bad For The Internet?

    January 12, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

This week, Google launched Search Plus Your World (SPYW), a set of features to personalize search results for users, which also happen to give Google+ content a lot more play in search results. The whole thing has sparked a great deal of controversy, with people talking about antitrust implications, relevancy issues, etc. Even Twitter called the day it launched “a bad day for the Internet”.

Do you agree? Is Search Plus Your World bad for the Internet? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Google Vs. Twitter

The Google vs. Twitter element of this thing has been very interesting to me. In case you haven’t been following, let us recap this public back and forth these two companies have had this week. It started, when after Google announced SPYW, Twitter General Counsel tweeted:

Bad day for the Internet. http://t.co/Az4rdNVQ Having been there, I can imagine the dissension @Google to search being warped this way. 1 day ago via web · powered by @socialditto

And Twitter emailed a statement around to the press, which said:

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.

Google responded to Twitter on Google+ saying:

“We are a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer (http://goo.gl/chKwi), and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.”

I also found it a bit odd that Twitter would say this now, when really the lack of that aforementioned agreement renewal is what caused Twitter results to be less prevalent in Google search results. Twitter has not returned my request for comment on that at this point, but Macgillivray did tweet an example of where Google is surfacing Google+ over Twitter for the query “@WWE”. I’m not sure this is actually a product of SPYW, though the new features do place a prominent box of recommended Google+ profiles on the right-hand side of the page.

In an article specifically about that, we asked if the “@” symbol really belongs to Twitter anyway. Let us know in the comments what you think about that.


A lot of people view Google’s pushing of Google+ in search results to be anticompetitive. Some disagree.

One point that has been brought up repeatedly is that Google could be recommending public profiles from Twitter and Facebook alongside its Google+ recommendations. Sure, they could.

Facebook and Twitter don’t grant access to Google for all of the stuff that would improve the personalization experience. Danny Sullivan was able to get Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt to talk a little about this:

Google Fellow Amit Singhal, told Sullivan, “Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don’t allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service. Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, we’d look at designing things to see how it would work.”

Those are basically the same responses.

Likewise, in a blog post talking about the SPYW features, Google’s Matt Cutts talked about how the features do, in fact, surface content from other sites from the “open web”. It’s not just Google (though that still appears not to apply to the “People and Pages” recommendations box that gets such prominent attention – the feature that really seems to be causing the most stir).

But does Google not have the right to promote its own product in this way? Many don’t think it’s right. It’s worth noting that while Google may dominate in search, it is still an underdog in social. Even still, Google has only something like 65% of the search market.

“Is 65% enough to assert an effective monopoly?” asks Bud Gibson on Google+. “There’s probably plenty of room here for Google to assert that there’s healthy competition in the search and social spaces. And, … they’d be right.”

Matthew Yglesias at Slate writes, “A 65 percent market share in web search is big, but by no means a monopoly. And there are basically zero barriers to switching from Google Search to Bing.”

That plays to Google’s go-to statement of: “The competition is only a click away.”

For that matter, if people are using Google, and are signed into it, there’s a good chance that they want Google-related content. If you consider Google+ and Google search to be features of one larger Google product, than you might want these features to be as integrated as possible. All of Google’s products do operate under one central Google account. You expect Facebook search to return Facebook Pages.

Granted, Facebook isn’t apparently trying to be a search engine, but then why do they bother to supplement their search results with web results from Bing? Clearly Google and Facebook are direct competitors now – maybe not as much in search (yet), but as companies. If you look at things this way, you’d almost have to say that Google even having Google+ at all is anti-competitive. Are they not supposed to make the features of their broader Google product tightly integrated?

By the way, Google does a lot more to drive traffic to Twitter and Facebook than Facebook and Twitter do to drive traffic to Google.

“Given that it’s opt-out, I’m just not sure that this is all that different from Microsoft bundling IE with Windows,” says tech columnist MG Siegler. Based on a lot of what I’ve been reading around the web, quite a few agree with him.

Here are a few recent tweets about the issue:

When Microsoft embedded IE in Windows, there was an antitrust investigation. How is Google+ embedded into @Google search any different? 4 hours ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Feds Should Stay Out of Google/Twitter Social Search Antitrust Spat http://t.co/V8SUBAcF 43 minutes ago via twitterfeed · powered by @socialditto

Google is pushing its social services hard — I argue, “tying” unlawful under antitrust law. I show many more examples. http://t.co/sAHLKMvx 1 hour ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Privacy watchdog EPIC may file a complaint with the FTC.

Regardless of whether Google’s features are right or wrong, the timing of their release could end up biting Google in the ass, considering the heavy amount of scrutiny over competitive practices that currently surround the company. The complaints continue to pile up, and in various areas of Google’s search offerings.

Is Search Relevancy Being Sacrificed for Google+ Promotion?

Beyond all of the debate about Google’s competitive practices, there is a more important issue, at least to users. The new features may impact relevancy of search results for the worse. I personally have noticed that they could be a lot better, in terms of being personalized for me. Granted, I can turn the personalization off with the controls Google provides.

Some simply don’t like the idea of Google filling up their results with info based on who they know just because they know them, or content from Google+ just because it’s from Google+. Sullivan points to some “real life examples” of where Google isn’t necessarily living up to the relevancy side of things.

As he says, “Those results are supposed to be showing what are the most relevant things for searchers out there. That’s how Google wins. That’s how Google sticks it to competitors, by not trying to play favorites in those results, nor by trying to punish people through them.”

Ironically, if Google’s results become less relevant, people will probably want to use Google less. Perhaps Twitter, Facebook and other “competitors” should be cheering on Google’s approach.

Do you think what Google is doing is good or bad for the web? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://tech.thebentleys.ca Mark

    If Facebook and Twitter were trying to work with Google and Google was refusing, then I could see it being anti-trust. If Google is trying and Twitter does not give them permission, then it sounds more like Twitter is being a twit and restricting Google and then trying to claim that they were wronged.

    If Twitter wants to be indexed equally, then ask Google to do it (in writing)! If Google refuses, then you can complain.

  • jack

    G+ proved the concept that secure and private interactions at multiple levels with multiple media are possible, starting in June.

    Starting in january, g+ augmented search allows users to search in private for information’s from their circles (interest groups).

    No need to get your feathers ruffled. Only your family can see your latest granchild if you search for cloth diapers. Social search is now a proven concept.

    • Shawn Mathews

      What Google is proposing is not private at all. They are changing the search results based on what your friends and family or anyone else connected to you via Google plus. I don’t need everyone in my circle knowing my business, so I’m dropping Google Plus!

      • ben

        ‘I don’t need everyone in my circle knowing my business, so I’m dropping Google Plus!’

        sounds like Facebook to me. does that mean you dropped your Facebook acc too Shawn?

  • Fester

    Just like when Google rolled out universal search, this gives us more ways to game the results – for a little while @ least. (Note the way I used the @ instead of at, that who owns the @ sign and nothing else owns it)

  • http://www.lots0cash.com Brad Bristol

    Twitter using “nofollow” makes their complaints sound like Sour Grapes.

    If they want more exposure on google… Drop the “nofollow”.

    Any webmaster worth his/her salt knows you can’t use “nofollow” and expect to show up in google’s results.

  • bob

    I thinking it start of end of google. Search engine must be search engine, social search engine it something different.
    I personally not want when search something to see information i already know from social networks. Also here is only google+ which i never will use (syndrome of big brother).

    also i think all social networks mostly used for spam, before google start look into side of social networks – most of peoples not have idea what is it. it true for facebook, myspace (just some kind of dating sites with no own content absolutely, everything on users), twitter (something like ‘uncompleted chat’), etc.

    and now google implemented most of it into their default search results. I think i will switch to other search engine soon. social results, search history, personal search – i personally not need them all. I just want to use search engine to be able to find new things for me (i already know what i seen before) and not interested in any social engine talks/chat/etc.

    • bob

      also just for fun – if somebody created blog on this web 2.0 websites, them get more pageviews from google then normal webmaster who pay for domain & for hosting.

      Also this is google “new feature” to repair mistakes… i especially search something sometime with mistakes, but google fix it and I not get what i looking for.
      also lot of time it fix synonyms incorrectly. Also I HATE their regional feature. every time when i travel I get local google and switching for us google work, but not for long time. Even if I try to search something on my native language – it show me results on language of country where am i now. But I am just travelling!

      It was really good if possibly to disable all this “new additions”. Really, before google was a normal search engine. But now that search engine start thinking for me. And I not get search results I want. Google search results looks for me now as wikipedia, facebook, youtube, google news, web20 and very few useful websites. at most it some monster websites such as webmd, which have all in one heap, and give only very very basic information.

      I think what google need to remember what it just search engine and at least give us ability to search without ‘extensions’ such as world+ (or – to say it better (-world, +google). If them not will do it, i hope competitors replace them in top search sites list.

      • http://www.peekthegeek.com Oliver

        totally agree with bob, too many features, i don t want my search engine to search for me, to search where am i or at least i wanna deactivate all those features with just one click . I m sure in a short period of time when i ll search for Ipad 3 review, i ll have a review from the nerd living in my street cos he s the one in my village who plusone it the most ( second one is a sheep ) , ha whatever I don’t like the way the net is becoming…

        • http://www.peekthegeek.com Oliver

          and sorry for my english , I hope you understood me :-)

        • bob

          yeah. what the genius thinked what regional results will better for you? in event of google maps it correct, in event if you add your cityname it correct. but not by default!

          google stop thinking for me. anyway you not have a artificial intelligence and never will have idea what i want. I can do it myself just with search queries. Hope may be Matt Cutts will see this posts.

  • http://arkansaseagle.com Ron Bartels, Ph.D.

    Sometimes, gigantic firms cross the line and offend their markets. Google is very effective at what they do in their multi-market endeavors. When they, or anyone else, crosses a line to the point they destroy or damage some of their own customers and clients, we call that anti-trust. They are at or near 60% of the search market. Even in the game of Monopoly, the game is over when someone gets all the cash. At that point the cash flow stops. Anti-trust evidence begins long before a monopoly occurs. This market share tool damages competitors and customers alike in the way it is engineered to disadvantage competitors. I request an anti-trust investigation.

    • bob

      I am completely agree with you. but why for so long time nobody not looks into it matter?
      as i know in america lot of anti-monopoly laws. even microsoft was under pressure many times because of it.

  • http://www.eyeonsocialmedia.com Mike Brooks

    Is this a monopoly or anti-trust, I don’t think so. Is it creepy, icky, dirty and downright Orwellian… absolutely.

    As an internet marketer for local businesses, however, you can rest assured I’m going to make sure they’re all on Google Plus. Search just changed in a big way as I wrote about today on my blog.

    At the end of the day, the fact that there is no pain of disconnect with Google means they really have everything to lose. Google is a search engine. People go there to find what they’re looking for.

    Google has always won by being able to virtually read their user’s minds and give them exactly what they were looking for in the exact order in which they want to see it. As soon as Google does not do that, people will be off to Yahoo or Bing.

    • Shawn Mathews

      You must work for Google. I don’t know anyone outside of Google that is on the same sheet of music as you are.

  • Shawn Mathews

    Why ruin a strong search engine by changing it into a social site? Many long term users will be turned off by this.

  • http://www.rainbowriting.com Karen Cole Peralta

    I really don’t care either way. It’s all so complicated, I’d rather leave it to the folks at Google, Twitter and Facebook to professionally hash it all out, and then come up with good plans. Right now, anything that could help our business move up the ladder on Google helps.

    • Remerio Peralta

      After reading over other comments, I feel that Google is messing with our minds some more and wish they would not make businesses suffer so many penalties. I think that they need to orient more to businesses and less to “personalization,” of what, I do not know. They seem to think everybody on the Internet is buy buy buy and not sell sell sell. I think it’s mostly the other way around.

  • http://www.questioon.com Tun

    Google can just point people to Questioon.com
    My hobbyist website which searches Google and Twitter simultaneously. Shameful promotion I know!! In all honesty I dont see the big deal of twitter not appearing on Google SERPs. By the way I was going to do the same on Googleplus.co.uk however I don’t think this would be a good idea.

  • http://www.CaptainCyberzone.Com CaptainCyberzone

    More and more the Internet is trying to become my “best friend”, to know everything about me … to seduce me into revealing my every move, my every want, need and thought.
    It tells me that it’s for my own good … to “enhance” my surfing experience, to increase my online “enjoyment” … to help me better manage my time.
    I know that It’s real aim is to empty my wallet … on a continuous basis.
    Fool me once, shame on you.
    Fool me twice, shame on me.

    • http://www.peekthegeek.com Oliver

      All these social is killing the internet i loved so much , social network is ungeeking me and geeking the noobs who s happy cos he has a like since he posted a wtflol on her cousin profile, damn it’s time to take over the web before the web is over!

  • http://www.cat-website.com Robert

    Search personalization is ruining search and it isn’t just google, it’s bing and yahoo as well. Used to be, we typed in what we were looking for and were served up sites with those words prominent. Now, we type in our search words and bing/google searches for something else and asks, oh by the way did you want us to search what you asked for? Even domain names dot com are broken into words and we’re asked if we’d rather search for what we asked for. Further, the irrelevant search rarely in my experience contains what I was looking for. I wouldn’t object to blended search that includes what I searched for, too bad that seems beyond the capability of these search giants.

    • http://gocabrera.com Adrian

      I agree entirely. When I search for something I want unbiased unadulterated results based on my search enquiry. I don’t want Google, or any other search engine for that matter, trying to “read my mind” and delivering results based on what it perceives I may want based on previous searches or what personal information it knows about me. Google is not clever enough to personalize results based on what it thinks it knows about me and even turning off Personalized Search I seem to still get biased results. Google knows my IP, where I am located and I believe still uses this information to slant search results.

      Interestingly of late I have noticed that on websites I work on and monitor I am finding that bounce rates from Google are regularly double or more those of Yahoo! Maybe Yahoo’s algorithm is doing a better job of finding the most relevant results for searchers than Google, despite their claims that this is their prime objective!

  • David

    Google+ is an irrelevancy. People have so much of their lives entangled with Facebook, they’re not going to start all over again on a different website, no matter how much Google try to promote it through tweaking of search results. Antitrust issues? Hardly. Social networking is a one player market already, really, and so is microblogging. FB and Twitter don’t have to be the best at what they do any more: people will use them because they are where their friends are. It seems silly of Google to be dabbling in these areas, but hay, they are probably trying to create alternatives.

  • http://www.cencir.com Vegard Vevstad

    Like or dislike Google, like or dislike Twitter: that is irrelevant. Just don’t imply that any one of them has any responsibility to do anything for you. And Google should not dignify such allegations with a substantive response, trying to defend itself. The market will decide due to its experience, not competitor propaganda.

  • http://NA Prasad Panse

    To keep open source system on top; everyone has to do favor of Android base applications. We are not sure future of FB / TW and their use. Google has always supported & is supporting open source. To keep control on search engine & global market of open source google has to do take few different steps, no issue in that. Every one should support this new initiative of google.

    • http://gocabrera.com Adrian

      Another Google employee but the sounds of this comment!

  • Watching the Wheels

    I don’t bother with any of it. Type B personality type cyber nerds are NOT FIT to attempt any influences or steering or controls within my existance.

    It’s a pity that this clusterf*ck of people, who probably got beat up as kids, have managed to acquire so much perceived power. Maybe the lot of them would be better off if they sought out counceling for the agoraphobic tendancies of the lot of them.

    SOCIAL???? What exactly is social about an ever increasing solitary existance of people sitting in front of computer screens, posting pictures and attempting to write clever little snippets for strangers to read?

    It would be nice if the lot of them would stop trying to inflict their cyber p*ssing contests upon me. AND their psychological issues.

  • WareZwoldF

    useless, don’t want it, don’t need it, but seems like social net hacking is going to get ALOT easier.
    Thanks Google.

  • http://www.coretekconsulting.com Phillip Castaneda

    @Ben I agree with your comment to @shawn, both G+ and FB are deeply connected to our personal lives ***because we LET them be***. My circle of friends who search for information and have results returned that include me can ALREADY see that data on my G+ site. I’m already sharing it. It’s almost like google desktop search within social networks.

    Regarding twitter – they clearly have not leg to stand on – open your site to the bots and all is resolved.

    Facebook is *clearly* competing or at least trying to change the balance of power in their partnership with Bing. Don’t see a monopoly here yet.

  • http://www.movewheel.com Ahmed Ali

    The results from Google Plus Search won’t be the most relevant as they are “Personalized”.

  • http://visitbandungnow.blogspot.com Tresna

    I’m just that old simple guy that follows the evolution of the web since the 80s.
    Google founders were cool when they found the algorithm to make ‘organic search’ a very trusted and reliable. I was so amazed for that postgrad techie paper that I made one article about it.
    And their “don’t be evil” tag line, very honest.

    Let’s face it, there are now innovations that even Eric Schmidt couldn’t catch from students mind when lecturing future internet innovators, Twitter defined micro-blogging and shook the Socialweb atmosphere. It was a home run, for Google “too late Luther”. Facebook ‘neutralized’ MySpace and Friendster (made them look like old school) cause of looking into the details.So why don’t we just concentrate on our strengths and don’t start to get ‘evil’.

  • http://www.castlecraig.co.uk Rupert Wolfe Murray

    The problem with Search Plus Your World is that it returns all the things I have posted online as well as those of my friends on Google+. I entered the word “rehab” which is my field of work, and most of the results were things I’d posted.

    This makes Search Plus Your World useless, as far as I am concerned.

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  • T_rob

    The whole “Search plus your world” being evil and anti-trust is kinda silly and overblown. Has anyone commenting here actually seen it? Above your search is an innocuous strip that tells you there are “# personal results”. They’re not shoved into the regular search results, you have to click on them to even see them. I barely noticed it and when I did I ignored it, and guess what, I’ve just turned it off because I don’t need it and it took just three clicks of the mouse. That’s pretty weak promotion there, nothing aggressive about it. This controversy all just seems like a load of bull. If Twitter wanted what it had before then they should work out a new contract instead of slinging mud. As much as a Google fan as I am I’m well aware of and have issues with how things are going with Google integrating itself into so much of what I do on the internet, but right here I think the criticism here isn’t very legitimate.

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