On Tuesday, Google announced the launch of “Search, Plus Your World,” which is a set of new personalized search features. For a longer explanation, you can read here, but basically, it involves Google suggesting Google+ content and profiles based on what it knows about you from your own Google account. You might see profiles appear in autocomplete suggestions or search results, and there’s a section where you will see suggested Google+ profiles for topical searches. For example, if you search “music” you might see Britney Spears’ Google+ profile in that section.
It didn’t take long at all for critics to cry “antitrust”. Google forcing more of its own properties down users’ throats? Gasp!
Surprisingly, even Twitter spoke out against the features, implying that it would somehow reduce access to tweets. I’m still trying to figure out how it would do so, as nothing about Google’s announcement indicates this would be the case. This would apply more to Twitter and Google failing to reach an agreement over realtime search last year, but for some reason, Twitter chose this announcement to be the time to bring this up.
Google responded to Twitter, by 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.”
Twitter content does still appear in some search results, by the way.
Google’s Matt Cutts has since taken to his personal blog to write about “Search, Plus Your World”. By the way, “Search plus Your World does surface public content from the open web, not just content from Google+,” he says.
The “open web” would be the web that does not block access to its data, like Twitter and Facebook. As Google Fellow Amit Singhal told Danny 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.”
Cutts shares some examples of content Search Plus Your World returns. It manages to return a picture of Cutts playing “Werewolf” as the first image result for the query “werewolf” (personalized for him of course). It is able to do this, he explains, because his friend tagged him in the picture, which was in an album of “25 Werewolf photos”.
Cutts says the features are able to draw from sites across the web “such as” Flickr, Quora, FriendFeed, LiveJournal and WordPress.