Google vs. Facebook: The “Search Plus Your World” Saga Continues

Wow. “Search Plus Your World” has really left a mark. Google’s new set of Google+ integrations and personalization features into search results has caused nothing but controversy since Google an...
Google vs. Facebook: The “Search Plus Your World” Saga Continues
Written by Chris Crum
  • Wow. “Search Plus Your World” has really left a mark.

    Google’s new set of Google+ integrations and personalization features into search results has caused nothing but controversy since Google announced it earlier this week.

    There are two main reasons: competition and relevancy. We discussed both at length here.

    Twitter has fueled much of the fire by publicly making comments about how it reduces access to Twitter content, and how it’s bad for the Internet and whatnot. Much of the conversation has been about how Google is not including publicly available data from Twitter and Facebook alongside the Google+ content.

    Google has maintained that it includes some public data from “open web” properties, and that it would be open to talks with Twitter and Facebook, but that these two block Google from accessing their data.

    It is true that Google is blocked from accessing some of their data – the stuff that would make it much more useful on the personalization side of things (the things that aren’t public, but are connected to specific users), but Google has access to the public stuff, and is still not including it in the same places it is pushing Google+.

    This isn’t sitting well with a lot of people.

    Now, people are talking about past talks between Facebook and Google – deals that could have been, and different sides of the story.

    Steven Levy from Wired writes: “Sources close to late 2009 discussions between Google and Facebook tell me that Google had the opportunity to integrate Facebook information in its search results–on the same terms that such content now appears in Bing. But, those sources say, Google refused, on the grounds that it could not technically provide the privacy protections required. Those privacy protections involved restricting social information only to people who users want to share with—basically what Google has now provided for users of its own service. (Google’s head of communications and public policy Rachel Whetstone responds: ‘In 2009, we were negotiating with Facebook over access to its data, as has been reported. To claim that the we couldn’t reach an agreement because Google wanted to make private data publicly available is simply untrue.’)

    John Battelle, who obtained the same statement, adds: “My source familiar with Google’s side of the story goes further, and gave me more detail on why the deal went south, at least from Google’s point of view. According to this source, as part of the deal terms Facebook insisted that Google agree to not use publicly available Facebook information to build out a ‘social service.’ The two sides had already agreed that Google would not use Facebook’s firehose (or private) data to build such a service, my source says.”

    “Apparently, Google believed that Facebook’s demand around public information could be interpreted as applying to how Google’s own search service was delivered, not to mention how it (or other products) might evolve.,” Battelle continues. “Interpretation is always where the devil is in these deals. Who’s to say, after all, that Google’s ‘social search’ is not a ‘social service’? And Google Pages, Maps, etc. – those are arguably social in nature, or will be in the future.”

    “Google balked at this language, and the deal fell apart,” he says. “My Google source also disputes the claim that Google balked at being able to technically separate public from private data. Conversely, my Facebook source counters that the real issue of public vs. private had to do with Google’s refusal to honor changes in privacy settings over time – for example, if I deleted those soccer pictures, they should also be deleted from Google’s index. There’s a point where this all devolves to she said/he said, because the deal never happened, and to be honest, there are larger points to make.”

    MG Siegler writes: “Let me make this a bit more clear based on what I’ve heard: Facebook offered the exact same data deal to Google that they offered to Bing. Microsoft said yes. Google said no. Battelle is right that Facebook had some requirements with regard to protecting the data. But they had the same requirements in giving the data to Bing. So this wasn’t about ‘Facebook’s willingness to throw data to their shareholder Microsoft while withholding it from Google’, any such argument made in court or elsewhere is invalid.”

    Siegler also says, “Prior to the launch of Google+, Facebook and Google were engaged in discussions to use Facebook data for presenting richer results on people searches. In other words, you’d search for a name and you’d see a result populated by Facebook data, including a picture of that person and what city they reside in, etc. The two sides were so close to agreeing on this that Facebook even built a data feed specifically for Google to use, I’m told. But then, for reasons unknown at the time, Google abruptly pulled the plug on the idea. Several months later… Google+.”

    Facebook employees are openly bashing Google’s new features. Liz Gannes points to some Facebook staff that have been talking about Google’s new changes:

    Pedram Keyani: “Google became something we love because they always focused on speed and giving us the best results. They have made a pretty big departure from that with their most recent change. They say fear is a great motivator (fear of facebook and twitter) but I think in this case it has also clouded their vision. Google was my first real fulltime job the direction they are moving in makes me sad. I hope they find their way.”

    Paul Adams (the guy who created the “Circles” concept that talked about Google blocking him from publishing his book last year): “Some of my ex-colleagues (who I still love 🙂 are going to shout at me, but well, I’ve just moved my default search engine to Bing.”

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