Google catches heat over social search

January 10, 2012

Google announced Tuesday that it was making some radical changes to search by incorporating Google+ information into its search results.

The move has drawn some criticism from Twitter. Twitter and Google used to have an agreement to use Twitter information for real-time search and news results, but that contract expired this summer. Tuesday, Twitter’s general counsel, Alex Macgillivray, said on his Twitter account that it was a “bad day for the Internet” saying that search has been “warped.”

In a statement, Twitter backed up the sentiments of its top lawyer.

“For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet,” the company’s public relations team said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”

Over at the technology blog Searchblog, John Batelle said Google’s decision to include Google+ information without working out deals with companies such as Twitter or Facebook shows how competition between the companies has hurt the neutral Web.

“It’s not Google’s fault, entirely, but it’s sad nonetheless,” Batelle wrote.

In response to those criticisms, Google said it doesn’t have access to all of the social graph, but would be “open” to partnering with other services to provide personalized results, as long as it could have some control over those results.

“As always, our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and comprehensive search results possible,” said Google in an e-mailed company statement. “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. We’d certainly be open to helping people more easily find information from other services, but we’d want to make sure we were providing a consistent user experiences with meaningful control.”

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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