For the first time since they pulled out of China, Google really got down and dirty yesterday with the launch of Search plus your world. SPYW (or Search+ as I’ve started referring to it as) is Google’s way of driving new users to their ailing social media site Google+ in a desperate attempt to usurp Facebook’s mantle. The concept is really rather simple. Rather that feeding you results based on the open web, Google are including results from your contacts on Google+ (only when you’re logged in mind). This is optional at present (but it’s pretty much a sure thing that the default will be ‘on’) and will result in a search for ‘Bali’ (for example) bringing up friend’s pictures of their holiday in Bali, status updates mentioning Bali and such like. Within minutes of Google going live with search+ in the US the blogs lit up (you can see my own to and fro’ing in the comments section of http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8643-google-adds-social-content-from-google-into-search-results) as assorted techie types cried foul. But why is this? In short:
– If Google are only feeding social results back from Google+ then the idea of impartiality in organic results goes out of the window. Google is essentially using search results as unpaid adverts for it’s own product. Google have argued that they’re happy to take feeds from the other social sites – but this is clearly not going to happen due to pre-existing privacy terms and conditions, the huge amount of data flow that would be required to make it work, and basic business acumen on the part of competitor sites (why would Twitter and Facebook give away valuable customer information that they normally charge for?).
– Anti trust issues are also coming to the forefront. US and UK law states that a competitive advantage (i.e. a monopoly) in one industry cannot be used to leverage advantage in another industry. Whilst this might not be so relevant in the US where Google only has a 60 – 65% market share, in the UK (where 90% of the market uses Google for search) there is a clear issue. The eye of the European courts will soon be turning their focus onto Google in much the way they did on Microsoft in the noughties.
– User experience. Is this move best for the average Google user? In short, no. I get enough of friends updating me on their every move when I’m on Facebook. I don’t want this activity straying into other areas of my online life. If Google does start taking information from other social networks, we will soon see SERPs becoming cluttered with updates, reviews, opinions, gossip, shoddy videos and badly lit images. All the sort of content we hope to avoid when using a Google search. Google looks for quality when indexing content; this is what their key USP has always been and is the reason why they have dominated the search market for so long. By introducing search+ they’re sacrificing quality score on the alter of commercialism, and this will ultimately drive away their users.
Ultimately of course, this is what it’ll all come down to. If Google see search+ pushing away customers they’ll change their tactics pretty quickly. Personally, I don’t see it lasting more than six months it it’s current guise.
A brilliant response from engineers at Myspace (are there any still employed there?), Facebook and Twitter, in what can only be described as a genius attack on Search+. I know which I’ll be using!