Google search gets more personal, raises hackles


Sullivan’s criticism is especially striking because he has generally defended other search features that highlight Google’s own services.

Twitter said it’s worried the added emphasis on Plus in Google’s search results will make it more difficult to find breaking news and other compelling information shared within the 250 million messages, or tweets, posted on its service each day.

“We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users,” Twitter said in a statement.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google says its efforts to reel in more information from other sharing services are frequently thwarted by the providers. For instance, Twitter puts explicit instructions in its computer computing telling Google not to index the material, according to Google.

“Ushering in the new era of social and private data search will take close cooperation, and we hope other sites participate so we can provide the best possible experience for our users,” Google said in a statement issued after it was asked about its added emphasis on Plus in its search results.

Facebook and Twitter pose a threat to Google because they don’t allow Google’s search engine to log most of the photos, links and observations cascading through those services. That’s troublesome to Google because its search engine could become less useful if its system can’t analyze what people are signaling is important to them so those preferences can be factored into the results.

Twitter once gave Google better access to the tweets flowing through its service as part of a 2009 licensing agreement, but that deal expired last summer. Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine is still paying to mine into Twitter’s service.

Facebook has long cooperated with Bing, partly because Microsoft bought a 1.6 percent stake in the company in 2007. At the same time, Facebook has steadfastly resisted Google’s attempts to peer deeper into its social network.

That’s one of the reasons Google started Plus, which is now hatching “Search, plus Your World.”

The feature will be automatically turned on for all English-language searches made by users logged into Google. Turning off the personal results permanently will require changing a setting in Google’s personal preferences. The personal results can also be excluded on a search-by-search basis by clicking on an icon of the globe on the results page (the personal results will be denoted by a button featuring a human’s silhouette).

If the new formula works as Google expects, the search results will include pertinent information culled from the requestor’s Plus account. For instance, a query about the San Francisco 49ers might include links and comments made about the football team by other people in one of the social circles on the user’s Plus account. A search request that includes the name of a dog owned by the user or a friend might turn up photos of the pet that have been posted on Plus and Picasa.

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