Social Enterprise

Google is enduring harsh criticism about Google+ in search results

Google believes social networks give their algorithms more insight into exactly what people mean when they search for something, but at what cost?

The city I live in, Buffalo, NY, has an annual outdoor summer concert series. One humid night in 2001, more than 45,000 people, or more than half the capacity of the city's football stadium, packed into a downtown square to hear Pat Benatar kick out some power ballads. Benatar was great, but the opening act for the show was "Glo," a trio of girl-pop singers and dancers, the leader of which just happened to be Pat Benatar's daughter.

I'll leave it to your imagination as to exactly how a crowd of mostly middle-aged adults, holding $6 Labatt Blue cups above their heads in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, on one of the hottest nights of the summer, appreciated having to wait out three saccharine musical numbers before they could hear the rock hero of their youth. But that dissonance, that annoyance at having to wait as someone punched above their weight in a set-up match because of their relation to the main event - that, right there, is the best analogy I can summon up for how "Google Search, Plus Your World" feels at the moment.

Important relationships

It is, in other words, like taking a product that is still developing, one that is still figuring out what it's good at and what it is best used for, and then making it something everybody searching on Google.com sees as an important part of their results. Google, the company built on relevance, is making a blanket statement about the relevance of one of their own products, less than a year after its launch. John Gruber at Daring Fireball likens the move to the "portal" strategies of the 1990s. Google's motivations are a bit more complicated than a strict desire for social attention, however.

On last week's This Week in Google show, Matt Cutts, of Google's Search Quality team, used the term "once bitten, twice shy" more than once to describe Google's relationship with outside social networks.

For example, Twitter once provided real-time results to accompany Google results, with a logged-in Twitter user's contacts given priority, but Twitter pulled out from a renewal. As Cutts described it, engineers at Google worked very long hours over the Independence Day holiday weekend to safely turn off Google's Twitter integration. Meanwhile, rival search engine Bing, in which owner Microsoft continues to invest heavily, lined up deals with both Twitter and Facebook.

It's not just that Google wants to show people searching through its still unmatched page indexes and algorithms what's being said in the social network sphere about their search terms, though that's likely something we'll all come to expect in the future. For Google, seeing what people search for, then ask about, then click on within their social networks, gives their algorithms more insight into exactly what people mean when they search for something, and where some of the best and most timely results come from. Social networks generate a different set of "signals" than web pages. Having those signals available gives Google a competitive edge in figuring out what users want from them.

Ultimately, people will vote with their address bars, bookmarks, and home pages. The friction in switching to an alternative and competent search engine, such as Bing or Duck Duck Go, is almost non-existent - click or type in the address, and now you're searching there. As previously noted, businesses and brands might consider a Google+ presence a necessity, but that penalty is lessened as more users make their own decisions about seeing Google+ in their search results.

Meanwhile, engineers at Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (yes, MySpace) recently released a bookmarklet and browser extension that strips Google results of their Google+ peripherals, and it's picked up an unofficial moniker: the "Don't Be Evil Bookmarklet." It's a knock at Google's informal corporate motto.

It's an interesting thing, to see a crowd start to consider the vitality of a brand they know so well. It's getting hot out there, on the web.

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About

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.

26 comments
mikef12
mikef12

Is this the reason? I have no idea, but it has gone from being the most accurate, most relevant results provider to one that seems to be having difficulty matching Bing. And, never thought I'd say this, but Bing's maps are more accurate.

sh10453
sh10453

Personally I don't believe much of the privacy claims that the social networks assure us of. In fact I don't believe that ethics matter to them at all. Making money is their ultimate goal. Once you have joined them, you decide the amount of information you want to put on your profile. Remember that "Advertisers" are their clients, not you, the free member! Have you noticed that as soon as you have joined one of these sites your spam e-mail jumped up dramatically? They promised to keep your information private (including your e-mail address), didn't they!!! Who gave these advertisers your e-mail information? Among all social networks, my enemy number 1 is Facebook. I simply hate that site, and I know some are worse (like MyLife, MyYear Book, if I'm not wrong about the exact names), but these are less popular. [b] I hope Google is not going to become another Facebook. [/b] I have been a premier G-Mail member (since they started offering e-mail accounts, years ago), and I have received the invites to join Google+ (among other "Googlings"), and I am glad I never joined any of them.

Gromanon
Gromanon

I always been saying for years that Google been playing with monopolistic ways, but lets put that aside for now. The real issue with Google is that it seriously just kicked the meaning of personal privacy into the ribs. It is seriously using people's socially shared information to be searchable and used by third party companies and god knows who else. I think it is not cool, by any stretch of imagination. I am ok with Bing providing liked search results by ONLY by my friends and ONLY when I am signed in, into Bing. But Google kinda pushes it too far, you don't have to be signed it and you can search up about anyone as long as it relevant to search query. That's messed up!

Gisabun
Gisabun

... After all, if you create a Googlre account, you are automatically given a GMail account and a Google+ account [which you are logged into automatically]. An unethical way for them try try [and fail] in catch up to Facebook. Google announced last week that Google+ has gone past 90 million [I wonder how many from this new antic]. In the same period [since Google+ started up], Facebook added 200 million [net - that's new plus closded accounts]. Google is desparate.

Professor8
Professor8

"Social networks generate a different set of ???signals??? than web pages. Having those signals available gives Google a competitive edge in figuring out what users want from them." Which is exacty why we dislike what Google and Yahoo!, and FB and MySpace and LinkedIn and Grouply and Friendster... do. We don't want them collecting such information, let alone abusing it further. The idea is that "social" discussions (and e-mail messages and draft documents and spread-sheets and graphs and audio recordings and videos) are just that, personal private communications with 1 to a few million other private people. Thinking out loud. Puzzling over issues. Not to be used by someone else for their lyrics or clever lines for movies. Not to be archived. Not to be recorded and abused for blackmail. Not to be recorded, collected, linked and correlated and abused for advertising. As a matter of fact, STOP TRYING TO TARGET ADVERTISING! You're all lousy at it, anyway, and getting worse. Just shovel up the garbage along the margins of the page and let us ignore it and get on with our private lives, FCOL.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

If you can not make a copy of a disk,the disk writer just will not do it,try making an IOS image of the disk first.Then burn the image to another disk.Check the disk sizes to be certain the the ISO will fit.Some image files may need a double layer or blue ray disk to fit.In ArcSoft it's in Utilities then Create Disk Image.(When the image is done being created eject the source disk and then put in a blank disk.)Then Utilities Burn Disk Image.Be patient here it hangs a little at %100 done.I place the image file on the desktop and title it accordingly.This works for CD's and even video DVD's.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Be honest, have you recently changed the default search engine on your browser because of the recent changes Google has made to its search philosophy?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The real issue with Google is that it seriously just kicked the meaning of personal privacy into the ribs. It is seriously using people's socially shared information to be searchable and used by third party companies and god knows who else." How can you have any expectation of privacy for information you are sharing on the Internet, information you voluntarily offered when neither under duress or compensation?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Really? What's unethical about it? Their terms are clearly spelled out in their terms of service. You did read the terms and conditions when you joined, right? I know you didn't just check the 'I read these' box without doing actually having done so.

DLeh
DLeh

"Which is exacty why we dislike what Google and Yahoo!, and FB and MySpace and LinkedIn and Grouply and Friendster... do. We don't want them collecting such information, let alone abusing it further." FYI, the signals come from you when you give them to them. Stop using them. "personal private communications with 1 to a few million other private people." I don't think you understand what the word "private" means. You may as well get mad when you walk through a park and wind up on someone's camera who took pictures with you in the background. I'm sorry if you don't like it. But your idea of "personal private" is how a public blog works too. You want to shut down all search engines?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The idea is that "social" discussions (and e-mail messages and draft documents and spread-sheets and graphs and audio recordings and videos) are just that, personal private communications with 1 to a few million other private people." You get what you pay for. Since Google, Facebook, etc. aren't charging users anything, 'the idea' is they make money via advertising. The more they can help their real clients (advertisers, not users) target their content, the more they can charge those clients. Any notion that these companies are in business to provide you with "private communications with ... a few million other private people" is both an oxymoron and a delusion. On the other hand, it's easy to avoid having your personal data exploited by these companies: don't use them, and really 'get on with your private life'.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Gods of us all, why are you babbling about burning disks in this discussion?

Professor8
Professor8

1. I never use that widget on the web browser or e-mail interface. I figure if they're trying to push me to a particular one, it's definitely not one I want. 2. I change search sites every time I run across what presents the likelihood of being a better one. Right now I'm using ixquick precisely because they don't track IP addresses and such (though, unfortunately, when you click on a link they present that site gets your address; eliminating that would be a good next tiny step of progress). 3. The main change I've made is to clear out all the cookies, history and cache even more often, and clear out, quit, physically drop my net connection and then bring everything back up more often.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I wasn't aware of this approach. I don't use Google Plus or any other social network. I don't really understand how it differs from what they've been doing in the past, how it affects my search search results, or if my lack of electronic social participation will result in no effects at all. Right now I'm still satisfied with the results I'm getting, so I don't see a reason to change. Most of my searches are for troubleshooting problems at work, an area where I still find Bing to be a distant second.

Gromanon
Gromanon

For some its still ethical when somebody is taking a dump in the middle of your room. While for others its not ok, but it all comes down to what your room really looks like. So for most its not ok to have their social information be seen and used by anybody. But at the same time some people are so use to this slow stealing of privacy trend, which is identical to slowly boiling a frog to death example. The amount of privacy people are willing to trade in exchange for free services would be unbelievable just some 5 to 10 years ago. But when its being done slowly but surely people are getting adapted to it quicker because its not as disruptive. Just like a frog that is being boiled, dies unaware of it. If we are here today seeing our privacy being stolen just like that, can you just picture what's next for privacy in near future!

Justin James
Justin James

This is his routine, it's humor. :D J.Ja

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

he had some rather clear comments on another article a few days back. Maybe this comment is meant to balance those out and keep the WTF average?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The less social network active you are the less your results will change. And on the other hand, the more social network active you are the better the social aspects of the results will be. In your case, if you were to create a Google+ account, then you would see something different. The message would seem to be - don't create a Google+ account unless you are really going to use it to its fullest potential.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Then let 'em stay there and boil. That just benefits those who never climbed in and those who realize the 'advantages' of social networking aren't worth sacrificing their privacy. How can social networking and the volunteering of personal data have become so much a part of our lives when social networking isn't a decade old? Modern humans got along quite nicely without it well into the first several years of this millennium.

Gromanon
Gromanon

Yes the heat won't be turned down any lower from here on, and its our fault that we have went so far before feeling the heat. However we must voice that at least we don't want them to be turning that knob any further than this. No modern human will leave the pot because Internet have become such a part of our daily lives now.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

these frogs are remaining in the pot as the bubbles rise around them, except the ones that are jumping into ... other boiling pots. By now they should know that none of these pots are going to have the heat turned down. If they can't stand the heat, no one is forcing them to remain in the water; but they'd rather stay there and complain.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

why wouldn't I just contact them directly via whatever social networking utility I'm already using? Not that I'd trust my friends' judgement on the IT issues that are the majority of my search expeditions, or any number of other topics. Of course, there's always this place...

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The idea is that your friends and social contacts may have additional, different, and perhaps better suggestions on a topic than a basic algorithmic search. I am not convinced of the merits yet, but that is the idea.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

The social data is all the pluses a user has placed, and the pluses of friends.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"And on the other hand, the more social network active you are the better the social aspects of the results will be." But what are the social aspects of the search results? Apparently this is another aspect of my social networking ignorance. How do the search results of a Google Plus user differ from a non-user?