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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Facebook and Twitter Build a “Don’t Be Evil” Tool to Show Google’s Bias in Search Results

Posted by @ 7:23 pm

A couple of weeks ago, Google launched “Search Plus Your World”, a new feature that displays social information alongside regular data in Google’s search results. The goal of SPYW is to further personalise search results to deliver the most relevant data for you, which is some cases may come from your personal network.

Shortly after the announcement, Twitter and Facebook raised concerns about the new feature, claiming that Google will favour their own Google+ pages and profiles in the top results. To demonstrate this point, the two came together to build, a site that allows you to modify Google search results to remove the SPYW emphasis on Google+ results.

Below is a video which demonstrates how the bookmarklet works,

In case you didn’t watch the video, the demonstration outlines a number of queries where Google displays Google+ profiles alongside regular search results. In order to determine if these Google+ profiles are the most relevant social result, the tool runs a Google query for the person’s name and returns the top social results for the query instead of the “hardcoded” Google+ result.

For example, below is an example of how the tool modifies search results for “music”,

As you can see, Google+ profiles are replaced with higher ranked results from Twitter, Myspace and Facebook.

Following the release of this tool, Google has copped criticism that they’ve abandoned their “don’t be evil” mantra and have started focusing on promoting their own products and services.

Earlier this week, search engine land interviewed Google search Chief Amit Singal, who addressed some of the concerns raised above. Here is his answer from the interview,

Q: But what about the Don’t Be Evil tool launched this week, showing that you can create People & Pages results that do go beyond Google+ content.

This is where I’m saying most people are jumping to a conclusion based on the first two weeks of the product. We’re designing a product which it will work for all individuals. It will have identities as a fundamental ingredient of search and relationships as another fundamental ingredient of search.

All this debate is centered around these very popular people out there, and what you could have done for them, and what makes the most sense. But when you’re developing a product, you don’t want to develop it for one segment of the population.

I’ve not seen the debate that I have a [personal] friend named Ben Smith, and when I try to search for him, I get bad results. If you actually build a product only for popular people, then it undermines what we are trying to do. You can’t build a product that behaves differently for one class of people then differently for the real relationships that matter for you.

I feel like this point has not been emphasized enough. People have gotten stuck on these very popular names, and no one has been focused on the cool part of the product where you can find people you care about.

At the end of the day, Google has to manage a very careful balancing act between their Google+ social network and their search results. Let’s hope they get it right.

As always, let us know what you think of the issue via the comments below.

Matthew Elshaw Matt is a marketing professional at, an international search marketing firm. Matt's passion for online marketing began at university and has proved invaluable in steering product development and marketing initiatives at the company. Matt is a regular contributor to the ineedhits search marketing blog.

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