Will Twitter sue over Google's new social search?

Nathan Pensky · January 11, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2368

Google launches 'Search Plus Your World' and Twitter is fighting mad about new search results

The great and powerful Google, in all its wisdom, announced Tuesday that it will roll out some new search features, which will direct users of its widely-pervasive Internet search engine toward the company's social network, Google+. But some people think that these changes skew Google's search function much too heavily toward Google+, and Twitter, who is likely to be one of the sites most affected by the changes, is voicing its displeasure. Could an antitrust lawsuit follow?

Google is calling these new search features, "Search Plus Your World." The changes launched Tuesday for the English version of Google, with other languages soon to follow. Twitter is already calling attention to the fact that searches for Twitter accounts are turning up Google+ results more prominently in a statement released Wednesday.

"For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet," Twitter said in their 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," Twitter continued.

In addition, Twitter general counsel Alex Mcgillivray Tweeted Wednesday concerning the new Google+-skewed search results, stating "Here’s what a user searching for ‘@wwe’ will be shown on the new @Google." The attached screenshot shows that the first hit is the WWE wrestling organization website, with the next few hits coming up as posts on Google+.

Keep in mind that this search wasn't for the WWE organization itself, but for the organization's Twitter account, with the @-symbol attached.

The changes to Google search engine are three-fold: First, Google search results will now by default include posts on Google+, as well as pictures from Picasa, much more prominently. Only those Google+ entries that are set to be viewed by everyone, based on per-item privacy settings, will be available for search.

Second, the top-right corner of the search page, where paid advertisements used to be, will now have a box for prominent Google+ accounts relevant to the user's search. So a search for "Basketball" would show, not only places to buy basketballs and pages explaining the rules to the game, but possibly LeBron James's Google+ account in the upper right hand corner. (Does LeBron have a Google+ account?)

And third, Google's search box will auto-complete names from the user's circles, as well as those "prominent" Google+ users.

Last but not least, and perhaps most important to Twitter's complaints, the "Search Plus Your World" will have an off button in the upper right corner, where users can switch search to "no personal results." However, interestingly, one report has found that even after turning off the social option on the new Google search, the "@wwe" search Mcgillivray Tweeted about showed the same results.

So to sum up, Google is taking its search engine, invariably the most widely used of their many services, and incorporating it with a social network of extremely dubious value, possibly alienating their many, many users and very probably eliciting litigation from competitors. What did you do yesterday?

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