Earlier this month, Google launched its “Search Plus your World” service in the United States. The announcement was followed by a big controversy in the blogosphere on a day defined by Twitter as “a bad day for the Internet”.
The Search giant has been previously accused of filtering information, so why such a reaction from competitors and users this time? Let´s start with the basics.
What is it “Search Plus your World”?
After previous attempts to enter the social media space, the Search giant finally launched Google Plus, its own social network in July 2011. Followed by a successful adoption, the company recently announced a new service that integrates these social data into their search results.
The Internet is more social than ever. Users are looking to include social content into their search results in order to make these more personalized and relevant: Did my friend´s like the last Tarantino movie? What Japanese restaurant is mom´s favorite?
In order to better integrate these two types of information, search engines must understand people and interactions. Google knows that, so the logic question was not whether the company would include social information, but rather which data the company would use. That is where Twitter came in.
Twitter and Google´s long road
In 2009, the two companies signed a real-time search contract but after only a year, Twitter decided to put an end to this partnership. The company was willing to bet on sponsored tweets, accounts and trends to secure its long-term revenue growth. This decision clearly indicated that such as Facebook, they wanted to become the center of the user´s experience, not just a secondary destination.
Today, Google is sending a clear message: “we are serious about Social Media and we don´t need you”. What Twitter claims, is that “Search Plus your World” is not providing the most relevant social data, their tweets are. The 400 million Google + users expected by 2015 are a threat to Twitter´s piece of the social media cake.
Google´s Web dominance:
There are many different positions regarding Google´s recent move. Some imply that the company´s dominance in Search is being used to gain competitive advantage in the social media space which in the United States constitutes an illegal act under the antitrust law. The company would be giving preference to its own platform and hence discriminating against other websites.
Others claim that Google did not have many choices left, after Twitter and Facebook refused to grant the company access to their content. Eric Schmidt -Google´s chairman- explained in a recent interview that they would index Facebook and Twitter´s information if it was public and accessible and showed willingness to start discussions with them. This is backed up by the fact that Google Search does include content from other open social platforms such as WordPress or Flickr.
Debate is served and we will need to wait and see what happens next. Will this service be extended to Europe or to worldwide mobile search – where the company accounts a 90% and 50% market share respectively-? How will competition react?
But more important than an official entity such as the Federal Trade Commission investigating this, the critical point remains how the market and users will react. They will tell Google what they think of their new social media strategy and if the company made a good or bad call. Stay tuned!