Under a hail of criticism, Google is responding to claims that its new “Search Plus Your World” initiative is anti-competitive and overreaching. Beyond its own services -- like Picasa and Google+ -- the company insisted that “Search Plus” incorporates content from across the Web into users’ personalized search results.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, explained in a blog post that the information culled is from the open Web, not just content from Google. “Search Plus Your World builds on the social search that we launched in 2009, and can surface public content from sites across from the web such as Quora, FriendFeed, LiveJournal, Twitter, and WordPress.”
This means it will take into account not just data and factoids, but also relationships between users.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made similar comments to search expert Danny Sullivan earlier this week. Google made it clear that “Search Plus” was one of the biggest changes it had ever made to its search results.
The company's apparent openness, however, did little to allay criticism that it promotes content from its own services -- maps, reviews, YouTube, Google+ -- ahead of rivals.
“This problem is much bigger than Google Search Plus: Google has used similar tying tactics to push dozens of its products for years,” Harvard professor and security expert Ben Edelman accused in a Thursday blog post.
Directly challenging Cutts, Sullivan insists that “Search Plus” favors Google in a big way. More to the point, “by having a dominant position in search, Google might ultimately be responsible for going above and beyond to include competitors,” Sullivan explained on Search Engine Land. “That’s part of what the current anti-trust investigations into Google are all about."
The Electronic Privacy Information Center said this week that it was considering making a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission regarding Google’s “Search Plus” initiative.
Quantifying Google’s continued search dominance, comScore just reported that the company saw its U.S. search share increase to 65.9% in December -- up from 65.5% in November.
Given Google’s gatekeeper status, Twitter said in a statement this week that “people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users” would suffer from not being able to quickly see tweets in search results.
Referring to a dead feed-sharing deal between Google and Twitter -- which Twitter has since taken up with Bing -- Google responded: “We are a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments about Search Plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer.”