While many of you were trolling the aisles at CES, some of us were tied to our desks -- or, in my case, headed elsewhere. But, fortunately for those of us who didn’t get to see any cool gadgets this week other than the ones we already own, a great social media story began to unfold outside of Las Vegas. And that’s the fracas that’s broke out between Google and Twitter. (Facebook, at this writing, is playing the role of Switzerland, or maybe, in its isolation, North Korea, but, trust me; this story will eventually involve it, too.)
As you no doubt have heard, Google launched a new feature this week with the misleading title, “Search plus Your World,” which purports to include “your world” because Google search now incorporates Google+ activity in search results. There’s only one problem with that, of course. While Google may be the sine qua non of straight -- dare I say, old-fashioned -- search, when it comes to social it’s a wallflower, and not exactly indicative of the social activity on the Web.
If my experience is any guide, as the months since Google+ launched have rolled on, it’s become even less so. While, at the beginning, most of the people I connected to, and who connected to me, were people I knew, more recently the people who reach out to me include those whose names aren’t even familiar to me. No offense to any of them, but sometimes it feels like, if there were seven degrees of separation, they would be on display at Google+. Building social networks takes time.
My world, as with yours, is far more accurately displayed on Twitter and Facebook, so any product named “Search plus Your World” would have to incorporate them.
So far, Twitter is the only one of the two that’s spoken up. Its lawyer, a former Google exec, explained: “We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding [the real-time information on Twitter] will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.”
But that’s not really the point. As Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch points out, it’s not as if there’s no place to find real-time information without Google. (And, yes, Google still can index a fair amount of Twitter data, even without a formal deal.) The best place to find real-time information is, of course, Twitter itself. The bigger point is that if Google is to continue to be the go-to spot for information on the Web, and be the place where you can truly search “Your World,” that has to include a comprehensive take on all of the data available -- and an increasing amount of that data is social.
(I’m not suggesting here that all Facebook data become public and searchable on Google. Though, surely, at some point in the future, it would be intriguing, and beneficial to both parties, if there was a Facebook Connect-style feature on Google available to Facebook users.)
Google chairman Eric Schmidt, asked at CES about the company’s relations with Twitter and Facebook by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, said that if Twitter and Facebook want to talk to Google about incorporating their data into Google, the company would be willing to chat. He also said that it was Twitter, not Google, who did not renew the duo’s partnership, in which Twitter results showed up on Google. That deal expired over the summer, and Schmidt said he didn’t want to go “into specifics” about whether Twitter and Facebook were included in the talks that eventually led to the Google+ search inclusion.
Which leaves us at a long-awaited crossroads in the search vs. social debate. Can search really be comprehensive if it doesn’t adequately represent social data? Well, the answer is obvious: “No.”
What also seems obvious is that Google needs to do some hard thinking here, much harder thinking than what it took to incorporate Google+ data into Google searches. That just seems like an attempt to incorrectly amplify and integrate Google+ within Google. Think of it as uber-SEO. Thus, ”Search plus Your World” is also unGoogly. You can’t make the claim of being the Internet’s primary information resource without the two biggest streams of social data.
End of story.