This morning, Google began rolling out a major change to its core search engine that intertwines results from Google+ (and Picasa) with the ‘normal’ algorithmically-generated results we’ve come to expect. There have been plenty of critiques of the news, including John Battelle’s discussion on how this isn’t actually integrating ‘Your World’, as Google calls it, but rather just its own social network.
And now there’s another critic that’s coming out swinging: Twitter.
Earlier today the company’s General Counsel Alex Macgillivray, who was a top attorney at Google prior to making the jump to Twitter, called it “A bad day for the Internet”, and stated that some of his former colleagues were likely upset by the decision to “warp” Google’s results. And now Twitter itself has followed up with a statement denouncing the feature — and rather than relying on the wishy-washy PR speak big companies are fond of, it’s very direct.
Here’s the full statement:
For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.
Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. 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.
Now, some context. Google used to have a deal with Twitter whereby Tweets would appear as part of Google’s real-time results. These would sometimes appear baked into the results page for a timely query on Google, about, say, breaking news or a sporting event, and were also accessible by going to a dedicated real-time search section. That partnership terminated in July 2011, and was not renewed.
Twitter is obviously upset about today’s launch for a few reasons. For one, it made money off of its deal with Google. It wants Google to need its data. And there’s the potential that today’s launch may incentivize publishers and users to pay more attention to Google+ when it comes to sharing breaking news — after all, it’s the only service that’s going to pop up in Google search results. Which would reduce Google’s reliance on Twitter.
As for Twitter’s assertion that with these changes, finding information will be “much harder for everyone”: if people are looking to access the real-time data that is shared on Twitter (which, to Twitter’s credit, is definitely more likely to include breaking news than most of the stuff being shared on Google+), then they can obviously still head to Twitter’s own search product. Which could potentially be a very popular search portal itself, but, in my experience, is still pretty cruddy.
But Twitter does have a point: people trust Google to serve up the most timely, relevant information possible. And without Twitter’s data, it’s going to have a hard time doing that. Of course, Google probably already has its own answer to this drafted, and I suspect it reads something like, “if Twitter wants people to find tweets in Google, they can open up their API.” I’m reaching out to them for their official response now.
Update: Google just posted this response to its official Google+ Page:
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 (http://goo.gl/chKwi), and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.