Following complaints that Google's new social search tool gives skewed results instead of the most relevant ones, a group of social networks have banded together to offer an alternative.
Engineers at Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace created a proof of concept that lets people use Google to get search results from those sites as well as LinkedIn, Flickr, Quora, Tumblr, Foursquare, Crunchbase, FriendFeed, Stack Overflow, Github, and Google+. The results show the highest social media results for a given search and not just the Google+ results that Google's new Search Plus Your World does.
Dubbed "don't be evil" in reference to Google's much-maligned motto, the tool is a browser bookmarklet, or small piece of code, that runs in Chrome, FireFox, or Safari, but not Internet Explorer. When you do a search, the software automatically checks Google for the social profiles associated with a search query typed into the search engine and replaces the Google+ profiles that Google now features with the ones ranked highest in its own search results.
For instance, a search for comedians on Google with its social search function enabled shows the Google+ pages of Dane Cook, Gabriel Iglesias, and Chris Tucker to the right of the search results. Whereas in a browser with the 'don't be evil' bookmarklet installed, the area to the right of the main results includes links to combinations of results for Dane Cook, Gabriel Iglesias, and Joe Rogan on a variety of social networks. There were also eight personal results above the main results in which people I know posted items about comedians on Google+, Facebook, and blogs.
The open-source software can be downloaded from Focusontheuser.org. The site provides examples of search results using the tool, a video, and a FAQ with more details. The coding project was led by Blake Ross, director of product at Facebook and co-founder of the Mozilla Firefox project, according to All Things Digital.
A Facebook spokesman said the company was declining to comment, and Twitter said it had no comment. Representatives from MySpace and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
After Google launched its Google+ search feature two weeks ago, Twitter representatives were the first to complain publicly, accusing Google of warping its search results to feature its own social-networking content.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission a few days later, asking the agency to look into whether Google's new search offering violates federal antitrust rules. An FTC probe into complaints that Google unfairly promotes its own services in its search results was already under way.
In its defense, Google has complained that Facebook and Twitter don't allow it to fully crawl their sites, but the site still provides results from those sites in its main results, which are used to flesh out the social results via the "don't be evil" bookmarklet.
Meanwhile, Facebook has an agreement with Microsoft to integrate some of its user content (likes and friend lists, for instance) into Bing search results and Bing includes real-time data from Twitter. Google used to include real-time Twitter data but the contract between the two companies expired last summer and was not renewed.
Later today the Twitter Communications account posted this relevant tweet: "Q. Does Google need a deal to crawl Twitter? A. No. Google's web bots crawl Twitter 120M+ times a day; 3 billion pages indexed & counting."
Updated 3:40 p.m. PT with Twitter tweet with Google crawling stats.
Update 3:20 p.m. PT on January 24: Facebook's Blake Ross tweeted this today: "People have asked about stats. We've seen over 100,000 unique visitors in the 24hrs since http://focusontheuser.org launched! #weekendproject"