Newsletter February 2012

Google 'Search, Plus Your World' Causes Controversy

A recent decision by Google to incorporate results from its users' own personal Google+ information has caused an outcry from the public at large, and those whose sites are affected by the latest tweak.

The title of the update – "Search, plus Your World" – is fairly self-explanatory as the search now implants information from the user's Google+ world into their regular results. However it appears that not everyone wants to see notifications, updates and other social content in their searches. With only a finite number of search results displayed on each page, it's not surprising businesses are upset too as this will push their pages further down the rankings. It also means other social networking sites such as Twitter will suffer, which makes it unsurprising that the micro-blogging site has been very vocal about the change and last week issued the following statement to air its concerns: "Twitter has emerged as a vital source of real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million tweets every day on virtually every topic…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 organisations and Twitter users". The powers that be behind Twitter aren't the only ones who are upset ; this latest Google change has sparked heated discussion amongst Twitter's users, where the hashtag is the creepily appropriate #SPYW. There aren't many out there extolling its virtues and the general consensus seems to be the personalised results are unwanted, reflecting a common viewpoint that search and social networking are two different beasts and should be kept separate. It's worth pointing out that SpYW only becomes active after a user has signed into Google and can be turned off at will. Those who don't use Google+ (which recently reached the 90 million user mark) will be unaffected by the change. Even so, the fact that Google flipped the switch on the search update in the first place has proved enough to make people jump ship to Bing, Microsoft's search engine alternative. If people are turning away from the search engine itself then it's even more likely that existing Google+ users will abandon their account, not to mention the fact that the latest development is unlikely to encourage anyone to join it. The outcry is understandable as the change is clearly biased and intended to promote Google's services over other outlets. Even if users of Google don't use Google+, it still raises a trust issue as it shows the search engine giant abusing its monopoly – a fact which may well see Bing reap big rewards in time to come.


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