Googleâ€™s new feature search+ which includes relevant links from Google+ to give a user personalized results has come in for a considerable amount of flak. Critics said Google was using its dominance in search to push Google+, which is clearly behind Facebook, critics also said that the results from Google+ were distorting search results.
Responding to the criticism Google gave the users choice to suspend the feature if they so desired, so that it would not include results from Google+. Some people notably, from rivals Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace were not satisfied.
They went and complained to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate changes made in Googleâ€™s search results. And then they went a step further. Some engineers from Twitter, Facebook and Myspace got together to launch a website called Focus on Users, and launched a browser plugin called Donâ€™t Be Evil bookmarklet, which is available on the site. The plugin apparently tries to give you an approximation of the results minus the Google+ results.
A statement on the website reads:
When you search for “cooking” today, Google decides that renowned chef Jamie Oliver is a relevant social result. That makes sense,â€ says the statement, “But rather than linking to Jamie’s Twitter profile, which is updated daily, Google links to his Google+ profile, which was last updated nearly two months ago. Is Google’s relevance algorithm simply misguided?
No. If you search Google for Jamie Oliver directly, his Twitter profile is the first social result that appears. His abandoned Google+ profile doesn’t even appear on the first page of results. When Google’s engineers are allowed to focus purely on relevancy, they get it right.
So that’s what our “bookmarklet” does. It looks at the three places where Google only shows Google+ results and then automatically googles Google to see if Google finds a result more relevant than Google+.
Now, there is something to the names of the website, and the name of the bookmarklet. The first is self-explanatory, taking a cheeky poke at Google for not putting the Users first, the second is a cheekier poke at Googleâ€™s official mantra, Donâ€™t Be Evil. Googleâ€™s trying to be evil, is the implicit statement, and the bookmarklet is here to prevent it from happening.
Now, Google has been here before. Sometime back Eric Schmidt was hauled before a congressional hearing to explain how putting results from its own websites at the top of the search results was not unfair practice. At that time Schmidt had made different arguments, Google really isnâ€™t a monopoly, it takes care to distinguish ads from the search results, it was trying to provide more relevant searches etc, etc.
The last time we understood, after all Bing was doing the same thing. The idea of showing sites that allow you to book tickets in cinema halls when you search for a film name, ticket prices and cinemas where they are showing is kind of smart.
This row is slightly different. It would be hard for Google to claim that results from Google+ is more relevant than results from Facebook or Twitter.
The effort by the way is not officially by the three aggrieved companies, it is only unofficially developed by their engineers. One of then, Blake Ross from Facebook is none other than the Ross, who was one of the cofounders of Mozillaâ€™s Firefox.
The plugin has been open sourced, and handed over to the developer community, to try and make it better.
“This proof of concept was built by some engineers at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, in consultation with several other social networking companies,” Focus on the User says. “We are open-sourcing the code so that anyone may use it or make it even better.”