Facebook, Twitter engineers 'improve' Google social search

New 'don't be evil' browser plug-in adds rivals to Google's social search results.
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A team of engineers from social networks Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have created a web browser which they say increases the relevance of Google's social search results by adding services other than Google+.

"How much better would social search be if Google surfaced results from all across the web? The results speak for themselves," reads the introduction of the web page Focus on the user.

Described as unofficial project from engineers at rival social networks, the site complained that searching for "cooking" should indeed show a hit from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver but the energetically updated Twitter account would be a better result than Oliver's neglected Google+ profile.

Following the arrival of Google's 'Plus Your World' social expansion, rivals such as Twitter lambasted the decision not to include organic web hits to their own web sites, arguing that the changes made it harder to find relevant information and would be 'bad for users'.

Google said that Twitter had itself decided not to renew an agreement to provide data to enable search. Twitter and other social rivals apparently don't want to provide a data feed to Google but would still like the search giant to provide a high search ranking regardless.

The squabble is largely related to the fact that Google merely indexing the public web pages, as rivals would like, means they retain control over their user's data.

Google could, as the 'Don't be evil' search tweak demonstrates, achieve the same result for search by displaying web hits for social rivals. The site does betray a tinge of sour grapes through the language as well as the strategy of promoting a search transform bookmark ahead of a browser plug-in, presumably designed to highlight the before and after effect.

It isn't entirely clear if Google's current strategy of favoring Google+ is principally aimed at bolstering take up of the world's newest social network or if there are genuine business concerns at play, as Google suggests.

At any rate, it's hard to argue that Google's search results should not look a lot more like those advocated by the anonymous 'focus on the user' engineers. Quite why it doesn't is most like a side effect of the ongoing war of ownership of data between the leading internet companies.

Google CEO Larry Page recently revealed that Google's network now has 90 million users. Given Google's power at effectively shunting existing users of Google's services into Google+, that figure might not be worth very much alone but Page also said a more useful statistic, 'engagement', had been 'growing tremendously' with 60 per cent of users using the service daily, and 80 per cent weekly.

The recent search engine changes look set to provide a further boost.

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