So you’re walking down the street and you ask a nice lady for directions to a local coffee shop. She says to you, “If you go one block and turn right you’ll find the Starbucks. Have a nice day.”
“But I want to go to Joe’s Coffee Shop.”
“No you don’t,” she says to me.
“But I really do.”
“Okay but I think you should to go Starbucks.”
Then you ask her, “When was the last time you were at Starbucks”
“Oh not for a year. But you should go anyway.”
The preceding one-act play was brought to you by Google’s modified search results from its recently introduced Search Plus Your World. Enter a search term into Google and it will search the first ten pages of rankings it finds and present you with what it “determines” are the most relevant social results. Invariably the results include whatever Google+ content it finds and presents it in the first few rankings. Unfortunately it seems to include Google+ content that may be months old.
Enter the new “bookmarklet” developed over a weekend in what is being called a joint project by Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. It’s being called Focus on the User.
Never mind your first question, “MySpace?” I thought that, too. Whatever. When a search term is entered into the Google search box you can click on the bookmarklet which temporarily modifies the search results to the most applicable results without including Google + content unless it’s actually socially relevant. The coding project is open source and is built using info from Google itself and doesn’t access any other websites or APIs. Results aren’t biased toward or away from any social website. It simply presents the most relevant social results. It’s basically the same results Google would have returned before Search Plus.
In a compelling video from the Focus On The User website you can see how search results are different when using the tool. In a startling example using AT&T as the search term the Google search places its Google+ content high up in the results. Use the FOU tool and those results don’t show up until the 6th page.
Now search is very dependent on the searcher. If it weren’t, your search results for “plumber” would show plumbers from Seattle when you live in Baltimore. There is a valid reason for so called “search bias”. But how does Google justify putting what are in essence, less than current search results, high up in the rankings simply because they utilize a Google product?
We’re again sent back to the original Google mantra “Do No Evil”. Now you should realize that genocide is evil, this is the internet, people. Unless Google reaches out and stabs me it’s not “evil”. But it is the most used and until recently, trusted, of the search engines and it’s reputation for being above these sorts of tactics has been, in part, a reason for its dominance. Well that and the fact that it totally rocked search results.
Would this whole conversation be happening if the 90 Million users Google claims are on Google+ actually used it? It would make those search results much, much more relevant and useful. You might want to see results alongside timely opinions or reviews from your individual network. Right? But the fact that Google seems determined to foist their filtered results on you may leave a bit of a bad taste.
What this means to the individual user is what it means to the individual user. If your current Google results are suspect you can employ this tool and see for yourself. Google is already drawing the attention from the FTC so there may be further discussion about Google and it’s dominance. On the other hand we could all just get over it and move on with our lives. I’m sure there are other things we need to be doing. I need bread, milk and bananas and they won’t buy themselves.