Google Ignites Online Battle

Coverage Type: research
Project for Excellence in Journalism, 1615 L Street NW, Washington, DC, 20036, United States

A change for a major search engine that ensnared three of the titans of social media generated an intense discussion on blogs last week, as bloggers debated such fundamental online issues as privacy, monopolies and the access to information.

On January 10, Google announced the introduction of Search plus Your World which provides personal results to those using Google Search in addition to the standard search results. Thus, if you search "pancake" you get the standard search result of photos and recipes for pancakes, but also photos that you may have uploaded to your own albums of pancakes, blog posts shared by your Google+ friends about pancakes-and photos of a friend's dog named Pancake. What's not a part of the new personal search results are posts on the Twitter and Facebook platforms. Instead, the results come from Google's newer and as of yet less popular social network, Google+, its photo sharing site Picasa and its blogging tool, Blogger as well. Google and Twitter were at odds over what lay behind the absence of these posts. Twitter's general council, Alex Macgillivray called it a "Bad day for the Internet" and the company released a statement saying they were not pleased about their exclusion. Google issued a response noting that it was Twitter that "chose not to renew their agreement [to include their updates in search results] with us." Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt added that Google+ content is not being favored over Twitter and Facebook by the search engine, and if Twitter or Facebook give permission to access their content, it will be included. While Facebook has yet to make a statement on the Search plus Your World controversy, it is the most popular of the social networks with over 800 million active users (defined by the company as those who have logged in at least once a month.) Twitter executives, by comparison, said as of September 2011 they had 100 million active users, half of which tweet daily, according to PC Mag. Google+ reported 62 million users at the end of 2011.

One blogger declared the dustup the "first real Internet cat fight of 2012" and discussion about the changes to Google Search made Google the No. 1 topic on blogs for the week of January 9-13, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.


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