Your photos, your friends, your stuff…

According to Google, its service has been made even better “by including photos, posts, and more from you and your friends”. The changes are supposed to bring a personal touch to search – Google claims that results are now more relevant and personal to the searcher because they include content such as pictures, posts and videos from the user’s friends, family and colleagues.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Here comes the “but…”

But…

It massively favours content from its own Google+ networking site. Critics of the changes (and there are lots of them) are pretty livid that the search engine now automatically promotes content from Google+ higher up in the search listings than Twitter, Facebook et al. Understandably, other social networking sites have been voicing their disappointment with Google – Alex McGillivary of Twitter announced that it was “a bad day for the Internet”.

Filthy lies

Google claims that the changes only affect search when the user is signed in to an account on Google. However, there are reports that this is not the case, with Google+ content getting priority over other, more relevant content even in an incognito window (when there is no previous search history to influence results). Danny Sullivand of SearchEngineLand.com makes the case clear with his example of how an incognito search returns a “People and Pages on Google+” section, where “some of Google’s prime ad real estate is displayed, suggesting that searchers consider following Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg and Mariah Carey on Google Plus.”

‘Don’t be Evil’

One of the main reasons why Google is coming under fire for these changes is that they go against everything that the company claims to stand for – specifically, its unofficial corporate value: “don’t be evil”. Google claims that this ethic is a centre pillar of its identity, underlining the company’s commitment to acting in the interest of its users.

In 2004 the founders of Google spoke out about Google’s commitment to impartiality, stating that “Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective”.

Hmmmm…

*Breaking News* we’ve just learned that engineers behind Facebook, Twitter and Myspace have collaborated on a new browser extension designed to bypass Google’s algorithm. To read about the tool, go here. To try it yourself, go here.

What do you think? Here at Zeta the jury is still out on how this will affect search – use the comment section to share your views and we might just feature you in a forthcoming blog post!

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