Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

Summary: Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace engineers built a bookmarklet over the weekend that tells Google "don't be evil" and to "focus on the user" with its new Search plus Your World (SPYW) feature.

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Update: Facebook's 'don't be evil' Google fix now a Chrome extension and Facebook's 'don't be evil' Google fix now a Firefox add-on

Over the weekend, Blake Ross, Facebook's product director and co-founder of Firefox, worked with Facebook engineers Tom Occhino and Marshall Roch to demonstrate how evil Google's newly launched Search plus Your World (SPYW) feature really is, and created a "proof of concept" showing how it should really work. His team got some help from Twitter engineers, Myspace engineers, and consulted other social networks as well to really make sure the message hits home: SPYW should surface results from all social networks, not just Google+.

By leveraging Google's own algorithms, the group built a bookmarklet called "don't be evil" (a jab at Google's informal motto) and released it on a new website named Focus on the User. Ross sent out a message on Twitter about the initiative this morning: "Google results are more relevant when they include all social networks rather than just Google+. Check it out: focusontheuser.org."

Google says it requires permission from other social networks like Facebook and Twitter to deeply crawl their websites in order to provide a consistent experience with SPYW. Since Facebook and Twitter don't give Google permission to their users' private content, SPYW mainly features Google+ content. The team's goal is to show Google is lying because the search giant already indexes all public information on social networks, and there's no reason why it can't use that data as well.

To use the new "proof of concept" Google, you can install the bookmarklet yourself for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari (Internet Explorer and Opera users are out of luck). Go to the website, click on the blue "Try a More Relevant Google" button, and drag the "don't be evil" button up to your bookmarks bar at the top of your browser. If you don't have a bookmarks bar in your browser, look in the settings and enable it first.

Once the bookmarklet is installed (you’ll see it appear on your bookmarks bar), all you have to do is click on it to see completely different Google search results after you submit your query. The new results include links to CrunchBase (not exactly a social network, but okay), Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, FriendFeed, GitHub, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, Quora, Stack Overflow, Tumblr, Twitter, instead of just Google+. Once you've visited google.com and clicked on the bookmarklet once, it will continue to work for subsequent queries until you click away from google.com. Next time you visit google.com, however, you'll have to click the bookmarklet again.

So, how does it work? If Google's search engine decides that it's relevant to surface a Google+ page in response to a query where Google+ content is hardcoded, the tool searches Google for the name of the Google+ page and identifies the social profiles within the first ten pages of Google's search results (top 100 results). The ones Google ranks highest, regardless of what social network they are from, replace the previous results that would only be from Google+.

To be clear: the tool not only reorders the search engine results, but also the results of the promotional Google+ boxes on the right side of the results, as well as the autocomplete results that feature Google+ accounts when you type into the search box. In Google language these three are known as: People & Pages results, Google+ Sitelinks, and Google+ Suggestions In Autocomplete.

Here's the Focus on the User's official description:

How much better would social search be if Google surfaced results from all across the web? The results speak for themselves. We created a tool that uses Google's own relevance measure—the ranking of their organic search results—to determine what social content should appear in the areas where Google+ results are currently hardcoded. All of the information in this demo comes from Google itself, and all of the ranking decisions are made by Google's own algorithms. No other services or APIs are accessed.

The last part is key: Google argues that it would include results from Facebook and Twitter if it was given access to all the data from the social networks. Last week, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said: "The core question is, 'Would we be willing to [include Facebook and Twitter], and the answer is, 'We'll be happy to talk to them about it'."

As you can see in the video above, this little coding project clearly shows that Google doesn't really need the data it is asking for in order to make SPYW work fairly. The bookmarklet never accesses any server or API outside of google.com. The information being provided has already been indexed and ranked by Google.

The bookmarklet even shows profile pictures, which are pulled directly from Google. The tool enters the address of the new social result into Google's Rich Snippets Testing Tool and uses the information that Google provides. In other words, Google is only showing images for Google+ results, even though it has images from many other services.

By the way, the tool might not work for you because SPYW hasn't been rolled out to everyone yet. Google has pushed out the new social features on google.com to a percentage of U.S. users. If you don't see any of the Google+ social results on Google yet, you do not have the feature yet, so you can't use the "don't be evil" tool.

The group has released the code as open source in the hopes that someone will turn the bookmarklet into a browser extension so that you don't have to click it every time you visit google.com. You can view the JavaScript code yourself over at focusontheuser.org/dontbeevil/script.js. Whether or not it gets turned into an extension doesn't really matter though. The point Facebook and its partners are trying to make here is that Google is not being truthful, nor is it doing what's best for the user, and it's simply being evil.

Google is trying to use SPYW as a bargaining chip. I'm sure the search giant would love to have more data from the aforementioned companies, especially your Facebook social graph (your Friends Lists, who your friends are friends with, and so on), which is what the last battle between Facebook and Google was about. Facebook and friends are fighting back.

Facebook declined to comment on this article.

Update: Facebook's 'don't be evil' Google fix now a Chrome extension and Facebook's 'don't be evil' Google fix now a Firefox add-on

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Google

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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18 comments
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  • Thats rich...

    Dear Google,

    We won't let you index our sites, but we'll get real mad if you index yours.

    Love,

    Facebook and Twitter.

    P.S. When we say 'don't be evil', we mean 'don't be the same as us and the way we treat our own users'.
    justthisguyyouknow
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      @justthisguyyouknow

      Yeah, I could've sworn Zucks had told Google to "Zuck" themselves and stop indexing FB as well. :) I could've misread/misinterpreted that months ago too of course.
      admiraljkb
      • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

        @admiraljkb
        This has nothing to do with indexing: Google already indexes publicly-available information from these social networks. It's just refusing to use it so it can push Google+.
        Empro
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      @justthisguyyouknow

      What ARE you talking about ?

      Google indexes Facebook/Twitter today. How do you think this bookmarklet works ?
      taligent
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

    Lol. Take a look at that acronym: "SPYW". You can't have Google without SPYW(are) ;) Now wonder Facebook and Twitter don't wanna open up to Google, also I thought Twitter was already supposed to show up in Google results? What happened to that?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      @Cylon Centurion Their contract ended over half a year ago...
      belli_bettens@...
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

    So... Facebook, Twitter, Myspace... BELIEVE Google is a charitable company or something? Because f..k them if they aren't willing to offer their data for an accommodate price or for free. They want the advertisement and for free... how come? Yeah. Don't be evil my...
    klado
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      @klado

      None of that made any sense. Google has enough information TODAY to present alternate social websites as the video showed.

      You DID watch the video, right ?
      taligent
  • Clever Alternative to Google

    I started using Gibiru.com and love it. It is like Google was 5 years ago. No personalized crap results. Just uncensored web results and news results. If you open google in one browser and gibiru in another and conduct the same search, you can actually see what Google is manipulating just for you.
    racerguy
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

    Search engineer here.

    In the video, the commenter admits the proposed algorithm works by retrieving 10 pages worth of documents and then analyzing all of them for possible social data. This is a terrible solution, since it significantly decreases query time performance. You might say, "Well, then let's move this code to index time and slow down THAT process instead! It's less important, right?" I'll have to disagree here for a number of reasons. The most obvious one being that social media changes so frequently that relying on this method will cripple the importance of results.

    Let's remind ourselves that Google has tried multiple times to add a social touch to their results. This started with the realtime feed from Twitter that ended because the Twitter/Google deal went sour.

    Let's also not forget that Google has tried a number of times to integrate better with social platforms. They've basically waged a war with Facebook over allowing customers to migrate data more freely between services.

    One more point: This video spends a lot of time talking about finding [b]people[/b] on social services through Google's search. The purpose of SPYW isn't just to find people. The search bar in Facebook, G+, Twitter, and every other service can already do that for you.

    I'm not saying Google's perfect here. I'm just saying this proposed solution is terrible and the slant these companies are trying to add to this discussion isn't accurate.
    stopthelight
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      They never said this is a proposed way of doing things.They're doing this on the client side so they HAVE to go through these loops.<br>The fact remains that google can do this 10 times faster on their server side...yet they choose to in fact "be evil" and promote their social page(which is still lagging behind facebook because they simply missed that train...just like microsoft).<br>Their results are clearly NOT relevant, NOT the highest ranked and NOT those that the user is interested in.AND THEY KNOW IT.<br>I don't mind that hey have their own social network but hey...until they can overtake facebook they really shouldn't be pretending to be the top dog or the most relevant social page for that user.<br>Clearly the results show users that joined theire network but then simply quit and continued to use twitter and facebook(the reason why is not important...they simply did and their latest updates are now on those pages and not google+).
      Jesus.Christ
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

    This video is pretty irrelevant. The result for Jamie Oliver (when searching for cooking?) in their test was under "People and Pages on Google+ related to cooking". The title doesn't suggest that you'll find his twitter or Facebook page there, only Google+ pages, so why complain. Just scroll down in the normal results for his twitter page.
    Plus this was a search for "cooking" so search for Jamie Oliver if you want his social profiles in the top results.
    Learn to search or get an add-on if you want to change/enhance search functionality or results. This "bookmarklet" should have been marketed as an add-on/enhancement not a complaint against Google.
    Shade1821
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      @Shade1821

      The video is there to articulate a single point.

      This is the FIRST TIME IN GOOGLE HISTORY where it has promoted search results that weren't the most relevant.
      taligent
      • yeah.

        Yeah...on the one hand the G+ stuff was showing up on the side, where the advertisements usually are, so part of me says, "well, if it's an advertisement, they can put what they want"

        BUT on the other hand, if it is a subtle advertisement for Google Plus it should be MARKED as such. And if it's NOT an advertisement, it should be the most relevant social page.

        One thing or the other has to change (mark it as "ad" or put up the most relevant) for me to consider Google "not evil" for this count.
        kymac
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

    It should be realised that the terms of Facebook and Twitter obviously restrict Google from displaying/using their data on its search results page. Using any other (out of the way) means to bypass their terms of agreement to include Facebook???s and Twitter???s data in the search results page would make Google vulnerable to legal challenges from these firms. After all, these firms are extracting fees via agreements with Microsoft for giving access to users data on their network to be used in Bing's search results. Remember Google use to list profiles & data from these sites earlier, but it discontinued the practice after the terms of Facebook and Twitter became restrictive. (Now that they are facing the heat of competition from Google they are using unofficial hacks to get into the search listings. They should change their terms of agreement).

    Facebook, Please don't preach. Google is the best we have in a world of evil. Facebook, for exampe, has close to 1 billion locked-in users who cannot easily take out their data and move to competitors. All of Google's services on the other hand provide unprecedented control for the user to opt in, opt out, and move to other competitors with their data.
    mantrik00
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

      @mantrik00

      a) Facebook and Twitter engineers wrote this bookmarklet.

      b) If Google (an advertising company) is the best we have in a world of evil. Then I very much fear for the future.
      taligent
    • Watch the video

      "It should be realised that the terms of Facebook and Twitter obviously restrict Google from displaying/using their data on its search results page"

      Did you watch the video?
      kymac
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to Google: Don't be evil

    The problem with the premise of this article is it focus on what search will look like now. The change is not only about what is found relevent today, but what will be found to be relevent in the future if people start considering their social connectiveness in the context of searching.<br><br>If i am a follower of Robert irvine and don't care about jamie oliver, then when i search for cooking Robert not Jamie should show up on my social search. If jamie wants me to see him more often he must attract me to social network which grants open access to that RELATIONSHIP data to google.
    aaronjacques