Last July I had predicted that Google would go all in by bundling Google+ aggressively with search and that is exactly what was just announced yesterday with Search, plus Your World. The “plus Your World” part right now refers “your world on Google” as only Google+ profiles, posts and shared images are included and not content from Twitter, Facebook or others. John Batelle’s capture this well in his aptly titled “Search, Plus Your World, As Long As It’s Our World.”
Also worth reading are Danny Sullivan’s excellent overview of what Search+ offers and his detailed analysis of whether or not Google could already include some Twitter content without a commercial arrangement with Twitter. Danny’s analysis has actual comments from an interview with Eric Schmidt. Finally, the most scathing reaction has come from MG Siegler who flat out titles his piece “Antitrust+.”
While it’s too early to know how all of this will play itself out over time (there has already been some public back and forth between Google and Twitter), two things seem fairly clear. First, in the near term this will be bad for end users. Second, the root of the problem are Google’s economics for search. The two point are intimately related.
On the first point, John Perry Barlow aptly tweeted:
From an enduser perspective the best web is one of little pieces loosely joined. That kind of web allows for lots of innovation and individuality. Instead, we are currently headed for big chunks of experience provided by just a couple of players. While a high degree of integration may look appealing to some under an “ease-of-use” type argument, all you have to do is look at the enterprise where a few large vendors have dominated for years (SAP, Oracle) to know how undesirable that is.
On the second point. the root cause of all of this are search economics. Google keeps one hundred percent of the search revenue from searches on Google. The explicit quid pro quo has always been that Google sends traffic to a site in return for getting to include the content among the search results. No search revenue is shared with the sources. During days when Google was just a search engine that seemed like a reasonable quid pro quo. But two things have happened to make this balance not work. First, Google has gradually entered many businesses that compete directly with providers of content and second we have seen the emergence and inclusion of many content “micro chunks” that will hardly ever generate traffic to the originating site, such as a restaurant rating from Yelp. I have argued before that some kind of revenue sharing will be required to break through this.
When Larry Page became Google’s CEO I had hoped that he would maybe pursue a vision of the web of little pieces loosely joined with Google providing a lot of that glue. It is by now amply clear that Google is going exactly in the opposite direction. That’s a shame in the near term. In the long run I agree with John Batelle that the web will find a way to route around all of this (assuming we don’t let the politicians screw it up in the meantime).
Josh says: Great post. This move by Google abuses user’s trust in the “unbiased” nature of Google’s search results. At the same time, it creates an opportunity for potential competitors to do a better job of presenting more expansive search results from “Your World” (Bing, now is your moment to shine!)