Last updated: January 11, 2012 11:37 pm

Google’s search update irks Twitter

Google and Twitter have become embroiled in a war of words over the search engine’s new “Your World” update that draws information from its Google+ social network directly into users’ search results, and has raised concerns that it would over-emphasise Google’s own social network ahead of rivals.

The row comes after negotiations broke down last summer to renew a contract which allowed Google to index Twitter’s constant flow of hundreds of millions of daily tweets.

As it competes with Twitter and Facebook for consumer attention and, increasingly, advertising dollars, Google has attempted to incorporate more social networking “signals” in its search results, creating a more personalised experience for every user.

That personalisation is largely reliant on a user being a member of Google+, the search group’s social network, as Facebook and Twitter prohibit it from indexing much of their sites. As it launched the Search plus Your World update, Google also said that certain queries would return results featuring “prominent people who frequently discuss this topic on Google+” at the top right of its page, where it usually shows paid advertisements or sometimes Google features such as maps.

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Twitter on Tuesday said it was “concerned that as a result of Google’s changes”, finding tweets and Twitter accounts, especially around breaking news “will be much harder for everyone”.

“We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users,” it said.

Google responded using its official Google+ account to say it was “surprised by Twitter’s comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer”.

Since then, Google has been unable to index tweets with links in them, which had previously been the higher-ranking elements of Twitter’s service, although it still holds billions of results from Twitter in its index.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, told the Marketing Land news site that Google was still open to conversations with Twitter and Facebook and denied that the new search results favour Google+.

Twitter later hit back with an example of Google search results for @wwe, the Twitter handle for World Wrestling Entertainment. The first page of results showed links to the WWE website and a list of Google+ links along the right column of the page, but nothing from Twitter.

Prioritisation is a particularly sensitive issue for Google at a time when European Commission regulators are still considering their decision over allegations of discrimination in search results. Several commentators have queried whether the “Your World” update creates antitrust issues for Google.

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search quality, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the enhanced search “does surface public content from the open web, not just content from Google+ ... Search plus Your World builds on the social search that we launched in 2009, and can surface public content from sites across from the web, such as Quora, FriendFeed, LiveJournal, Twitter, and WordPress”.

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