Misdirection, Doublespeak, Non-Answers, And Straight Up Bad Decisions

God bless Danny Sullivan. You should read his latest post tonight in which he tries to squeeze some information — any information — out of Google chairman Eric Schmidt about today’s rather disastrous deep Google+ integration into Google Search. Unfortunately, all he gets are bursts of hot air. 

Schmidt tells him that Google would be happy to talk with Twitter and Facebook about integration into the new Search+ features. So why didn’t they do that before, you know, they rolled the feature out? Well, never you mind that. Schmidt refuses to say one way or another if they did or didn’t. “I’m not going to talk about specifics.”

My understanding is that they didn’t. But perhaps more telling is the fact that they didn’t have to.

Both Twitter and Facebook have data that is available to the public. It’s data that Google crawls. It’s data that Google even has some social context for thanks to older Google Profile features, as Sullivan points out.

It’s not all the data inside the walls of Twitter and Facebook — hence the need for firehose deals. But the data Google can get is more than enough for many of the high level features of Search+ — like the “People and Places” box, for example. 

But Google isn’t using any of that data for this new feature. Not one drop.

When Sullivan points some of this out to Schmidt, he gets it thrown back at him as his “opinion” or his “interpretation”. But it’s not really. 

Do a search for “music”. The new box on the right side of the results page gives you recommendations for artists to follow on Google+. There’s no reason Google couldn’t include links to the Twitter and Facebook pages for these artists as well. It’s just that they’re choosing not to. 

Schmidt indicates that they like to have conversations with other companies before using their data in such a way. But this is doublespeak. They’re not showcasing the data because they like to have conversations with companies before using the data — and they’re not having the conversations because the companies won’t give them the data?

Right.

Here’s what this actually looks like. Google decided to roll out this feature and somehow failed to realize there would be significant backlash. Not from technical perspective, mind you, but from the PR perspective. It looks like Google is using their natural search monopoly to shove their late-to-the-game social network in your face (to the detriment of the other social networks). It looks anti-competitive

Maybe Google thought such a maneuver would force Twitter or Facebook to open up their full data feeds. But that’s foolish. Worse, it’s extremely dangerous. This is the most high-profile example yet of Google showcasing their own property and not a competitor’s in search results. This is the kind of stuff anti-trust hawks dream of. 

When Twitter inevitably complained, Google essentially said it was Twitter own fault for “choosing” not to renew their search deal. From my understanding, that statement is misleading at best. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this failed deal was actually about. One word. Actually, less than one word:

$

In that light, Google’s statement almost reads like a public shakedown.

But even more interesting is what Google said after blaming Twitter for Google screwing them: “since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.” It’s subtle, but it sure sounds like Google is implying that they’re no longer crawling twitter.com — at Twitter’s request — so they don’t have the access needed to include Twitter in Search+. 

But that doesn’t actually mean this at all. Sullivan also points this out in his post and also notes that it sounds like bullshit misdirection. All it means is that in some cases, Google won’t follow links from and to twitter.com. But as Sullivan notes, Google has over 3 billion Twitter pages in their index.

That includes profile pages. Like this one. Like the ones you would include in a Search+ artist box if you were open to including more than your own data.

Google also has Facebook profile pages in the index. Like this one. Like the ones you could including in a Search+ artist box if you were open to including more than your own data.

I give Google a lot of shit. Some think it’s justified, others don’t. But I honestly just don’t understand what they’re doing here. It’s like they’re suffering from brain diarrhea. They’re not handling this situation well. And the end result of all of this could be very, very bad for them. 

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