Google sprinkles search results with social networking, but leaves out Facebook
Google is turning up the volume on social networking content within its Internet search results.
The company unveiled some changes to its search engine on Thursday that will infuse search results with more social elements, such as links and information shared by your friends on services like Twitter, Quora and Flickr.
It’s easy to see how this improves search: If you’re looking for an accountant for instance, instead of simply getting a list of accountants’ Web sites, Google might include a snippet showing that your friend has posted a Twitter message lauding a particular accountant, and rank that accountant near the top of your search results.
There’s one conspicuous absence from Google’s social search though: Facebook, the world’s No.1 social networking service.
Google says the lack of Facebook content is due to the fact that most Facebook content is behind closed walls and can’t be indexed by its search engine. Google product management director Mike Cassidy said he could not comment on whether or not Google was in any discussions with Facebook about getting access to its trove of social data.
Microsoft, which began infusing its Bing search results last year with Facebook information — such as the pervasive “like” buttons that Facebook users click on to endorse news articles, videos and other Web content -– is an investor in Facebook and has partnerships with it.
Industry insiders believe that Google’s Internet search dominance is increasingly under threat, as more Web surfers turn to social services like Facebook and Twitter to get information. Google’s efforts to create its own standalone social networking services (such as Orkut, Google Wave and Google Buzz) have not fared particularly well.
With social search, Google is taking a more gradual approach and retrofitting its existing products with useful social features. The question is, can it succeed by pretending Facebook doesn’t exist?