Google announced several new features to its search service yesterday that leverage information from your Google+ social identity to deliver what it hopes will be more personalized and contextually accurate results. Google is calling it Search plus Your World: vocal opponents are calling it bull cheating.

Google Is Your World

Google is betting a lot on its new social network Google+. Google is gradually infusing the service into all of its offerings, making Google+ less a destination and more an expected feature. If Google is successful, Google+ will become an ingrained part of the online experience -- so ubiquitous that the product name becomes a verb for what the user wants to accomplish. Does this sound far-fetched? You might want to Google…err…search for more information about the concept.

Yesterday, Google announced it was integrating Google+ into search results via three new features:

  1. Personal Results -- enable users to find personal information like Google+ photos and posts they created and were shared specifically with the user
  2. Profiles in Search -- incorporates Google+ profiles into autocomplete and search results
  3. People and Pages -- incorporates Google+ pages into search results

Google rightfully assumed that privacy and security-conscious users might be concerned with the changes, and attempted to calm fears by detailing the security measures for the new search features. New settings and visual icons have been added to search results to indicate and control the personalized content or even disable personalization completely.
The new personalization toggle button only applies to a single search session, but users can turn off personalization by default in their search settings. Keep in mind that users are much more likely to use the feature if they must actively opt-out.

Google seems quite enamored with its latest move, saying, “Because behind most every query is a community,” but omitting “and it’s owned by Google.” Twitter, which allowed its agreement with Google’s real-time search to expire over the summer, is outraged. Twitter released a statement that it is concerned Google+ is receiving an unfair advantage by having Google+ content showcased in search results, saying,

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet. Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results. We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.”

Google is (faux) shocked that not everyone is happy with the new Google+ integration and responded that none of you need to worry your pretty little heads about them playing fair. Google chairman Eric Schmidt even said that he would be happy to speak with Twitter about the changes. Why didn’t they do this BEFORE the opt-out only changes rolled out? Don’t worry about that; don’t you like how the pretty pictures of your cat appear in your search results now?

What This Means

I’m not sure the public or anti-trust regulators will agree with Google’s assessment. Google clearly dominates the search market and it is not giving competing social networks like Twitter or Facebook equal airtime in its new search model (e.g. Facebook and Twitter pages don’t appear as suggestions in auto complete). It is clearly anti-competitive.

The new search feature is live, but not everyone will see it until the launch is complete. Currently, only users signed in to Google and searching in English will have access to the new feature. Google alerts users to the new feature above their search results:
It will be interesting to watch the fallout over Google’s move over the next days and weeks. And for those of you who said Google+ is dead, you might want to check its pulse again.