Facebook, Twitter and Myspace engineers have devised a software add-on for browsers which negates the effect of Google’s alteration of its search results to favour its own Google+ social network — with a piece of code they call “Don’t be evil”.
The move intensifies the increasingly bitter war of words between Google, which is trying to push the “social” element of searches, and the major social networks, which assert that the search engine is polluting its own search results and diverging from its core purpose of giving the user the best possible search by downgrading them in results.
Google is also being accused by external commentators of betraying its original aims, which were to give the broadest view of the most popular links on the web, in order to boost Google+ artificially.
The “Don’t be evil” bookmarklet, which can be put into browser menus, will allow the user to see how a search result page would look using Google’s pure organic search results. It is available from a site called “Focus on the User” — and created by a team from the three big social networks.
The name is a reference to “Don’t be evil”, Google’s first unofficial motto, devised by Paul Buchheit, the creator of Google Mail early in the past decade. He has since left the company, but “you can make money without doing evil” remains in Google’s philosophy — ranking sixth, behind its top rule, “focus on the user and all else will follow”.
Google said it would have the effect of “bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search … we’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships”.
But Twitter called foul on the changes, saying they artificially inflate Google+ above its natural position if measured by popularity around the web, and demotes their own.
The site’s creators say that: “We wanted to see how much better social search could be for consumers if Google chose to use all of the information already in its index. We think the results speak for themselves.”
Google had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.