Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Social Media Firms To Google: 'Don't Be Evil'

Engineers from Facebook, Twitter and other social media firms have launched an app that allows social searching on Google to become truly social. And they are calling it Don't Be Evil, a play on Google's fabled motto.

It you don't spend your time reading tech blogs here's the quick back story. Last week Google launched a new search tool. The Googlers call it Search Plus Your World. It integrates photos, posts and videos that have been shared with you. It made sharing social, but here's the thing: It only integrated what was shared using Google+.

Facebook and Twitter and sites like Tumblr went nuts. The effect of Google's social search was to push content on their sites — content that may have been shared with you — well down the page in Google's rankings.

Bloggers who normally want the government to keep their hands off the Internet called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. And Googlers — somewhat disingenuously — implied that Google was sharing all the social information it had access to.

Over the weekend coders at a handful of other companies got busy. These engineers built a simple plug-in called a bookmarklet that you can download at focusontheuser.org.

This app uses only data Google already has to give users a more inclusive social search experience.

Using the app requires a couple of clicks — for each search. But when you click you can see for yourself how Search Plus Your World is favoring Google's own social network. So now the question is what will Google do about this? Will it take the suggestion of its competitors and focus on the user?

Or will it keep trying to use search to make its own social offering more prominent? For now at least, it's up to Google.

Now wasn't that easier than an FTC investigation?

Although, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page may want to re-read Google's code of conduct, or he may want to amend it. It's up to him.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.