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It's on! Twitter vs. Google in battle over search results


(CBS) - Google launched a new social search feature Tuesday in which users had to option to switch to "personal results." A neat video was released and life moved on, so we thought.

Full coverage of Google at Tech Talk
Full coverage of Twitter at Tech Talk

The news didn't sit well with microblogging service Twitter, whose general counsel Alex Macgillivray came out swinging with this tweet: "Bad day for the Internet. Having been there, I can imagine the dissension @Google to search being warped this way."

Welcome to 2012's first high-tech cat fight.

What's the fuss all about?

It seems like Twitter is feeling burned by Google's decision to feature results from its social network Google+ above other site - like, say, Twitter.

Twitter has built a reputation for breaking news in the past few years. Its simple 140-character format lets users broadcast updates quickly. Just last year, tweets broke news of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan in real time. The company released this statement after Google's new search went live yesterday.

"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."

Hey now. Wasn't it Twitter who ended the partnership to include real-time results with Google searches? Yep. And Google released a rebuttal to Twitter last night via Google+.

"We are a bit surprised by Twitter's comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer (, and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions."

Between Oct. 2009 and July 2011, Google was paying Twitter to include tweets in search results, which included a real-time feed at the top.

Wait, what?

This is confusing. Twitter ended a partnership where they were getting paid to show up prominently in Google results. And now they're complaining because they're not showing up over Google+ results? It sounds like a battle over minute details.

Keep in mind is that social networks have generally been closed to Google results. That's why your smart aleck remarks on Facebook pages don't show up when you Google your name.

Showing up in Google search results is highly valuable for any website. How social network members feel about their posts being Google-able is whole another story.

So why does it seem like so many critics are lashing out at Google for not indexing social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, over Google+? If the playing field were level, it makes a natural and convincing argument.

"Facebook and Twitter and other services, basically, their terms of service don't allow us to crawl them deeply and store things. Google+ is the only [network] that provides such a persistent service," Google's Amit Singhal told Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan. "Of course, going forward, if others were willing to change, we'd look at designing things to see how it would work," he continued.

It seems like in this battle, Google damned if they do and damned if they don't. Google+ is technically a social network, but let's be honest. Most people use is a public profile, not a place to share their most intimate (and mundane) details.

Facebook has remained mum on the matter, letting Google and Twitter duke it out.

The thing Twitter is forgetting is that if Google's results start to become a cesspool of spam and low-value links, users will jump ship. After all, the Internet is a fickle place. Bing, anyone?

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