It’s like this: Google makes some unknown amount of money from advertising that accompanies search results. Twitter attracts additional searches and additional eyeballs to Google Search, and therefore increases amount of money Google makes from Twitter inclusion. So Twitter integration is worth some amount of money to Google.
How much? Twitter says more. Google says less. They didn’t agree. So that’s why Twitter isn’t fully integrated anymore.
Instead of re-upping it’s contract, Twitter instead cut deals with Microsoft, Yahoo, NTT Docomo and Yahoo Japan.
And it appears that Google is trying to integrate Twitter results as much as it can anyway.
For example, I’m a heavy Google+ users. Robert Scoble is a heavy Google+ user. I never interact with Scoble on Twitter.
When I search for “Robert Scoble” on Google Search plus Your World, I would expect the top links to be Google+ results and Twitter results to be buried.
But that’s not what happens.
I get three results ahead of the Google+ profile link. The first is Scoble’s blog, the second is his Wikipedia page and the third is -- wait for it -- his Twitter page.
The fourth result is Google+, which comes after Twitter.
Still, despite this surprising fact, the new Search is clearly the Google+ show.
In a better world, every social network would be represented on every major search service in a way that reflects each user’s usage and connections on those social services.
So, for example, when I search for "Bahamas," I should see not only a links to the usual Wikipedia entry and Bahamas tourist bureau web site, but also the family-only post my cousin made last year about his trip to the Bahamas on Facebook, the pictures my sister posted on Google+ from her trip to the Bahamas addressed only to me -- and a few tweets my colleagues have posted about the Bahamas.
The larger question is: How to we achieve this better world?
Now that Google doesn't need Twitter for real-time search, what incentive does Google have for negotiating a fair deal with Twitter?
Now that Google doesn't need Facebook and Facebook's "Like" button for social signaling in Search, what incentive does Google have to use Facebook's social signals?
Google would say that their incentive is that the more people use the Internet and use Search, the more money they make. That’s true, and it’s a persuasive argument.
If that’s the case, then what incentives do Twitter and Facebook have to participate in agreements and policies that enable Google to remain the leading access point for the Internet, rather than ceding leadership to Facebook and Twitter, as those companies would prefer?
We now face three basic options:
Option 1: If integration deals can’t be reached with Twitter and Facebook, Google wins because Google+ quickly becomes the de facto and ultimate source of social data and search signals for everyone who uses Google Search (which is everyone).
Option 2: If Twitter and Facebook choose to fully participate and make it possible for their social data to have equal footing with Google+ in search, Google also wins because Google becomes the primary and unified source for social data.
Option 3: If the powers that be somehow prevent Google from using Google+ in search results (something I consider very unlikely), then Google suffers as social data remains locked away inside every social network.
Of these three options, Option 1 is best for Google, Option 2 is best for users and Option 3 is best for Twitter and Facebook.
And that's why we should all get behind Option 2.
Critics of Google’s new Search plus Your World feature, in other words, should resist the temptation for advocating the nuclear option, which is Option 3.
Although a superficial glance at the issue may appear that Google is favoring its own company and therefore should be “punished,” the Option 3 solution involves the courts forcing social data back into their closed, walled gardens and halting progress on the social revolution. Lawyers shouldn’t determine the evolution of technology.
Instead, critics should advocate solutions that result in Twitter and Facebook social data enjoying an equal footing with Google+ in search results.
Yes, that benefits Google more than Twitter or Facebook. But it also benefits users.
The name of Google’s new Search feature gets it just right. It’s not supposed to be “their world.” It’s supposed to be “Your World.”