Facebook engineers did not build a better version of Google

This effort from some engineers at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace has gotten some attention lately. This article from Business Insider gives a quick intro for the unfamiliar:

Earlier this month, Google launched an optional feature called “Search plus your world.” It integrates personalized content from social networks into Google search results.

Only, search plus your world doesn’t include any content from Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace – the biggest social networks out there.

It does, however, include lots of content from Google’s social network, Google Plus.

Some engineers at Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace think this is unfair to users – and to demonstrate why, they’ve created a modified version of Google, which you can access on a site called Focusontheuser.org.

– “Facebook Engineers Built A Way Better Version Of Google

Except that’s completely misleading. They didn’t build a better version of Google. They built a Javascript bookmarklet that takes Google’s own SERPs and modifies them to swap in somewhat different (and hopefully more relevant) results than Google serves by default.

That may be a semantic difference, but it’s an important distinction. They didn’t create a brand new search engine, they created a way to take Google’s own inconsistent search behavior and combine them into a better end result, assuming that you the user choose to drag their bookmarklet into place and then remember to use it once you’ve already done a Google search.

Maybe no one is actually confused by this difference, but it seems irresponsible for news sites to be reporting it this way.

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