Google update accused of bias
Google's social media rivals have created an add-on which demonstrates to users how Google's search results would appear without priority being given to Google+ results.
The code, created by a team of engineers from Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, has been dubbed 'Don't Be Evil' - in reference to Google's informal corporate motto.
Recent changes to the US version of Google have seen pages for its own social networking tool, Google+, appear higher within search results. Google has stated that the 'Search plus Your World' update was intended to understand "not only content, but also people and relationships" - but critics believe that Google+ results have been artificially boosted, which is not representative of Google's traditionally broad presentation of popular links.
The Don't Be Evil software takes the form of a bookmarklet which can be added to browser menus and shows the user Google's organic search results, instead of those which favour Google+.
The name of the code derives from a Google slogan which developed in an early 2000s meeting, as part of an effort to establish Google's corporate philosophy. It was reportedly first uttered by Gmail creator Paul Buchheit and colleague Amit Patel and later entered into Google's 10-point mission statement as: "You can make money without doing evil." It remains there today, in sixth position.
However, other internet giants think that Google has flouted its own ethos by deciding to increase the prominence of its own pages rather than the best ones available for searched topics - thus behaving in an 'evil' way.
Search engine analyst Danny Sullivan, the editor of Searchengineland.com, has noted that the Search plus Your World update has most impact when users are logged in to their Google+ accounts - but that results still appear altered even when a user is not logged in.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "The Don't Be Evil add-on reveals to users the difference between Google's current US search results after the Search Plus update; and the more traditional form that they would take without it. It will be interesting to see how popular it becomes."