Friday, February 25

Google "Recipe View" Search Disappointing and Dangerous

Today Google announced Recipe View in a blog post. It is a specialized view of search results restricted to recipes. Recipe View lets you search for recipes without adding text to your query. It searches over recipes from most of the major recipe websites. Google is using semantic data that is marked up using the rich snippets format. I'm very excited by the idea. I want to like it, but I don't. Let me explain.

It is exciting to see structured data being leveraged by Google for recipe search. Exploratory search and faceted metadata offer a lot of potential to improve food search. However, I'm disappointed by Google's incarnation. The biggest feature the interface adds is the ability to restrict the results by whether or not a recipe contains a particular ingredient. I don't think that this is very interesting or useful. Did anyone who really cooks use this? The other facets are similarly lacking in utility. Calories aren't as meaningful as sodium, sugar, and fat content. They could have considered useful facets: chef/publisher, cuisine, vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, cooking technique, complexity, etc... but they ignored these. Clearly, they didn't put much effort or thought into this revision.

More importantly, I think that Google Recipe View vertical is currently dangerous and detrimental. When activated, it effectively excludes content from blogs and small website publishers. These websites do not use the rich snippet format. Rich snippet markup provides additional metadata, but it should not be required to be included in Recipe View. It is pretty easy to automatically identify whether or not a page contains a recipe using a text classifier and search logs. Personally, I find that content from these websites to often be the most useful and interesting. Until Google fixes this issue, webmasters and publishers should consider if it is worth their effort to adopt.

I would send Google Recipe View back to the kitchen... it's under cooked and lacks seasoning.

Note: I recently started a food blog, which does not use rich snippet markup (yet).


  1. Yes, it surely is disappointing, if you just did a food blog and it's not on google :)

    You didn't say why it's dangerous either... It is easy to identify if there is a recipe on the page, but it sure isn't easy to automatically extract all the useful knowledge.

    And having the crowd work for you is always the best solution - in this case, parsing the resipes in a convenient format.

  2. I care about the utility for recipe search because it is something I perform on a daily basis. My disappointment is unrelated to having a food blog. It's not commercial... I could care less if it ranks in Google.

    The current version is dangerous because it harms the diversity of the recipe ecosystem on the web by restricting it to a handful of the most powerful food websites.

    There is no crowd at work here. The major food websites spend a lot of time and money on SEO, which includes adopting microformats.

    A bit more work and thought and it could have been very good.

  3. The ability to excluded by ingredients is important for people who are gluten intolerant or have similar dietary restrictions.

    It does not follow that Google's coverage damages the diversity of the recipe ecosystem. Google is simply covering the parts of that system that are suited to its application.

    No different than a food search application that is restricted to English for example. Doesn't mean that recipe sites won't appear and flourish in other languages, you just won't find them there.

    If you mean to imply that more people will rely on Google, well, that's just their misfortune.


  4. Anonymous11:36 AM EST

    I'm busy. I am a systems analyst by day and a bookkeeper for our home business nights and weekends. I don't have time to plan menus. I buy interesting looking things and worry about what I will make with it later. This is perfect for me.

    You people are being silly. Dangerous? Really? Harms the diversity of the recipe ecosystem? I have plenty of foodie blogs to keep me diverse. Using Google doesn't keep you from using other resources.

  5. The biggest feature the interface adds is the ability to restrict the results by whether or not a recipe contains a particular ingredient. I don't think that this is very interesting or useful. Did anyone who really cooks use this?

    I really cook, and I would use this. For example, if I have a half a head of cabbage and a half a quart of buttermilk in my fridge that I don't want to go to waste, it's really helpful to be able to look up a recipe that uses both.

    Up till now I've just used regular search engines for this purpose ("cabbage buttermilk recipe") and hoped for the best.

    From my point of view, I don't care whether the search results exclude blog posts. I always wind up at big sites like anyway.

    I do kind of wonder if these results will be any better than what I get from a generic google search, though. And I wonder if I'll ever make the effort to use the special "recipe" search engine. I just tried it, it's neat, but a regular google search worked just as well for me.

  6. As I tweeted, "slice and dice your recipe search results" led me to expected a faceted search interface, and I was sorely disappointed. Especially when they could look to a site like Endeca-powered for inspiration.

    Granted, it's harder to do this right on an aggregator rather than a single site. Still, it's pretty lame. I expect more from Google.

  7. I admit, that I am not normally this provocative in my posts. Food and recipe search are closely held passions and this really got under my skin.

    I have high expectations for Google's products and this falls short. It feels rushed out the door and lacks thought. I would say it's not even ready for beta. But, Google launched it for all users anyway. Google has a lot of power in its search share. These features emphasize certain websites in ways that I think are not in the users' best interests.

    I sincerely hope Recipe View improves or Google kills it.

  8. Anyone can add RDFa, it doesnt get any more democratic that this? all the other things you mention are just details on top of the basic idea which will likely be implemented later.

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  10. So just wanted to point out that if you type all your ingredients into Wolfram Alpha, it tells you how many calories the dish would contain. For example:

  11. I'm hoping that Google will continually provide greater innovation to people. I hope they would fix this issue. I'm not good in cooking delicious foods but I am a food lover and thanks to long island catering for providing us palatable foods every time we have occasions.