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).