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Google have been developing their Social Search profile for a few months now. Last week we finally saw the emergence of their latest endeavours, a new element within their blended results featuring related messages from your online social circle.
Social Search is now going to appear as an option within Google’s search results. Essentially it works by pooling the public information shared by your online friends and will show those that include the keywords used – in order of relevance of course.
So how does Google know who I’m friends with?
Well, the Social Search element will only appear for those who have a Google profile and are signed in. It collates the data from the links that you voluntarily supply. For example, your Google profile might include Facebook, Twitter and Gmail, with links to each of your related accounts. Google can then reach in and grab your public information – i.e. your friends or contacts list – and include them within your social circle – ready for Social Search integration.
However it doesn’t just go to your immediate friends, the Google Social Search results will include those from the people they follow – i.e. your friends’ friends. This is done on the assumption that they are likely to be known by you and will be able to provide reliable, informative results. This widening of the net will of course open up Social Search and ensure that there are a fare amount of results on offer.
Is this not intrusive?
It could be argued that Google are doing something a little disturbing with their Social Search function. Rather than skimming all of the generally available keyword answers, as per their live search element, this actually goes beneath the surface and finds out more about you and establishes who is in your social circle.
However, as Google rightly points out, the only information that they use is information that you yourself have provided within the public domain. Orwellian doom mongers might be regressing to notions of Big Brother, 1984 and all that jazz, but that would be more than a little alarmist. Remember this is only available if you have created a Google Profile and offered the information; if you don’t want them skimming your data, either don’t create a profile or opt-out; it is by no means mandatory. This is explained by Google in their own words with this short video.
So what does all this mean for search?
Well, the Google search engine result pages are already a little overstocked with news, local results and real-time search elements already integrated; therefore this would invariably add yet more information. It is an optional extra though, so you wouldn’t necessarily have it barging out your organic search results.
Search is in a transitional period with the engines far more inclined to increase personalisation of results. Hence why Google have started to recommend results based on your past activity and are now including Social Search. Whilst real-time has struggled to get off the floor, having an easy way to access information from your social circle might well have a future.
We all rely on our peers and friends for advice from time to time; it is human nature to seek assistance when we are otherwise unable to do something ourselves. With Social Search, Google appear to have found a way to gather in this information and present it in a simple way along with their usual results.
It may not be flawless and it certainly won’t be up everybody’s street, particularly in light of recent criticisms about how much information Google have on Internet users, but it certainly could serve a purpose and will make searching easier and personalised.