Google Embeds Social Directly Into Search (But by Social, It Means Google+)
Google today will start highlighting private social network content in search results by default for logged-in users. It will also displace some prominent screen space normally reserved for advertising, in order to promote relevant social networking profiles.
It’s significant for the search giant to embrace social networking so fully. But there’s a caveat. Only one social network is included: Google+.
To put this in context: The content created by users of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks is mostly inaccessible to search — due to privacy settings, limited real-time APIs and competitive reasons. Posts on social networks basically go into a black hole, save for a few efforts like Bing’s Facebook integration.
The new Google search features don’t fix any of that. What they do is make social content from Google+ more prominent in Google search.
To be sure, in a world where everyone used Google+, this would be huge. And part of the reason Google is doing this is to get more people to use Google+. (The seven-month-old service currently has tens of millions of registered users.)
Google calls the new features “Search plus Your World.” The biggest change is that search results pages now include private and personal content in standard search results by default. This is only content that the searcher has permission to view based on per-item privacy settings. And it’s only Google+ posts and Google+ and Picasa photos for now.
The second-biggest change is that relevant and influential Google+ people and pages will now be highlighted at the top of the right side of the search results page, in a space is normally reserved for ad units.
So, for example, if you search for “music,” you’re likely to see a promotion to add Google+’s No. 1 user Britney Spears to your Google+ Circles. If you click on the Spears link and don’t have a Google+ account, you’ll be prompted to create one.
And then, lastly, Google’s search box will now autocomplete Google+ usernames for people who are in the searcher’s network of friends and pages, as well as other prominent users.
The new features are planned to go live for the English version of Google.com today, and expand to other versions soon. Users can opt out of personal search by visiting Google without logging in or turning the feature off on the search settings page.
Now, each time they search, logged-in users will be able to toggle between a personal view — which includes Google’s preexisting personalization and social search features like +1 recommendations — and a global view, which will have only very limited personalization, like language and geography.
Yesterday, when I had the chance to talk to Google Fellow Ben Gomes about the new features, I asked, “So, if Google is all about organizing the world’s information, why is it only organizing the personal information people have given Google+?”
Here’s Gomes’s response: “The key thing here is we only have access to content on Google. We’re open to other types of content, but in order to provide secure and consistent access, we can only provide what’s in Google, where we know the privacy settings and have the relevant graph and signals.”