Google announced this morning that it is taking the inclusion of social recommendations in its search results a step further with the introduction of the long-awaited Google +1. The new feature puts a "+1" icon next to each search result, allowing users to recommend certain results and websites directly from Google, rather than on Twitter or Facebook.
Google calls the feature "digital shorthand for 'this is pretty cool'," but we have to wonder - who are you telling and why?
So let's look at what this new feature does - it allows users to recommend search results and ads to their friends or people in their social circle. Right now, however, the feature will only show up as a button next to each search result, as seen below:
Soon enough, writes Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, Google will offer stand-alone +1 buttons for websites to put right next to its Twitter and Facebook sharing buttons, which makes way more sense. Who wants to share a search result before they ever click on the link to begin with? And would you actually back out of the site simply to click the +1 to share? Sullivan also notes that everything you +1 will be completely public and part of your redesigned Google profile.
Google Goes Social: But Why?
For months now, we've been waiting to see what's next with Google's much-rumored social initiative. We first heard rumors of this effort early last summer, when the project was supposedly called "Google Me" and was surely the next "Facebook Killer." Since then, Google bought Slide for $182 million, saying that it would help make its services "socially aware," and publicly denounced the idea of a stand-alone social network to take on Facebook.
With today's announcement (and recent introductions of things like the Google Toolbar and redesigned user profiles), we see the first rumblings of Google's social effort and they again appear to be unfortunately misguided.
Let's look ahead to the future though - Google has released the button for inclusion on websites, you can see all these +1s on your Google profile, but again - what is your motivation for clicking +1? So your friends have a better search experience? Is this actually something you care about?
With last month's inclusion of social sharing cues in search results, Google had the right idea. Users already share on Twitter, Facebook and otherwise for a variety of reasons. But the main reason they share there is to share, not to recommend the validity of a link in case someone searches for something similar.
As LifeHacker founding editor and ExpertLabs project director Gina Trapani tweeted upon hearing the news, "I don't see myself curating search results much. By the time I know a result is good, I've left. What about you?"
Tech blogger Louis Gray argues that the +1 feature is for much more than just search results, pointing to the new +1 tab on Google profiles. "The +1 data is also closely tied to your Google Profile, which is a sibling to Google Buzz, which also has following and friend-like attributes," writes Gray.
Simply providing a place for these +1 links to be aggregated still doesn't give me a reason to click the button. I already have bookmarks. I already have ways to socially share with my friends. So what gives?
While we surely haven't heard the last of Google and its social effort, we have to wonder if we have another SearchWiki on our hands. Including social cues in search results seemed like a natural progression of search, but that kept the idea of intention out of the mix. People were already sharing using Twitter. This, on the other hand, brings the user's intention for sharing in the first place into the mix and confuses matters. What do you think? Will Google offer a compelling reason to click that +1 button or is Tweeting and Liking enough for you? Can your Google profile ever become central enough to your online identity that +1 will feel like a social experience?