Do we like 'likes' in our search results? close

Agnieszka Oslak
Agnieszka Oslak
In Musings, Online Innovation
21st April 2011
Do we like 'likes' in our search results?

The number of people using social platforms as a source of information is constantly increasing and search engines are understandably trying to keep up with this trend and benefit from it. Google knows that if they finally get their social strategy right they will become an integrated search and social platform with new revenue opportunities.

So, after some not so successful attempts at going social with Google Buzz, Wave and Orkut, Google has launched its latest new social concept, Google +1. But what is so special about this new development and how much of an impact may it potentially have on our existing search behaviour?

Google +1 has been considered by many to be a copycat of the Facebook model. Similarly to Facebook, once you are logged into your Google account, you can “like”...or “+1” in this case, recommended websites, blogs, advertisements etc to make them visible to others.

Unlike Facebook you are not restricted to sharing content with friends; you can exchange +1 content with all of your Google social connections, including people from the outside your network of friends (Google social connections includes everyone in your Gmail chat list, all Google Contacts and people you are following in Google Reader and Google Buzz). This makes the Google community more impersonal compared to Facebook particularly as interaction finishes the moment a recommendation is made. With Google +1 none of your social connections are able to comment further on your +1 content, as can be done on Facebook.

However Google’s trump card is that +1 content is remembered by the search engine and gets displayed in SERPs in a real-time. This means that any +1 content is highlighted in your search results allowing you to quickly identify content recommended by your connections. Google believes that the +1 function will earn more credit than its previous social initiatives as the recommendations show the opinion of people you know and trust, as opposed to authorities that aim to influence your opinion.

But do we really need our peers’ recommendations in our search results? So far Google has earned its credit and become trusted to deliver reliable and accurate search results. Is socially influenced search really going to improve the existing mechanism?

My concern is that our search results will become cluttered with opinions from our social connections and there should be an option to turn them off. Imagine all of those +1 buttons popping up in your search results telling you what all the people from your contact list think. Could they pose a threat to the reliability and clarity of Google search? As much as you might feel that you are happy to rely on your peers’ opinion, at some point you might need more viable information i.e. based on factual or aggregated global measurements.

Google +1 has attracted lots of attention so far but is still in its early days. I suppose we need to wait and see how the experimental and testing process eventually shapes this new concept. It looks like it could have huge potential and there is a big chance that these improvements will take Google on a new social path.

Let’s just hope that Google +1 will eventually facilitate rather than clutter our search process and that we learn to love our “likes”...