Sunday, March 6, 2011

Google Social Search: A Man Is Known By The Company He Follows

To all Google fans out there, Google Social Search is now available to all Googlers in US. I didn't realize this until I saw my name popping up on upper right hand corner a few weeks ago. Then last week while I was searching for Amazon EC2 references, I saw the social search in action.

Google Now Makes Full Use Of
My Social Network When Searching; Well Done!
This is a small but significant step for Google. Since I wrote about the lack of social search feature on Google last October, Google has been working hard at improving search experience to include social discovery. If you connect your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Quora and Yelp account, Google will now search the posts made by friends that you have on the social networks and display the search results.

Since I only connected my Twitter account, I saw results from people that I follow. I'm assuming it works the same way with Facebook and LinkedIn (I've just added about half an hour ago, and I haven't seen any results from Facebook and LinkedIn yet).

I'm little excited about this feature and here's why:

1. Google needed help in personalizing the search results to deal with ever growing body of searchable contents.

Although Google has been collecting all these information already, it has not been making full use of them. With ever growing body of search domain, it's critical that Google harness social relationship to bring out those opinions around the user.

2. Google is in a good position to foster the social network federation.

Search is a tool that drives its value from spanning multiple data sources, aggregating all data and filtering out the noise to bubble up the most relevant dataset. By leveraging social relationship to produce personalized search results, social networks now have incentive to open their contents and social relationship network to create viral effect.

Imagine people searching for Amazon EC2 and discovering tons of useful information on LinkedIn group posts. That would mean more time spent on LinkedIn groups, which will be a boon for LinkedIn. By sharing the data and social relationship network, LinkedIn will have more to gain by segregating its network from Google.

I'm hoping more social networks encourage open data sharing as well as relationship sharing (note to Facebook...). It all looks up and up. But there is a big caveat that all of us should keep in mind.

It's anonymity and context. Not all contents are created for everyone. As Google moves to making all contents from major social networking sites easier to search, social networking sites and Google should remember that context and privacy matters when searching for personal comments.

Perhaps Google Social Search will make all of us more careful with sharing the phone number on Facebook status update.

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