Yesterday Google introduced the so-called +1 button. It is Google’s attempt to create its own social annotation so that it can improve on search, recommendation, and targeted advertising.
For now, the +1 button is put right next to each search result. When you click the button, you tell that you like this specific result – and this is logged into your Google profile. This can be used to improve search relevance. Also if you do a Google search while logged in your Google account, the recommendations can be crossed checked so that your connections’ +1 clicks are shown near the search results. This also could be taken into account for search ranking.
At first glance the principle seems sound, but under scrutiny, that may become yet another failed attempt for Google to “get social”.
The most obvious flaw is that you don’t know whether a search result is relevant until you actually click on the link and look at the result page. Assuming the result page is relevant, would you go back to the search page to push the +1 button? Obviously no.
So this means that to be clicked, the +1 button will eventually have to move to the result page itself. People will put a +1 button on their page, hoping that users will click it if they like the page. But then, what’s the difference between a +1 button on a page and a Facebook “like”, or a Tweet button, or a Buzz button for that matter?
It makes a difference for Google: it owns the +1 button, thus it can derive plenty of information with the click logs without relying on Facebook or Twitter data. But there is no clear benefit to the user. A Facebook account captures the circle of people that you already share your status and photos with. Tweeting a link to a page is already a public recommendation. So why using a different circle – your Gmail or Buzz buddies instead of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers — for yet another sharing pool?
It looks that Google is frantically trying to make social search less dependent on Facebook and Twitter. With its social graph, Facebook could produce search results that are ranked according to people’s connections and friends’ recommendations -- Microsofts Bing uses Facebooks social graph to better its search relevance. Many users already use Facebook as their main portal to the web, accessing friends’ updates and news from their Facebook page. There is only one step before they use Facebook’s future search platform preferably to Google’s.