Google is going all-in with social. Having started with search personalization in 2009 and deepened its commitment to mix personal content into its algorithmic search results early last year, Google is inviting its own social network to mingle with its algorithmic search results, where permitted.
On Tuesday, Google announced enhancements to its search service with three new features: Personal Results, Profiles in Search, and People and Pages. Collectively, Google is calling this update "Search plus Your World," which succinctly captures its ambition to combine algorithmic search with social networking.
Personal Results adds Google+ posts and photos to Google Search results, when relevant, enabled by the user, and permitted by the Google+ circles through which the content was originally shared. Those who do not want to see Personal Results can disable them with a prominent toggle button.
In a blog post, Google fellow Amit Singhal offered an example of the way that a Google search for "chikoo," a fruit popular in India, might look with Personal Results. Singhal has a dog named Chikoo, so his search for the term would include both mentions of the fruit and Google+ photos of his dog.
Personal Results are segregable, through a link at the top of the search results page that shows the number of personal results and the number of other results. In effect, the Google Search box has been combined with the search box in Google+.
Profiles in Search adds Google Profiles, the core social building block of Google+, to Google searches. The new feature gives logged-in users access to their Google+ friends when they search. So a search for a common name would return a friend first if that name exists in the searcher's Google+ circles.
[ Find out how Google has been working to make search a personalized experience. Read Google Launches Chrome Site Blocking Extension. ]
Google is also making Profiles more useful as a means of marketing. It is adding certain Profiles to its autocomplete prediction system. So typing the first few letters of the name of a prominent person will display that person's Profile, along with a button to add that person to the searcher's circles. Google doesn't define who qualifies as a "prominent person," but those in the company's authorship pilot program are included in that group.
Google is also surfacing prominent Google+ users and Google+ Pages in response to searches related to specific content categories, such as music or baseball.
By linking Google Search to Google+, Google is giving people using the company's search service a reason to also participate in its social network. Anyone worried that Google+ might fail now has a lot less to worry about.
Sagar Kamdar, a group product manager for Google Search, insisted in a phone interview that Google has paid close attention to the privacy preferences of Google+ users. He says that Google has made sure that personal results are clearly labeled as being accessible to the Public, to a Limited group, or to only the user.
Google is making Search plus Your World available in English to logged-in users over the next few days.
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