Google Social Search is a new, experimental feature just released on October 27. Theoretically, itâ€™s supposed to add functionality to your search page by highlighting web pages associated with your contacts within your results page. All you have to do is sign up within your Gmail account.
Googleâ€™s example in recent social search tutorials was restaurant-hunting. If youâ€™re looking for a good restaurant, the best thing is a personal recommendation, but you may not have one. Search for a restaurant name, and maybe someone in your contact list has reviewed it online, or mentioned it in their blog. In this case it should show up in this special portion of your search results page.
The tool even pulls in friendsâ€™ lists and friends of friends from Twitter and other social networking sites. You just have to fill out your user information within Google for it to access that information.
Itâ€™s true that sometimes, if you lose a friendâ€™s site information, it can be difficult to find it again. Not every website pops right to the top of your search page (or your memory for that matter).
As far as privacy is concerned, according to Google, thereâ€™s nothing available via Social Search that you wouldnâ€™t be able to find via regular search. Itâ€™s just easier to find things associated with your peer group, who is, after all, most likely to have information thatâ€™s pertinent and interesting to you.
So far, though, reviews are pretty mixed. Some are concerned about big-brother type capabilities, even going so far as to call it â€œcreepyâ€; others see a useful tool for finding recommendations and connections online. At this time, a number of commentators see its current utility as extremely limited.
For example, although Google plans to incorporate Twitter content, without full Facebook support, how relevant is this tool really going to be? After all, thatâ€™s the most-used social tool, right now. To make things look even grimmer for Google, Microsoftâ€™s Bing will have both Twitter and Facebook support. Yahoo is planning to launch an updated search, too â€” the competition is getting stiff.
Also, looking more closely at potential privacy issues, before this type of tool, one really had to dig for personal information, whereas now, it looks like it will just float to the top. Just how easy would it be for a potential boss to see those pictures of you at a frat party?
With the current glut of information online, before, you were like a pea surrounded by billions upon billions of other peas. Suddenly, you may find yourself at the top of a whole new set of search results. Now, theoretically, you can determine just how much of your information is available via this tool, but the concept itself could be unsettling.
Potential users are also complaining that an account with Google is required to use this feature, although that seems pretty straightforwardâ€” since it is a very individualized feature, and it wouldnâ€™t make much sense to re-upload oneâ€™s contacts each time.
Perhaps the tool will expand to fill more needs, even beating out Microsoftâ€™s Bing, but only time will tell.