Google Takes on the Social Networking World

July 6, 2011

In recent weeks, you may have noticed a “+1” symbol next to every search result and ad throughout the Google search engine. Nearly a year after Facebook “like” buttons spread in popularity, Google announced its own “+1” button. It allows you to select the search results and ads that you like best, which then shares your liking on Google’s social network (yes, another social networking site).

At its core, Google+ is a social network. The first thing users are introduced to is the Stream, which is much like the Facebook News Feed and allows users to share photos, videos, links or their location with their connections. The site also incorporates face-to-face chat, which might be one reason Facebook chose to announce their own video chat partnership with Skype just this week. However, unlike Facebook, the focus of this social project is not on sharing with a mass group of friends, but rather on targeted sharing with your various social groups.

The key to the “+1” feature is that once you add people to your Google network, you can see the people in that network who have liked a particular listing, and the number of other users outside of your network that have liked the same listing. This way, you can get a sense of how popular the page might be with “+1” users.

The primary benefit is that search gets better. It gets better in the user interface immediately, and we’ll look at it as a potential signal to improve search quality as well. I find social search extremely useful, especially with the recent updates. This change continues the evolution of social search, and it’s a natural progression to improve the search experience,” said Matt Cutts, a Google engineer who is most known for leading Google’s search spam fighting team but who also helped launch Google Social Search in 2009.

With so many similarities to Facebook, the most differential aspect we see in the “+1” world is in its search results functionality. The more people click the “+1” button by a search result on Google, the more traffic that site will continue to get. People tend to gravitate toward what others approve of and this can be seen as a great opportunity for companies to attract people to their website.

Facebook seems to have dominated the social networking world, but we’ll see how Google+ jumps into this market and draws in users in other ways that Facebook and Twitter cannot.

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