Google March 30 took its next step in its evolution toward social search with the +1 button, which lets users share search results and ads that meet their approval.
Rumored for months as Google's big answer to Facebook's social networking empire, +1 is best thought of as simply Google's version of Facebook's Like button.
Google Profile users will click the +1 next to each search result or ad on Google.com and +1's will start appearing next to each selected search result in subsequent searches. Users may also immediately undo their +1 selection by clicking the +1 again.
eWEEK searched for "pizza," immediately seeing results for Dominos Pizza and ads with +1 buttons next to them. Clicking on them lets us recommend the results to users who follow us.
Google plans to use the same signals it employs with social search to put the most useful recommendations in front of users, including things liked by Gmail, Google Reader Google Buzz and Google Contact users they are already connected to through Google. Eventually, Google will use connections users have on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn to boost the relevancy of recommendations.
Per eWEEK's example above, if a user eWEEK is connected to via Google Social Search contacts searches for pizza on Google.com, he or she should see a brief note under the Dominos Pizza search result indicating that eWEEK has +1'd that result.
"We expect that these personalized annotations will help sites stand out by showing users which search results are personally relevant to them," noted Google software engineer Dave Byttow. "As a result, +1's could increase both the quality and quantity of traffic to the sites people care about."
Google is slowly rolling out its +1 button in English on Google.com, but users who don't see the +1 buttons next to results may opt-in to test the feature via the experimental search site.
Users need a Google Profile to participate in +1, and can see all of the +1's they've clicked through their profile if they are logged into their Google account. Users may check to see who they are connected to in the Social Circle and Content section of the Google Dashboard.
While +1s are currently limited to Google.com search results and ads, Google envisions adding them to results for other Google products, such as Google Apps. Google said +1 won't be available for Google Apps such as Google Docs until it implements support for Google Profiles.
In what could be more consequential news for the company, Google will eventually offer the +1 button for third-party Websites.
+1 is a natural extension of Google's Social Search efforts, which have hardly reaped a lot of value since their rollout more than a year ago.
Google last month improved this feature, which adds blog posts, reviews and other content from searchers' contacts into search results, by mixing Social Search results throughout results pages based on their relevance. This proved to be a prelude to +1.