A key Google search executive unveiled Google Social Search at the Web 2.0 Summit Oct. 21, attempting to upstage significant announcements from search challenger Microsoft Bing.
Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, got permission to make a surprise announcement this afternoon at the show here, mere hours after Microsoft executives announced that Bing would be surfacing search results with Twitter tweets and Facebook status updates in real time.
Mayer did a me, too play. When she took the stage, she told the audience that Google would also begin enabling users to search Twitter tweets in the coming months before demonstrating Social Search.
In a demonstration, Mayer showed how in planning a trip to New Zealand, she was able to find content about the country written by people in her social network who have been there. The content, which included travel logs and photos, was at the bottom of the search results page. She also showed how users can find restaurant reviews written by friends in the service.
"We think this is great from a precision and relevance standpoint," Mayer said. "We're really excited to be able to offer this type of service to our users."
To use Social Service, users must be signed into Google via their Google Account, Google Contacts and must have a Google Profile, where users list the various social networks they are members of, including FriendFeed and Twitter.
The service then cross-references information about users from those networks with their Gmail accounts, determining who users are connected to.
The service is opt-in, so users will have to click a button to use the service when it launches from Google Labs in a few weeks, Mayer said. Danny Sullivan has more details here on Search Engine Land.
The emergence of Google Social Search could pose quite a quandary for the litany of social search engines. This includes newly minted startup Aardvark, as well as old-school vendor Eurekster and others such as Mahalo and the dozens of others that litter the market.
Google already has millions of users for its general search engine. If even a fraction of these millions begin using Google Social Search, it might not leave much room for the challengers. What the play does show, is that Google has been quite conscientious about the impact the rise of Facebook and Twitter have for the social networking space.
With Google Social Search, the company is aiming for a Reese's peanut butter cup of search and social, two worlds that could mesh quite nicely together, if only users take a bite.