Understanding Google's New 'Like' Button

The search giant hopes the new social layer will guide users and benefit advertisers

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Today, Google unveiled its latest social innovation, called +1. Now stick with us, here, because after the botched launches of Google Wave and Google Buzz, it's clear that the search giant doesn't excel at explaining why users should care about its new products.

To put it simply, +1 is designed to help guide you through search results by pointing you toward what your friends and family have found useful. Once the system launches across the country, a +1 button will appear next to every search result. Ideally, users will click +1 on results they find useful. Similar to Facebook's "like" button, Google will keep track of everyone's +1 marks and alert their friends when they stumble upon it. It knows your friends by scanning your Gmail contacts and followers on Google Reader and Buzz. Here's how the +1 button will appear in your search results:

So is this good? Depends on who you ask. Casey Chan at Gizmodo likes its effortlessness. "It's a bare bones simple way to show that you like something," he writes. "That's good! Google became the king of search because it was simple. +1 is simple." Mike Melanson at Read Write Web, however, wonders why anyone would want to use it in the first place. "Who wants to share a search result before they ever click on the link to begin with?" he asks. "And would you actually back out of the site simply to click the +1 to share?"

Melanson raises a good point: Why click the +1? According to reports, Google will soon make the +1 button available across the entire Web so, eventually, it will appear next to websites and individual articles the way Facebook's "like" button does. This idea has clearly worked for Facebook, but will it work for Google? With the "like" button, clicking it results in the item appearing on a users Facebook Wall--what's the point of clicking +1?

Google still has some work to do selling this to the average Joe. For advertisers, however, +1's benefits are more clear. On every advertisement Google hosts, the +1 button will appear adjacent to it. This means if someone +1s an ad for a bike repair shop, the user's friends will see that he or she recommended the company.

It's anyone's guess if this will pan out well, so watch the promotional video, test it out, and let us know what you think.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.