Google unveiled a new addition to its search engine yesterday. It's called +1 and it's easiest to conceptualize as a Facebook Like button for search results. Though it's not a network in the way we've come to think about them, it does bring Google searches some social intelligence, at least based on your Gmail and Reader contacts.
The tech world isn't quite sure what to make of it all. Here are three quick takes from tech bloggers.
Whether they'll admit it or not, Google is at war with Facebook for control of the web. Facebook is coming at it from a social perspective, Google from a data perspective. But the two sides have been inching closer to one another. Facebook isn't fully doing search -- yet. But their social ad play is also a huge threat to Google. Probably even a bigger threat, since that's the way Google makes the vast majority of their money. And +1 is a big attempt to keep pace with Facebook in that regard.
So yes, it's good that Google is adding social signals to search -- that's a smart thing to do. And like Om, I am kind of wondering why they didn't do it a lot sooner, since search is still 90 percent of what Google does (from a financial sense, at least). But that focus is part of the problem: everything the company does is still seen through the lens of search, which is why it has so much trouble understanding how social features work (see Buzz) and sees social as something that can be "bolted on" to its existing services.
The real problem right now, tough, is that there are only so many buttons users can click on on any given site and unless they know where their recommendations go, chances are they won't bother using this feature much.
With +1, your friends will see your "likes" on search results pages and on your Google Profile. I doubt that there is a lot of traffic to anybody's Google Profile today, so why would I feel inclined to add more content to it? Instead, when I send a recommendation to Facebook or Twitter, I know exactly where it goes and who sees it.