Google Social Circle

Google labs is testing a very interesting new feature within the Google search results which lists and ranks content from people that have connections to your own social networks, websites, blogs, etc.   It’s called Google Social Circle and I think this approach has a lot of potential.

Google labs writes:

We’ve taken steps to improve the relevance of our search results with personalization, but today’s launch takes that one step further. With Social Search, Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results. When I do a simple query for [new york], Google Social Search includes my friend’s blog on the results page …

Filtering the massive oceans of content is what Google has been doing so effectively for some time, but the social media explosion has created a new kind of relevance Google’s basic ranking system has not been taking into account.    The content of trusted friends and associates is often going to be more relevant to us than that of, say, internet marketeers in a foreign country.     If, for example, my pal has travelled to Morrocco I’m going to trust his stuff – and probably be more interested in it – than information from strangers.    Google Social Circle will incorporate that relevance into the search results, and I think by doing this they may succeed where Facebook and Twitter have pretty dramatically failed.    Facebook’s search system and layout – in my experience – makes it very hard to search for information.  It can even be difficult to find a person you know, let alone find content they have created that is relevant to your search.    Twitter lists are something of a step in the right direction of targeting for relevant information, but Twitter search is severely lacking and I don’t even know if they they are particularly interested in providing the kind of contextual content mapping Google is testing with Social Circle.

Another interesting – some would say sinister – aspect of this approach by Google is to create internet environments filled with “trusted online information sources” that have been endorsed by different networks of friends.    Clever use of the data flowing in will allow Google to better screen sites based on human input, which is much harder to spoof than manipulations commonly done as part of aggressive “Search Engine Optimization” tactics.

The Social Circle reminds me of an advanced version of “del.icio.us”, a tagging and bookmarking service aquired (and largely abandoned?) by Yahoo a few years ago.  Delicious allowed users to tag and label sites and content, creating link lists of things relevant to them and giving them the ability to share these links with others.    By automating that process and using their brilliant search algorithm to slice and dice individual information, Google has pushed us one step closer to the holy grail of search – a system that shows us exactly what we want/need to see even if we cannot clearly state exactly what we want or need.

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