January 10, 2012
Google Adds Social Search, Offers Unfiltered Results As An Option
Google rolled out a new search feature today. Google account holders can now get social search results related to materials in Google+ as integrated into search results. The details are announced on the Official Google Blog in a post entitled Search, plus Your World. Only those materials that are shared with a Google account holder or publicly available will show up in the social side of results. This immediately generated the criticism that Google is promoting its own content at the expense of competitors. Results from Facebook and others will appear lower on in a results page. I’m not so sure as some of the utility of this requires a Google account. Nonetheless, this feature is bound to appeal to the social minded as Google+ gains traction.
For those who would prefer to avoid the feature entirely there will be a button in the upper right hand corner of the page that will display the same results without personalization. That is interesting as only a few commentators picked up on the significance of that. Here is the text from the Google blog post describing the alternative:
We’re also introducing a prominent new toggle on the upper right of the results page where you can see what your search results look like without personal content. With a single click, you can see an unpersonalized view of search results.
That means no results from your friends, no private information and no personalization of results based on your Web History. This toggle button works for an individual search session, but you can also make this the default in your Search Settings. We provide separate control in Search Settings over other contextual signals we use, including location and language.
What this apparently means is that a researcher can view results that have not been filtered against that researcher’s search habits and previous searches. One ongoing criticism of Google is that the search engine anticipates what a researcher wants to see and pushes that information compared to the universe of possibilities. The “no personal results” button turns that off while eliminating social search features for that individual search. It’s possible to turn social search off permanently, as the excerpt suggests.
The new feature will be rolled out over the next several days starting today. I’m more intrigued by unfiltered search results than anything Google+ can offer to me. [MG]