At the same time that Google tries to expand the role of its profile pages in people’s lives, its new social features will come under attack from spammers seeking to manipulate +1 data, says Rich Skrenta, cofounder of search startup Blekko. Manipulating search results to extract revenue from pages stuffed with advertising—much of it channeled through Google’s own advertising system—is big business today. Software bots and low-paid human labor are used to create extra links to those pages, co-opting the main criterion by which Google ranks pages.
The value of a social approach comes from having a network of real people acting genuinely, says Skrenta, something that Google needs to find a way to ensure. “Facebook has done a very good job of this to date, since they actively police identity and people carefully monitor their Facebook contacts and drop contact with people who spam them,” he explains. That’s a stark contrast to the state of Google’s social links, which are largely invisible to users, many of whom maintain multiple accounts.
However, if +1 works, it will be a valuable signal, he says. “If they can boot up the system and keep the spam out, it could be another interesting source of social ranking data, along the lines of Facebook Likes, Foursquare check-ins, tweets, and so forth.” At least part of those stores of social data is made publicly available for other technologies to use, says Skrenta, whose own search engine uses Facebook Likes much the way Bing does. “I would be interested to know if Google intends to open this data up as Facebook and some of the other social players have,” he says. So far Google has not signaled that any +1 data will be similarly made available.