This time it’s personal: Google’s new search results will include content information shared on Google+, such as the images of Chikoo the dog, shown above.
In April 2011, Google launched Google+ as a direct competitor to Facebook. The site won compliments for some of its features, like the ability to put contacts into different “circles” so that information is shared in a more controlled way. But, after rapid early uptake, Google has struggled to capture market share from Facebook, and has around 60 million active users, compared to Facebook’s more than 800 million.
The new features may not only make Google search more useful, but also encourage greater use of Google+. Showing Google+ profile pages and topic pages prominently could encourage people to create their own profile and topic pages.
The new service pulls in social information only from Google+ to start with, but, Smith says, it could include other, non-Google sources in the future.
Google is working hard to make its most popular services more social. Whereas an algorithmic approach to finding and sorting online information was once a source of nerdy pride for the company because of its objectivity, Google is fast reinventing itself as a business that values the suggestions of its users and their friends.
How people will come to use social signals to find useful information isn’t yet clear, though. “The most natural mode of use is still fairly up in the air, and it will be fascinating to see how people’s online behavior evolves in this dimension over the next few years,” Kleinberg says.