This morning Google introduced the so-called +1 button. It is Google’s attempt to create its own social annotation so that it can improve on search, recommendation, and targeted advertising.
For now, the +1 button is put right next to each search result. When you click the button, you tell that you like this specific result –and this is registered into your Google profile. This can be used to improve search relevance. Also if you do a search while logged in your Google account, the recommendations can be crossed checked so that your connections’ clicks are shown and can be taken into account for search ranking.
At first glance the principle seems sound, but under scrutiny, that may become yet another failed attempt for Google to get social.
The most obvious flaw is that you don’t know whether a search result is relevant until you actually click on the link and look at the result page. Assuming the result page is relevant, would you go back to the search page to push the +1 button? Obviously no.
So this means that to be clicked, the +1 button will eventually have to move to the result page itself. People will put a +1 button on their page, hoping that users will click it if they like the page. But then, what’s the difference between a +1 button on a page and a Facebook “like”, or a Tweet button, or a Buzz button for that matter?
It makes a difference for Google: it owns the +1 button, and it can derive plenty of information with the click logs without relying on Facebook or Twitter data. But I fail to see the benefit it brings to the user. A Facebook account captures the circle of people that a user already shares her status and photos with. Tweeting a link to a page is already a public recommendation. So why using a different circle –your Gmail or Buzz buddies instead of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers—for yet another sharing pool?
It looks to me that Google is frantically trying to make social search less dependent on Facebook and Twitter. Which mean, to make it more dependent on Google. I don’t think people will buy it.