Google is toying with the idea of social search. Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of search products and user experience first hinted about this in August 2007. This week they have gone and launched a Social Graph API to solidify the possibility that Google might consider social search seriously.
According to Mayer, social search is a search result that is based on social interactions and connections. Social search is an old phenomenon that has been going on informally between friends and colleagues over generations – asking for a friend’s opinion or recommendation about a movie or other commodity.
Social Graphs don’t exactly bring recommendations to users. What they signify are simply the relationships between users. The Social Graph API allows application developers to utilise public connections their users have already created in other web services and makes information about public connections between people easily available and useful. Application developers can then use this publicly available information about each users’ friends network to popularise their application.
Wild Assumptions By Google
Google’s policy hinges on the rather unfounded assumption that since the user has made information about whom they are friends with publicly available, the user will not mind Google exploiting this information to win favour with application developers who could then use it to spam social network users.
In all likelihood, if users started realising how their friends lists could be misused, they would stop making that information publicly available.
Plans For Social Search
In a recent interview with Venturebeat Google’s Marissa Mayer said that she felt that social search may be an important part of Google’s next generation of search products. In order to implement social search, Google may allow users to tag search results and then share them with friends, they may add an “others like you searched for” link alongside their search results, they may integrate social networks trends with search or they may even develop an all-new social-influenced rank systems to work alongside the current inbound-links-based PageRank system.
According to Mayer social search will allow one, to better understand ones social context. She says, “it’s hard to imagine that the search engine ten years from now isn’t advised by those things.”
Can Social Search Really Substitute Traditional Search?
We are not convinced, though. The entire premise of social search relies too much on a herd mentality among consumers. While it could work for certain aspects of certain users’ Internet and search usage, the vast majority of times people may not really care about what their friends think / see / do. At times like that, users will prefer regular search results or results that are personalised to their own tastes and history.