I've been reading about and following the whole 'social signals' discussion for some time. In fact, last May I wrote a very critical blog post of Google's social search features.
It was a bit of a swipe, and now that I've had time to reflect on it, and actually use social search, both as a person and as a Community Editor, and I now realise that, whilst it may be a bit creepy to some people, it's actually quite handy to see search results that my friends have shared with me.
And now Google has revealed it's real trump card in the battle for dominance of the social web (and that's what it is) - Search, plus your world. And I can see why Twitter are so pissy about it.
They missed the boat.
Twitter, I'm sure, could have been involved in this latest venture. Google will have known how popular social signals from Twitter were when they had a deal with Twitter (which expired last June), and with Plus now starting to gain traction amongst users, they felt that now was the time to reveal their masterplan.
You see, the one thing that social media has taught companies is that people basically like to listen to their friends, and organisations that they trust. In that order. If my girlfriend goes to me 'Hey, do you fancy grabbing a pizza? I know this wicked place around the corner', I'd be bang up for it. However, if Pizza Hut said the same thing to me about one of their restaurants, I'd be highly dubious.
Search as we know it will slowly morph from being a system run on complex algorithms into a living, breathing recommendation network. SEO will still count - after all, a friend's recommendation of a Youtube video won't do you much good if your roof is leaking at 2am in the morning.
However, if you want to know how to fix a plug socket without exploding, I'd much rather click on a link to a useful piece of information from my friend who's had the same problem than have to go to another website, conduct another search, and then fumble around for information. That may sound lazy to you, and to a certain extent, it is. But whilst the internet is fantastic for asking and answering the difficult questions posed by society, it is also a place you connect with your friends, and hang out.
In a fragmented, often lonely society, having just that little steer in the right direction by a friends recommendation can only be a good thing.
And you know what? If you don't like the feature, you can go and use Yahoo, Bing, Ask or the plethora of other sites. That is until Bing's partnership with Facebook finally takes off here in the UK.