Google Labs has just launched a new search function called Social Search, which allows users to enhance their search experience by providing them with search results that are more personally relevant. Google announced that it is working on implementing Social Search at the Fall Web 2.0 Summit, but doesn’t expect to make it available until later in the season. The personalized search function utilizes a user’s social network profiles to display relative links as well as status updates that members of the user’s social network have shared at the bottom of a page of search results.
People interested in checking out Social Search will need to point their browser at Google’s experimental section and activate the new search feature that is only available to users in the U.S. and only in English. Social Search creates personalized searches utilizing Google Talk, Gmail, Google Reader subscriptions and social networking profiles that a user has added to his or her Google Profile. While participation in Google Profile is not mandatory, based on information in a user’s Google Profile, Social Search can automatically detect a user’s social networking profiles and friend lists on BrightKite, Digg, del.icio.us, YouTube, FriendFeed, Flickr and other networking sites.
Not every search will yield Social Search results at the bottom of a search results page. When it does, however, socially relevant search results will appear at the bottom of the user’s page labeled as “results from people in your social circle.” Users will also be able to start Social Search from the search options panel currently embedded in the search page, and Google will provide a list of the user’s friends that it decides are the most closely related to the search terms. If a user clicks on a name, they will be able to confine search results to see results from that friend.
Google staffers who have worked on the project expressed excitement about the launch of Social Search, especially since the features make it easier to find reliable product reviews and local search engine results. The ready access to social profiles and friends lists has caused some to worry about violations of privacy, but Google countered that argument, saying that all of the information that Google indexes is already publicly available online.
People with contacts on Facebook won’t appear on Social Search results pages and users won’t be able to see what people on their Facebook friends lists are saying about anything related to the search keywords and phrases. Google appears to be looking to harness some of Facebook’s social networking power and only time will tell how effective and popular Social Search will be.