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Google Launches “Search Plus Your World” (If Your World Is Google+)

Google announced yesterday a new initiative, Search Plus Your World. This from the announcement:

Search is pretty amazing at finding that one needle in a haystack of billions of webpages, images, videos, news and much more. But clearly, that isn’t enough. You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to… all from one search box.

“Wow,” I thought, “they’ve partnered with Facebook and Twitter! Social searching is finally going to suck less!” (I really missed it when Twitter stopped showing up in Google’s results.)

No. The “Your World” to which Google refers is the world of Google+. And I don’t know about you, but when I think of “My World” in relation to Google+, I think of one of those horrible cheap Star Trek sets with fake polystyrene rocks. Don’t get me wrong, I use Google+ — I just use other social networks a lot more.

Anyway, let’s get on with it. Google is announcing three new things, which you will see if you’re logged in to Google and doing a search.

Personal Results

Personal results take results from your Google+ circles and make them available from the Google search results page. For example, I just did a search for “polystyrene” to make sure I spelled it correctly (which I did, first try. Scary.) A regular search has 3.6 million results, while a “personal results” search has a dozen or so.

The results come from shared content on Google+ which in this case looked to be mostly articles, one going back to 2004. I used some of the search options on the left nav to try to narrow down my results and was able to narrow down by date and by content type (images, etc.) Google was smart enough to remove the 2004 article from the personalized results when I searched for content within the last year, even though it had been shared only a few months before.

Profiles in Search

Profiles in Search is just what it sounds like. Run a person search and if they have a Google profile it’ll pop up. The example on the screen shot shows Matt Cutts and his profile. You’ll notice a green bar next to his name; that’s the Google+ circle in which I have Matt (“Journalists and Cool People.”) In addition to the basic Google+ profile you’ll also get recent content from Google+, including a picture of Matt wearing a horse mask.

People and Pages

If you’re not searching for people but rather for a specific topic or community, Google might point you to people or circles on Google+. I did a search for WordPress and didn’t see anything in the personal results. However, in the regular results I got a right sidebar of people related to the topic of WordPress. You can click on the “see more” under that listing and get a listing of people and pages related to WordPress.

(Even when you’re not looking at personal results you’ll see a lot of personalized search mentions in your results. You can turn those off with a small icon that’s located at the extreme right of the results page. It lets you turn personalized results on and off.)

This is a skimming of the surface of this functionality, because in looking at it I was struck more by what isn’t here by what is. If you want a deep discussion of the new features along with discussion about privacy implications, Danny’s got a great post.

Search Plus Arrogance

“Google is assuming that all relevant content I want is on Google itself?” I thought after reading the announcement. “How very 2004 of it.”

“My World” is nothing like just Google+. But it isn’t just Facebook, either, which was my reflexive response. I got to thinking about the kind of content that I would find useful to be able to search on a personalized basis in the elegant but unfortunately very limited way that Google does offer.

My World is Facebook. And Twitter. And Quora. And LinkedIn Questions. And Pinterest. And Instagram. And I’m sure that list will increase over time. Right now the idea of being able to search Quora, Facebook, and Twitter content easily from one interface like Google has set up makes me ridiculously happy. But I’m equally sure that two years down the road there will be another social network or gathering place or aggregation tool that I just can’t do without. My point is that any framework which provides a limited amount of personalized content from a limited number of networks is going to be a disappointment and ultimately fail; a more open framework should be the goal.

The good news is that there is already a tool that can index information from several different Web sites and display it in one place — it’s called a SEARCH ENGINE. The bad news is that there are several roadblocks, some legitimate and understandable (privacy concerns, technical issues) and some messy (political slapfighting) that stand between us and a search that truly represents “Our World.”

Searching Dashboard Style

A couple of weeks ago Netvibes announced a new “dashboard engine” to get real-time updates, single-screen style. If you liked Mashpedia you’ll like this. To try it go to http://www.netvibes.com/en and click “Get Started”. You’ll get a page asking you to enter a keyword and then specify whether you’re searching for News, an Artist, or a Brand. I choose a “News” search for Goldman Sachs. The first thing Netvibes did was give me a series of photographs to choose a theme from. Then after I chose one I got my dashboard.

I was a little taken aback by this screen when I saw it; the initial user interface is so slick and the actual dashboard is kind of — boxy. But who cares! Plenty of consolidated data is here and so what if the presenting modules don’t have rounded corners? The default tab is for news and shows results from Flickr, Google News, Yahoo, and Google Blog Search. Each of the modules are customizable; you can change the number of items that show from a source, change the color, remove it entirely, etc. You can also edit the layout of the entire tab. (If you don’t like a widget view there’s also a “reader” view that makes the dashboard look more like a traditional RSS feed reader.)

Yes, this is only one tab of data! There are others; one for general information — more like a personalized portal than anything else — and three devoted to your actual search. There’s one for videos, one for general chatter (on social networks and elsewhere) and one for your search across several different Google properties. If that isn’t enough for you there’s a tab across the top of the page that’ll let you add more content modules, from news to travel. If you can’t make up your mind there’s also a list of essential widgets where you can start.

You don’t need to be logged in to play with Netvibes dashboard, but if you get a (free) account you get more functionality, like the ability to share your dashboards.

I was really impressed with this. There tabs and the widget options mean you can pack a lot of data flows into one screen. The only thing I saw that you’ll have to watch is that the modules don’t update automatically that I could see, so you’ll have to periodically refresh the page. This is an excellent companion to Mashpedia or Cpedia if you’re using that.

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