Google Opens Up Its Social Search

Google announced last week that its social search experiment, which it opened up for limited use last year, is now more widely available. You can read the initial October 2009 announcement at and get more details on social search at

Google’s Social Search features are basically built around what Google considers to be your “social circle.” Your social circle includes both your Google contacts and their friends, as well as contacts you have through your Google Profile (assuming you have a Google Profile.) The Social Search feature basically means that your the content of materials that your friends publish in their Google Profiles becomes another category of search result.

So you do a search for, say, search engines. You’ll get Web results, news results… and over halfway down your page you’ll get results from your social circle under a heading marked “Results from people in your social circle for search engines” That heading is clickable so you can get all the results on the same page. The results include an image of your social circle contact’s avatar in case their name isn’t ringing a bell.

I did several searches for various, mostly tech topics and didn’t see a lot of content from my social circle people. I did notice that I had to get fairly general in my searches to get results from my social circle, something that I don’t like to do. I played with this for a little while and didn’t get many results, and didn’t see a lot that will help me or enhance my search results. However, it did make me think of something I would want.

Say there was a way to tag people, in or out of your social circle, as particularly good at a certain topic. For example, I might want to tag Dori Smith as good at JavaScript, or Jeff Barr good at Amazon cloud computing. As more people tagged individuals, their prominence would rise. I could then specify that I want my search to take the context of a certain topic, and the results would weigh heavily in the favor of people who have been tagged as having useful, reputable sites. A search for Javascript tutorial might put Dori’s results up at the top, while mechanical turk might push Jeff Barr’s.

I have wonderful people in my social circle but they don’t know about everything I’d want to search for. If there were some way to crowdsource expertise of people or institutions, then I’d love to see that. I’d probably get a lot more use out of it. As it is, the social search idea is neat, but I don’t think it’s going to turn up a lot in my search results.

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