Today, a new experimental Google search feature called Social Search was made live in Google Labs, following up on last week’s announcement that Google and Twitter had established a partnership.
But the implementation of this Twitter data is much more conservative than many were expecting. Following the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, a lot of talk in the search community revolved around “Realtime Search,” (a buzzword formerly known as “conversational search”) where chatter (articles, blog posts, comments, forum entries, status updates, tweets, videos, and podcasts) on a particular subject is indexed in real time, putting searchers more or less directly into the conversations as they occur.
This Lab does not go quite that far.
Instead, Google Social search is more an extension of a user’s Google Profile, which can be linked to Twitter and FriendFeed in addition to the myriad Google-owned services like YouTube, Picasa, Blogger, and Reader. A user’s contacts in Gmail and Google Talk, as well as friends/followers in all those other services serve as the basis for Social Search; making up what Google calls the Social Circle.
When you enter a query in Social Search, Google crawls content publicly posted by members your Social Circle; which includes not only your friends, but also friends of your friends.
For example, because a majority of the stuff that I follow has to do with Android, when I type in a query related to that subject, Social Search shows recent posts from the blogs I follow in Reader, the developers I follow on Twitter, and related content linked to my friends. Suppose a friend of a friend publicly posted and tagged pictures from a mobile developer’s conference on Picasa; those pictures are likely to turn up in social search as well.
Google today emphasized the ability to opt out of any service. If you don’t want all the pictures of your new house geotagged and posted for everyone with your name to case out, you can un-link your Picasa or Flickr account. Similarly, Google emphasizes the importance of the social graph for making your public content visible, like if you want your blog or your resume or your portfolio of artwork to be found more easily.