Google +1

At the end of last month, Google very quietly launched what it calls a new layer of social networking tied to the world famous search engine. The Google +1 Button is modeled on Facebooks even more famous “like” button, and is supposed to give personal recommendations for search results.

The concept is pretty simple. If you’ve got a public Google profile, and if you’re signed in, then organic search results and ads will both have a small button visible alongside them. Clicking on this button will give your recommendation to that page, result, or advert.

According to the Google software engineer who developed the button, (David Byttow), the +1 button is set to become one of the (many, many) ranking signals that Google takes into account when deciding where in the search engine results your website will appear.

Google And Social Media

So far, all well and good. The idea is one that’s worked for Facebook, and Google appears to really want in on the whole social media thing. Unfortunately, the social media thing hasn’t worked out so well for Google so far.

Google’s Buzz was not only a non-starter, but Google got both prosecuted and sued for it. Not an auspicious beginning. Google Wave was canned before it even really got going. So now Google is trying again. But there may be a couple of fundamental flaws in the process.

For a start, you need to have a public Google profile. And not a lot of people have those. Next, you need to be signed into your Google account to be able to see the +1 button.

Finally, how are you supposed to know in advance that you want to recommend the site? The +1 button appears next to search results. So once you’ve visited that page, the button is gone. You’d have to go back, or duplicate your search, in order to actually use it. And how many people are going to do that?

Websites will be able to add a +1 button to their site eventually, but it’s not available yet.

Google And +1

According to Google, the +1 button will make search more personal, more relevant, and more compelling. But search engine results are not social media. And they shouldn’t try to be. Who wants their whole contact list to know that you recommended a particular page?

Email isn’t social either. It combines business and personal, and it does so (or should do so) privately.

Personally, I’m not convinced that this is going to be an effective social networking effort on Google’s part. I do think though that a lot of people are going to try and spam this button in the hopes of getting a better ranking. I hope Google has some preventative measures in place.

+1 Problems

And right now, (at the time of writing), it looks like the button has been turned off, for now at least. Even logged in, searching (the only Google it’s currently available on), having signed up for the search experiment at Google Labs, (currently necessary to test the button), I’m not seeing it.

Is anybody else? Is it still a random add-on that only some people are going to have access to? (I’ll update this as soon as we know more.)