Have you ever asked a friend to recommend a nice French restaurant? A high-minded independent film? A fun bar to take a visitor from out of town?
If you have asked any of these questions, you have done a “social search,” and if you are anything like me, you probably rely on social searching and Google searching to garner most of your information about entertainment.
Google noticed. And while other companies like Eurekster have experimented with social search in the past, in a recent interview with Google’s Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, Mayer explains how social search may look in the coming years, or months, as it were. While Mayer mentions several times in the interview that it is too early too tell exactly how all of this might pan out, we know by now that Google moves fast. But I’m not holding my breath.
Yes, it may be interesting to see what my social network has searched for recently – as long as that information isn’t too personal. As I’ve told friends on countless occasions in the past, “There are some things I just don’t need to know.”
What films are they planning on seeing? Where did they take their last vacation? What’s the name of that new clothing store on La Brea they keep telling me about? All things I would love to know. Maybe we can go see that film together. Maybe I’ll check out that vacation spot for the little getaway I’m planning. I bet that store on La Brea has those boots I’m been wanting. Etc.
Yet, beyond any entertainment or shopping recommendations, I prefer not to see my friends’ deep, dark secrets displayed via my web browser. Just the thought of it gives me the creeps. I trust my friends well enough to know that if there is something they want to tell me, they will, and if there is something personal they want to discuss, they know I am here. But trusting Google to determine what I want to broadcast and what I’d like to keep private? I don’t think so.
I understand that Google isn’t sure how it would all work, that they would require explicit permission from users to broadcast their search results, and that one of the first steps in implementing social search might be to ask the user to tag those searches they want to share – but what about the recent Google reader fiasco? Countless users were subjected to an unapproved broadcasting of their information to all of their Gmail contacts, with no warning, no chance to remove the things they considered “private” before Google did it’s work.
Not to mention the influence it would have on Google’s rankings. Even if regular Google search results were viewed separately from social search results, wouldn’t the increased traffic to certain sites affect organic search results? How would you factor that into the algorithm? How would it affect SEOs who make a living getting their clients’ sites to rank highly?
The questions surrounding social search are many. I am curious to know what you think. But please keep in mind there are some things I just don’t need to know.