Google Launches Social Search To Give Search 'Special Relevance'

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Google Vice President Marissa Meyer mentioned the service at the Web 2.0 Summit last week, and Google Social Search went live on Monday as part of Google's experimental Google Labs platform. According to Google, Social Search is separate from the indexing arrangement it announced with Twitter last week, though it stands to reason it will find a way to integrate Twitter into Social Search as well.

"All the information that appears as part of Google Social Search is published publicly on the web -- you can find it without Social Search if you really want to," explained Google technical lead Maureen Heymans and product manager Murali Viswanathan, in a Monday post to the Google Blog. "What we've done is surface that content together in one single place to make your results more relevant."

What that means, Heymans and Viswanathan said, is that if you search for topics like, say, concert reviews or fashion trends, Google Social Search will index results in a separate section of the search page of what people in your "network" have said or written about those things -- what your best friend wrote about a concert on his or her blog, for example, or a link that someone you know posted to their Twitter page.

"The way we do it is by building a social circle of your friends and contacts using the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you're following on Twitter or FriendFeed," said Heymans and Viswanathan. "The results are specific to you, so you need to be signed in to your Google Account to use Social Search. If you use Gmail, we'll also include your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups. And if you use Google Reader, we'll include some websites from your subscriptions as part of your social search results."

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The move appears part of Google's strategy to continue to tweak its core search business to make searches as exact and specific as possible -- lessen the distance, in other words, between what a user wants to find and his or her ability to find it fast. That Social Search has a social networking flavor is no accident; Google has looked to expand its social networking capabilities at the same time social networking behemoths like Facebook and Twitter have been updating their platforms to perform better search functions.

"This translates to a public social web of content that has special relevance to each person," wrote Heymans and Viswanathan.