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Google Rolling Out Social Search: But Does It Leverage Facebook?

By - January 27, 2010

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Forget the iPad, today Google is taking another step toward its stated goal of “making search more social.” There’s a lot of goodness in here, in terms of features and approach, but it’s just silly to pretend you can do any of this without directly addressing the 400 million-person elephant in the room called Facebook. Put simply: I can’t figure out if this new service uses my Facebook social graph. And to my mind, that’s a problem.

From the blog post announcing the public beta of social search (first announced at Web 2 late last year):

We think there’s tremendous potential for social information to improve search, and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. We’re leaving a “beta” label on social results because we know there’s a lot more we can do. If you want to get the most out of Social Search right away, get started by creating a Google profile, where you can add links to your other public online social services.

Indeed – a lot more, like make it really easy to use your Facebook social graph, the way tons of other sites and apps do. Why not just use Facebook Connect? Hang on a tick, the video giving us an overview of the service says once you create that Google Profile, you can add connections via Blogger, Twitter, and “any other online networks you might be a part of” (45 seconds in). Might that include Facebook?

OK dear readers, I’m going to do it. I’m gonna make a Google Profile, just to find out…. Well, I’m still a bit perplexed. You can add any URL as a “Link” in your profile, so I added my Facebook pages. However, once I got through the initial form (which was not simple – I had to fill out all the info I already did with Facebook and LinkedIn, and my own name is not available as a profile URL, not /johnbattelle, not jbattelle. Darn! I picked /johnlinwoodbattelle, so now you all know my middle name…) Er, anyway, there *was* a prompt to “Share It On Facebook” after all that…

Aha! Maybe this will get my Facebook social graph goodness into Google Social Search?

Not that I could tell. Just a simply “share on Facebook” implementation, declaring my profile to my FB pals. But no deep integration. As far as I can tell, my Facebook social graph will not inform my social searchin’ on Google. As I understand it from reading previous coverage of the product, Google social search *will* leverage FriendFeed, recently purchased by Facebook. But as far as I can tell, it does not leverage Facebook proper.

And that, to my mind, is just silly. Silly in the main, because as a consumer, clear, direct, and transparent integration with Facebook would be a huge *win* for my understanding of Google’s social searching. Wouldn’t it? Or am I missing something? (Besides the competitive issues, of course…)

I’ve pinged Google and other sources to find out if I’m just deeply in the dark….

Update: Google has provided me an answer to my initial question:

“If someone links to his Facebook account from his Google profile, Social Search may surface that user’s public profile page. These are the same public profile pages already available on a search of Google.com and other search engines today. While we’re interested to continue expanding the comprehensiveness of Social Search, we do not currently use your Facebook connections as part of Google Social Search.”

What I’d like to know then is this: Why not?

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6 thoughts on “Google Rolling Out Social Search: But Does It Leverage Facebook?

  1. Luis says:

    We’re betting on social search and its ability to tap your social graph at Stumpedia.com. Assuming people will go out of their way to complete a google profile is very unlikely to result in mass market adoption and probably not the best approach.

  2. My hunch is that many users trust Google about as much as a telemarketer or a vacuum cleaner salesperson — and FaceBook, although they’re willing to open up more, are not willing to sell our contact lists to Google.

    Have you done a similar experiment with twitter? Are they any more willing to disclose such personal details, such that Google can data-mine them?

  3. Dave says:

    “…we do not currently use your Facebook connections as part of Google Social Search”

    i don’t think Google realizes they’ve already lost the war for social. if they knew what was going on, they’d be leveraging the hell out of their own primary social networks — that is, Gmail & YouTube. (sorry, ok Orkut if you’re in Brazil or India maybe).

    Facebook — and more specifically Facebook Connect — is an unstoppable juggernaut. if/when they get Payment integrated into Connect — and they will — they will be able to provide unparallelled benefits to consumers, advertisers & merchants all over the web.

    Google still dominates Search & Video, and is close to dominating Email & Docs. they also have a big bet on Mobile that looks pretty good so far. but they are not doing well at all with Social, and they appear to be falling further behind Facebook.

    Google should simply pay whatever it takes to get Twitter now. That is their best bet to remain competitive.

  4. Dave says:

    “…we do not currently use your Facebook connections as part of Google Social Search”

    i don’t think Google realizes they’ve already lost the war for social. if they knew what was going on, they’d be leveraging the hell out of their own primary social networks — that is, Gmail & YouTube. (sorry, ok Orkut if you’re in Brazil or India maybe).

    Facebook — and more specifically Facebook Connect — is an unstoppable juggernaut. if/when they get Payment integrated into Connect — and they will — they will be able to provide unparallelled benefits to consumers, advertisers & merchants all over the web.

    Google still dominates Search & Video, and is close to dominating Email & Docs. they also have a big bet on Mobile that looks pretty good so far. but they are not doing well at all with Social, and they appear to be falling further behind Facebook.

    Google should simply pay whatever it takes to get Twitter now. That is their best bet to remain competitive.

  5. remmy says:

    John,

    I’ve been in the search space for some time now. I do think there’s much more to do with respect to structured data, but social connections is fantasyland. If you really think it through it doesn’t make a lot of sense beyond the buzz phrases. If you want to know what your connections think — then ask them directly.

    Stop wishing for a miracle John. It isn’t going to happen.

  6. Politics says:

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