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Google Hinting at Its Own Social Network?

Unlike our good friend Steve, Eric Schmidt is one of the “true believers” in social networking. Perhaps he’s just one of the “younger people” (or younger at heart people) that Ballmer said were so absorbed in the faddish nature of social networking, even though he is a couple months older than Ballmer.

Whatever the case, Schmidt is praising the power and popularity of social networks—and dropping hints about a Google social network in front of the New York Times.

Mr. Schmidt did say that over the next year, Google is planning to use information it has about the connections between its users, something techies call the “social graph,” to improve searches and other Google services.

This statement, naturally, raises a dozen questions. Is the next step beyond personalization socialization? How similar would this be to products that Yahoo has offered for years or the predictions we’ve heard for years now?

Perhaps more importantly, what information does Google have about the “connections between its users”? So far, things like Google Talk and GMail will add and remember someone that I’ve e-mailed once. Odds aren’t great that I’ll be interested in the results that they thought looked good when I can’t even remember who they are.

In general, I think personalization is more advanced—and far more helpful—than socialization. You have a reasonably good idea what a person is looking for based on their own past searches, but looking at their friends’ past searches is much less indicative. The only way this might ever be truly helpful is to use this data in a cumulative way—ranking a site higher because 80% of your friends found this site interesting when they searched on that keyword sort of thing.

Schmidt continued to expound upon Google’s social efforts:

He said the company would like to sell advertising for Facebook, a position currently enjoyed by Microsoft. And he highlighted Google’s existing social network service, Orkut, and its deal to sell ads on behalf of MySpace, the largest social networking site.

I’d love to know how he “highlighted” Orkut. Maybe their social results will be big in Brazil, too.

  • http://andreart.net andre

    i dont belive

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal
  • http://googlerankingbooster.com Ryan Bessling

    I thought Google was going to buy FaceBook!

    Ryan Bessling
    [link removed]

  • Maggi

    I think that the past searches of our friends and colleagues are actually quite relevant. Information-sharing is a common use for social-networking sites and sites like Twitter and Jaiku (which Google has just acquired…). We send eachother links to blogs and news articles, music and artwork, event listings, etc. On MySpace, we navigate our acquaintances’ “Friends” lists to find new bands they might be listening to – and then we go to those bands’ pages to get further recommendations from THEIR Friends lists. The ability for an advertiser to target webs of a social graph, instead of blanket demographic groups or just individual users, is a powerful tool that responds clearly to our current comsumer market.

    At the same time, users of social networking are constantly looking for avenues to build and develop new relationships. Facebook offers more than 20 different ways to “Poke” someone, not to mention applications like “Vampire” and “Fight Club” where users meet by engaging in virtual biting and boxing. A social networking site that provides its users with information (and even advertising) that is directly relevant to the interests of their acquaintances offers increased opportunities for “self-marketing” and, well, networking.

  • Jordan McCollum

    I don’t think that sharing links is quite what social search would be about. Social search sounds FAR more like “your friends searched for something like what you’re searching for, and they clicked on this, so this must be what you’ll want, too.”

    A click doesn’t actually mean a site is useful; it just means it looked that way on a SERP. In my experience, if people are sending a link via social networks, this link either has gain or will gain popularity around the Internet in general–and then it will show up in relevant search results anyway. (Like we used to see in queries for shoes.)

    Personally, the links I’ve seen on social networks are usually funny or news items. Meanwhile, I search for products and information–not the type of things my Facebook friends generally share.

    Then again, if you happen to have really good links on the New York Giants’ 1926 box scores, hit me up on Facebook.

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    One difference between personalized search and social search is that personalized search has the potential for keeping you inside the box in a sense. Because things you’ve shown interest in the past are given more prominence it could lead to stagnant thought.

    Social search on the other hand can still present thought that is new since it’s not solely based on your own history. It can even be seen as a natural progression of thought as many of us will learn from one source and use that source as a jumping off point.

    Both types of search have their pros as they do their cons.

  • http://www.xaby.com/webtalk Xaby

    Well, first thing that came to my mind is the size of Google and it’s dominance.

    They have lotsa data on hand, from tools like search engine, blogspot, gmail, adwords etc… and with all these leverage, it seems that Yahoo! and Microsoft are having a tough time playing catch up.

    What this means to consumer?
    Lesser choice. While Google changed how online advertising works for advertisers, it’s sheer dominance could one day work against consumers.

    Fingers crossed

  • http://anesthesia.mc Cialison

    it’s good to see Google making it’s way into the social media market without rehashing what’s already been done. the idea of “open” in development will make a lot of people happy that they aren’t being blacklisted for not knowing a proprietary language