If you’ve been hoping that someone’s search engine would turn into a social network, today is your lucky day.
Sure, Google and Bing have been making search results more social, and Bing shows Facebook “likes” in its search results, and Google has its +1 button experiment … but that’s nothing compared to what Blekko is doing.
Blekko is turning its search results page into something akin to Facebook Lite.
If you login to Blekko via your Facebook account, the search results page will now include Facebook status updates from your friends that are (hopefully, but not always) related to your search term. Here’s an example search for “google +1,” with Facebook features galore in the right column.
In this case, the Facebook comments are somewhat related and perhaps add a little to the search results: Greg Jarboe’s message is at least about Google, but it’s about Google Video, not +1. David Harry’s messages are both related to +1, but they’re essentially duplicate updates. (Still, those two are way more relevant than Blekko’s organic results; there’s not a single result about Google +1 showing on page one.)
In other cases, the Facebook comments add nothing whatsoever to the search. No disrespect to my friend Misty, but this conversation between her and her husband is just irrelevant noise on a search for “U2 tickets.”
In today’s announcement, Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta says that “what your friend says about information is as important as any expert’s advice could ever be,” but these examples cast a lot of doubt on that claim. And I suspect a great many other queries would do the same.
The Problem: Search Is Not Social
It makes sense to use social signals to influence search results; they can be good indicators of relevance, trust and authority. But it should probably stop there. Social networking is full of noise, and we expect search engines to eliminate noise, not collect it. (Heck, Blekko is the search engine that unilaterally banned the “noise” of content farms a few months ago.)
Search engines are tools. Search is transactional. It’s driven by specific needs and tasks. Social networking, for the general population, is the opposite. It’s where you go to hang out with friends, to chat and share pictures.
Much like Google +1, this new Blekko feature presumes that searchers want their search results to be more social.
What about you? Do you like the idea of seeing Facebook comments and updates alongside your search results? Comments are open.