VentureBeat has a nice Q&A with Google’s Marissa Mayer on how the search engine is considering using social data to improve its search results — what I’ve described as "Search 4.0" as a generational jump in my Search 3.0 article from earlier this year. Some highlights below:
Social search is hard, in that many searches are sensitive, so letting people in your network know what you are looking for raises serious privacy issues.
Google might try doing more with labeling or tagging results as a way to implement social search. Marissa talked about the existing Google Co-Op service being a success this way in terms of health searches. Personally, Co-Op seems to have largely failed to catch on, from what I’ve seen. We also know that Yahoo’s experiment with tagging search results didn’t go very far (see The Promise & Reality Of Mixing The Social Graph With Search Engines for more on that).
Marissa raised the idea of Amazon-like recommendations. To some degree, Google already does this through its personalized search feature. However, the suggestion is that Google could allow you to have a network of friends and contacts, and that their searching activity could be used to influence what you see. Again, Yahoo (among others) had thoughts of doing exactly the same thing years ago but never moved forward with it.
Gmail comes up often. It’s clear Google continues to see Gmail contacts as a starting point for implementing any type of social influenced product. Google The Stealth Social Network? has more background on some existing moves the company has already done in this space.
Would Google let others bring their social data to the table to re-rank Google’s results? That doesn’t seem likely based on the interview, with Marissa in particular talking about how other sites using Google’s core data aren’t allowed to re-rank it.
Be sure to also check out Eric Enge’s interview from earlier this month with Grant Ryan on social search. Grant’s from Eurekster, the real pioneer in social search. How the company thought social search might go changed when it collided with reality (a lesson many fail to remember when they get excited about social search). A key part:
As far as social networking and integration of search, as you are probably aware, we (Eurekster) had a deal with Friendster around social networking search. That was one of our first deals. The first crack at the idea of social search was that a lot of people find information through people they know. We actually did an implementation with Friendster, where everyone had different search results based on their friends and friends of friends, and that was quite a sophisticated application.
But, people have got so many friends that look for different things that it’s kind of all over the place. What happens within groups of users? This gave us the idea and impetus for the Swicki product, which is now the core focus of Eurekster, where if you have got a topic and a group of people that are interested in that topic, that’s where the group of the people watch for what they could be learning from them. That’s where it really adds a lot of value – at the social level.
I’m still working on my promised "Search 4.0: Social Search" piece to recap some of the latest moves and where things may be going. I’d better get it done! But my aforementioned article, The Promise & Reality Of Mixing The Social Graph With Search Engines, has lots of background here, especially from the middle part down.