Google has announced that it is +1 Button, a way to let user put their “stamp of approval” on search results – for their friends and Google contacts to see, and for Google to analyze. At this time, and probably for the foreseeable future, Facebook users won’t be able to participate to the search. That’s understandable, as Google would rather not help Facebook in any way. At the same time, it’s a bummer because most people have their friends in Facebook, not Google contcats… And while Google already partners with Twitter, it doesn’t seem like Twitter users can contribute to +1. Eventually, +1 might use non-Google user data as Google believes that this will eventually make search results more relevant.
But does it? In many ways, the social web is sometime a worldwide popularity contest and it’s fair to say that having a lot of visibility, or followers, does not make one more “relevant” (influential, maybe). You can just look at how many “likes” a page with “Microsoft sucks” or “I hate Apple” gets, to understand that. There is also the possibility that this metric could be gamed, for a much lower cost than creating link-farms or other search-engine tactics.
As usual, the best thing to do is to follow the money: despite being relatively upbeat about using “social” data to make search results better, Google +1 will not affect current search results which are the foundation of Google’s multi-billion dollars business . However, Google has revealed that it is somehow using the author “authority” (typically, how many friends you have), but again, not *directly* in the page ranking algorithm. On the other hand, Bing jumped in with both feet.
This means that Google doesn’t want to mess a search engine algorithm that is still the best out there, even if it is not perfect by any means. While, the company is upbeat about the prospect of using social data (a cool topic), it also recognizes that there is a gap between popularity and relevancy. Google is not yet abandoning the quest for relevancy.