Now we know Google’s master-plan for integrating Google+ ever more deeply into the Google ecosystem: Pour the whole thing into Google search. Starting today, Google+ members, and to a lesser extent others who are signed into Google, will be able to search against both the broader web and their own Google+ social graph. That’s right; Google+ circles, photos, posts and more will be integrated into search in ways other social platforms can only dream about.
Google calls the search update “ “Search plus Your World.” Jack Menzel, product management director of search, explained that now Google+ members will be able to “search across information that is private and only shared to you, not just the public web.”
Google calls this access to “your web.” So instead of all the public information that is already available to everyone searching via Google, so you can see information that you posted into Google’s new social network and on some of Google’s other services like Picasa Web.
Menzel explained that starting today, Google+ results will be blended in with the traditional “authoritative results,” but clearly annotated. Type in a topic of interest, like “Rome,” and along with maps, travel info, historical references, you’ll find a post your friend wrote in Google+ about a recent trip to Rome. That post, though, will only appear if it’s been shared with you or if the post is public. Likewise, an image search will seamlessly blend the anonymous web with your web images and those of anyone you’re connected to — as long as they’ve shared them with you. Each image will be labeled as from “you” or with the name of your connection.
It’s a significant blurring of the line between the web as we know it and the web as you and your Circles of friends know it. Google’s Menzel admits, though, that those “your world” results are only as good as the information in the posts and on the photos. Many people post photos with the original JPEG file names. This will not help in the “plus Your World” search as, says Menzel, Google applies the same ranking standards to social graph data as it does to the rest of the web.
You’ll also see results for public profiles of those you don’t follow or have in any circles. Naturally, the new Google Search will allow you to add them right from the results page. Similarly, when you search for a topic, Google will helpfully return results with “prominent people” who are experts in that topic. Yes, you can follow them direct from the results, as well.
At every turn, if you’re part of Google+. Google’s new search tools will only pull you further in, ensuring that the still young social engine is top of mind. As Google sees it, you’re getting more relevant results, because this is the information and the people you choose to connect with in the first place.
Delivering information that is shared, ostensibly, only between small groups of people could raise some privacy and security red flags. To counter that, Google’s Search Across Your World only works if you’re signed into Google+ and searching on Google’s secure search at https://www.google.com. Once you start using Search plus Your World, by the way, you’re not stuck with it. Google is adding a handy toggle button that’ll let you switch back at any time to good-old-fashioned authoritative search from people you probably don’t know.
Last year, I joked that Google would place a “plus sign” next to the Google logo on its venerable search page. I even described a service much like the Search plus Your World. Clearly this was not such a crazy idea. Now the questions are how far will this go and how far will it take Google+? Is this the big lever Google needed propel the Google+ social platform forward and past rivals like Facebook and Twitter? It’s definitely a turning point and it’ll be interesting to see how Facebook, in particular responds. Is it time for Facebook to finally launch that fabled Facebook Search Engine?