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Alot of us had kinda been anticipating this move from Google. With the growing usage of Twitter, the social sphere of influence looked as if it was firmly within Twitter’s grasp. This past week we’ve seen the mask come off, and Twitter’s business model being more clearly exposed.
Why get in the fight for search, when you can supply ammo to both parties?
Both Microsoft and Google have signed deals to license the data, and utilise it to further improve their algorithm. Microsoft also have a deal with Facebook for access to their social data, but considering Bing’s market share – no one really cares.
Both companies have been indexing Tweets for some time, however up until this point the entire Twitter linkgraph was unavailable for them to utilise. Enter the Twitter firehose feed.
Whilst Microsoft were (for a change) the ones who released their Twitter offering first – leaving Google apparently spouting hot air on their blog, today that all changed with the announcement of Google social search.
Why it matters to seo’s.
This is huge. Firstly, it validates the importance of friend connections. These are important in the offline world, so it follows that they should be important in the online world as well. We’ve seen Google quietly use this data already. Google reader already suggests blogs from within your social circle. I’ve noticed friends of friends’ blog’s being suggested to me exactly in this way. They have also a social graph API which dips into all the profiles that Google knows about you and collates them together. This too is used within a few of their web apps. Google profile for one already knows that I manage a number of sites, and thus may want to add them to my profile. Google Analytics provides the necessary data for that. It’s actually beginning to get quite scary how much data they have and can use to further their goals.
Social search is an extension of this, utilising the data that Google already knows about your person, and using it to enhance the search experience. This is closing in on the pipe dream of Brin and Page – who basically want to know everything about you, and use that data in whatever way they want. If this is something that takes off, and gets integrated into the main search engine – we can expect to see local results, from local contacts making their way into personalised SERP’s.
Today a search engine. Tommorow…?
In a way, this is the biggest announcement with regard to a learning algorithm that Google have made to date. Everything else before has been pure maths. At least the public perception has been so. Counting the link profile, and showing relevance accordingly (gross over-simplification I know but you get my drift), whereas now we are going to see how Google intends to use the web’s natural social graph along with its existing data to provide better results – and without so much of hint of an opt in box.
It’s also a sure fire way to make everyone and their mother fill out as much data as they possibly can for their Google profile page, and indeed adopt Google’s friend connect widget on their site. If these are going to influence other people’s results, then it makes sense to group together as many of your friends as possible. Once Google connects each one of the Google profile pages together – they’ve got a pretty good platform to roll out other social features and take on Facebook further down the line.
Of course this is all speculation, but it does appear to be the direction the web is heading. Good for searches, probably bad for privacy.