Google Social Search

By mike_danhofmike_danhof (1257092802|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Google and Bing get together with Twitter.

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This seems to be what Google wants, and who can really blame them? Anyway, on to the real content of the blog, which is…..

Social Search Integration

A few days ago, Google came to an agreement with Twitter to include results from tweets in results from Google searches. This was just a short time after Bing also came to a deal with Twitter (and also Facebook), to include searches from these social networking sites in its results. To read a bit more about the details of these agreements, check out this article, or this one. This only seems relevant, as the popularity of Twitter has continued to grow at incredible rates (see this article for more about Twitter's growth0. More and more people, companies, and organizations are using Twitter, and the Tweets are becoming more and more relevant and useful, and less about microblogging one's life (well, ok, most of the time).

Google's Social Search

Google set their social search up quite differently than Bing's. First, to even use it for Google, you have to sign up and have a Google Profile on the Google server. Then you have to input your own social sites manually (for example, www.twitter.com/mikedanhof for my Twitter account. You can also add Facebook, orkut, and several other social sites. What Google Social Search is then supposed to do is search all of your connections from these social networking sites, and give you any relevant results when you enter a query. So, to try, I did a search for [BlackBerry Storm 2] (yes, I am quite obsessed with my BlackBerry. That is why my favorite website is Crackberry. Since I follow many users on Twitter that tweet a lot about BlackBerries, and with the recent release of the BlackBerry Storm 2, I expected many results. At first, the results are the usual results that any Google search would produce. By clicking on "Options" near the top, a side bar pops out on the left that gives many options. By clicking on this, it will narrow the search to your connections that you have entered. This is what I did, and here is the result:

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Which led to this:

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But, I digress. I looked into this problem, and found that many other people have the same problem as I do. One of the issues may be that Google has not yet searched all my Twitter results, and thus does not have them indexed, and so cannot display any relevant results. Secondly, Social Search is still in the Google Experiment stage, meaning that it is very rough around the edges, and not even ready for a Beta release yet. However, it is a very good idea, and one that I think could be very useful. Since we rely on friends and contacts the most for information, having those results come up in a Google search would help make many searches just that more pertinent. It will take a lot of work and programming to get this to show up in a consistent fashion in Google, though, if it will ever make it to Beta stage.

Bing Twitter Search

On the other side of the fence, Bing introduced Twitter search and results a few days before Google. Their setup is quite different, though, than Google's take. First, the Twitter search is completely separate from the regular Bing search. Second, whenever you do a search for Twitter updates, it gathers ALL the relevant Twitter updates, whether or not you follow that user on Twitter. So, for example, my search of [Blackberry Storm 2] gave these results:

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Yes, many of the "Top Links" are relevant, but the fact that it shows all results for Twitter, especially for a hot topic like the Storm 2, can be problematic. Everyone who uses Twitter knows (or should know), that there are "bots" out there that just take all the "Trending Topics" and create a new tweet about all of them. These could certainly show up in your search results, and would not help at all. With the top links addition, though, it creates a lot more relevancy for the search results.

Bing Facebook Search

I did some searching for this, but was not able to find how to do it, or where it is in the development stages.

Final Thoughts

The integration of social networking sites into traditional searches definitely has some potential. As the video on the Official Google Blog shows}, you can find relevant information from your friends and contacts that could be quite useful. However, the drawback is all your friends/followers/contacts would have to be blogging or tweeting about the things you are searching for. Sure, some of the time they might be, but for the most part, they won't be. For example, I might be able to find some results for friends who have eaten at a certain restaurant here in Ann Arbor, but if I were going to Des Moines, it would be highly unlikely that I would find anything relevant.

As for Bing/Microsoft, sure, using all tweets about a topic may give some relevant results, but it is far less personal that what Google is trying to do with theirs. For popular topics, like, for instance Halloween, Bing may give better results, but for far more specialized topics, it may not give what you want to see.

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