This month, Google released their quarterly financial results, claiming over $14 billion of revenue in the past 3 months. These earnings reports show that the vast majority of Google’s dollars are still coming in thick and fast from one website- google.com, and all the advertising that site entails.
Despite lots of recent talks around the importance of apps and mobile browsing, standard search on the world wide web is big business, and the more money it brings in to companies such as Google, the more these internet giants need to be at the forefront of making sure searching is useful, accurate and intuitive- introducing ‘Social Search’.
For thousands of years, humans have been asking those around them for advice and suggestions, but it’s taken a lot of work to bring that to web 2.0.
In essence, this new era of searching is an attempt to provide accurate search results which are tailored to us based upon our available social data.
Social search has the potential to reinvent our browsing experience. Rather than having the same clinical results appear time after time, it is exciting to think that our searching will be ‘alive’, changing and transforming based upon our online friendships and our own recommendations and history.
Google has long been victim of abuse over its complicated page ranking algorithms, with more vocal internet users criticising the company over what they define as ‘stupid’ search results. Well I’ve got news for you, vocal internet people- until Google becomes all-seeing, all-knowing and can predict what were about to search, it will never be 100% accurate, that’s why when searching for ‘penguin’ it feels the need to show pictures of penguins, brands called ‘Penguin’, local deals on ‘Penguins’ and our friends on facebook who ‘like’ the adorable species.
Social search is an attempt to get better, more interconnected results, and I think it goes a long way towards making Google more like God.
But is this just a ploy by the search behemoths to grab more of our data or to spread themselves thinly in the hope of getting more advertising revenue? Maybe. Or it could genuinely be an effort to make our online experience better and faster. But if there was a time to make sure our online, publically available data was secure and appropriate, it would be yesterday. Here’s an example: I’m a youth worker and was recently searching for courses on how to understand self harm amoung teenagers. The last thing I want is for my twitter followers to be directed to dodgy teenage websites based on the search terms ‘teenage self harm’. This context would be apparent in a ‘real’ social situation, but online it is absent, and it is only a matter of time before the embarrassingly awkward ramifications come to light.
Social search, like it or loathe it, is here. So make use of it and give your online data a good spring clean- we all hate people who are useless at giving directions, and if you’re the online equivalent, you will be just as despised.