Google launches +1, a new social step

The company's answer to Facebook's "like" buttons is an incremental social addition that's wired into Google services and search results.

Google +1 button

Google, having failed to out-Facebook Facebook and to out-Twitter Twitter with Buzz, began a more modest attempt today to build social-networking features into its Web presence: the +1 button.

The +1 button lets people recommend Web sites to those in their social circle. Web site operators now can add +1 buttons to their own sites; Google and partners such as The Washington Post, O'Reilly, and Best Buy already are adding the feature, Google +1 programmer Evan Gilbert said in a blog post.

"With a single click you can recommend that raincoat, news article, or favorite sci-fi movie to friends, contacts, and the rest of the world. The next time your connections search, they could see your +1's directly in their search results, helping them find your recommendations when they're most useful," Gilbert said.

Google sites using the +1 buttons include the Android Market, Blogger, Product Search, and YouTube, the company said. The company also has offered Web developer tools for adding +1 buttons to pages.

The button may be new to Google, but it's not new to the Net. Facebook's like button is already a fixture.

The +1 button, though, is connected to Google's search results--a potentially powerful incentive for Web developers to add the button. Sites that get a lot of +1 clicks could fare better in search results. And--if people have actually taken the trouble to identify their social networks on Google services--could influence friends' search results.

Social networks have transformed how people use the Internet, exemplified by the hours they spend keeping up with friends, family, co-workers, and others on Facebook. As Google has grown beyond being a mere search engine to a company that offers a wide range of online services, its difficulties injecting social-networking signals and features into its services have become more glaring.

Yesterday, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt took the rap for Google's social shortcomings . He wrote memos but didn't follow up enough: "I was busy," he said.

The Orkut social network is used only in some small niches, and Buzz--despite being wired into the widely used Gmail--was largely a dud. Google has taken a more incremental strategy of late, of which +1 is the latest step.

Other examples of this more modest approach: Google has been slowly beefing up members' profile pages to make them a bit more of a social hub, and it added local and social recommendations with the Hotpot service that now is merely an unnamed feature of Google Places.

 

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