Google's strength has always been its ability to search the entire Web in less time than it takes Russell Brand to get out of a pair of leather strides. But today the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming, so Google's Social Search, arriving in beta today and over the next few days, is designed to filter that mass of information by showing you what your online friends are saying.
The idea is to highlight your friends' content when you search for particular terms. For example, if you want to see what people are saying about the Apple iPad, simply Google 'iPad'. You'll get a list of news and comment from around the world, including our in-depth and spangly coverage. The list has news at the top, followed by real-time results, image results, and unfiltered results. Then, beneath those, you see the Social Search listing of status updates, tweets, blog posts and photos by people you connect with on the Web.
Google knows who your mates are by looking at your lists of friends on Facebook, connections on Twitter, blogs that you subscribe to in Google Reader, and so on. You can add any of your profiles from around the Web and Google will be able to pull content from your connections. You need a Google account and you must be signed in to see results, but you don't have to give Google any passwords for other sites, just the URL of your public profile.
Google pulls content from your extended social circle, including friends of friends. Search for a subject like iPad and you'll see whether your best mate wants one or your sister would rather share a bathroom with Cheryl Cole than buy one. Look for a picture with Image Search and you'll see Social Search results from your friends' photos on Picasa and Flickr. Next to the results are two links: 'My social circle' shows a list of friends, and how you connect, and 'My social content' allows you to manage how you appear in other people's Social Search results.
Here's Google's video. Social Search rolls out on Google.com from today. If you don't see it yet, try signing out of your Google profile and back in again.