The big news in social search last week was Google's announcement of their "+1" tool for search results. In theory, this was Google's answer to Facebook's "Like" button and another stab at making normal search more of a social experience. It seems that most people forgot that this has already been done.
Bing has already been incorporating Facebook Likes into their social search results for some time. Users can't recommend the sites within Bing's searches like Google's +1 BUT they can share links within the search via Facebook, Twitter or email. Taking the phrase "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" seriously, Bing seems to have really drawn first blood on social search.
It just seems that everyone forgot.
Why Google +1 Won't Work (for now)
The +1 is still in an experimental mode right now (you can activate it here) so it may be unfair to judge too quickly. But I'm going to do it anyway. As it stands now, you must have a Google profile to be able to make a +1 recommendation. While your other Google contacts are searching, they can see links that you have personally recommended while you can see links any of your other Google contacts have recommended as you browse links. Seems cool but there are some flaws in my opinion.
Registration is one thing. In order to even make a fair recommendation, you have to be a registered Google user. I'm sure a lot of this is Google's way of trying to gain access to the same level of information Facebook has in their network. However, I feel this registration step will be a barrier to use for many people.
In addition, what my Facebook friends recommend mean more to me than what my Google contacts recommend. Many of my Google contacts (people I've emailed casually) don't know me as well as many of my Facebook friends. There's a level of personalization a Facebook recommendation has that a Google one does not. Bing's partnership with Facebook taps into that personalization well.
The biggest barrier? User experience. You can only recommend a link with +1 inside the Google search itself. As of now, there are no other "+1" buttons within web pages themselves like there are "Tweet" and "Like" sharing icons. If you are clicking on an unfamiliar link, the only way a user is able to give their +1 'seal of approval' is by clicking BACK to the original search page. It's not something I can see the average person taking the time to do.
+1 also has no impact on search rankings. Zero. I assume that Google is trying to preserve the integrity of their search rankings by not letting +1 falsely inflate results. But that also takes the social out of the search just a bit more.
This post isn't to bash Google at all. I love the Android OS on my phone, I love their products like Voice, Goggles, Gmail etc. However, I don't think social is necessarily their strong point. For +1 to take off, they'll have to start with making the UX for that feature a little easier and less cumbersome. Allowing +1 to affect organic search should give more incentive for people to use it as well.
For now, in regards to having a truly social search, I feel that Bing is leading the way. It's just that nobody knows it.
What do you all think about +1? Will it take flight or flop?