Google has announced the +1 button which allows users to vote for specific search results, AdWords ads and (in a few months) pages on your website. The button is a vote to say you like the page, think it’s cool and would want to recommend it to your friends.
The key about this button is that your friends only see the recommendations when they are searching for the same thing you were searching for. This is in sharp contrast to Twitter and Facebook where you have to send the link when you are interested in it rather than when your friend is looking for the same thing. For news and current topical results Twitter & Facebook sharing is great, for ecommerce sites and non-topical content it doesn’t really work as well.
Google has built a business around showing users adverts and search results relevant to what they are searching for right now and this is why they have been able to monetise so much better than social networks.
There is a long standing argument that user data is easy to fake. It isn’t. Google has over 200 million Gmail users around the world and 133,000 people are using the Chrome extension to block sites from search results just 6 weeks after it launched.
In the tech community a lot of people have complained about the poor quality of Googles results but the vast majority of the complaints were constructive criticism – people want Google to get this right. If these people are willing to complain about things & download Chrome extensions then they will also be willing to give a quick +1 for pages and search results they find useful.
Google has failed at adding social layers before with Bookmarks, Searchwiki and Buzz but something tells me this time they might just have got it right. Even if the results are only used for testing algorithms (like the Chrome extension was) rather than actually influencing results this is clearly an important step forwards.