Why Google should integrate social search now.

With still no indication as to when Google.me is likely to surface Google needs to demonstrate a commitment to the social web.

The longer Google goes with no visible social strategy the further it falls behind the competition both in the ability to corner a share of the market but also in public perception. Google already has a checkered past as far as the social web is concerned and many feel they cannot trust the search giant to deliver in this area.

What next?

A quick kill would probably be to integrate social search within the main results; give users the option as to whether they want to include results from your social circle by default.

Integrated social results
Social shares integrated into search

Social results would modify traditional results showing both alongside each other - pages with more shares, tweets etc. could out rank those with a lower traditional page rank and, ultimately, bring the page rank up. Normal results could give an indication as to who is sharing them.

Does it have to stop at "your" social circle?

As more social results are gathered they should be pushing items to the fore for everyone to see (hence the need for shares, likes and tweets to affect page rank). Those without a social profile can, therefore, also reap the benefit.

What of privacy?

Any share information that Google could show from around the web would obviously have to reflect the original privacy settings at the source - not a problem when reading with a source such as Facebook. For those with a Google profile privacy settings would be directly integrated but Google could take a tip from Facebook and extend the options available for allowing your profile to be displayed within search results.

For starters there would have to be an initial opt to even include your profile when including your shares, otherwise it would be included in "and x others" with no removable link or other means identification. Obviously, details should not be shown of private accounts - there's a reason that they are private.

Provided that you're willing to be identifiable with search results Facebook style options could be the order of the day. Who do you want to be visible to? Friends only, friends of friends or everyone? This granularity could even he applied to those profiles that you personally want displayed in your results. Who do you want to see: just results from your social circle or from further out?

Integrating social results could perhaps start small - including shares from Google Reader & Buzz just to test the water - then expand to other social services such as Twitter and Facebook.

Learning by doing?

Interestingly, Google has now provided Orkut (the oft forgotten social network) with functionality to create different groups of "friends" for different purposes - purely context based - enable you to share different things with different groups far easier than with Facebook permissions.

Rob Diana ponders (quite logically) that Google.me will be the culmination of everything Google is (or has been) doing in the social space - what I have been saying for a while now. Others agree.

With their toes dipped in the water and the targetted acquisition of various companies it is apparent that Google are trying to build an overall framework on which to build Google.me but the timetables involved have many left thinking "I'll believe it when I see it".

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