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Google Wants You to 'Like' +1: But Will You?

Google is excited about its new social recommendation service '+1,' but will you feel the same way? I'm not so sure. The +1 feature is essentially Google's answer to the Facebook 'Like' button. But this new Google feature is feeling more like a flop than a rip-off of the Facebook Like button.

When you search on Google a +1 button appears beside every search result if you have opted-in to the new service. When you find a particular Web page you like you can hit the +1 button to automatically recommend that site to friends making similar Web searches. Google plans on offering Web publishers the opportunity to embed +1 buttons on their Websites in the future.

Google's +1 is currently a search experiment and requires you to have a public Google profile. You can try out +1 by activating the service on Google's search experiments page.

Once you're up and '+1'ing,' your recommendations will show up under a dedicated tab on your public Google Profile. The +1's of people in your Google Social Circle will also start appearing in your search results. Keep in mind that +1 is not a private service so everything you share using +1 is public.

Plus One is an interesting new addition to Google, but for Google's new social feature to be a real success there a few problems Google needs to address.

When To '+1'

Google's new service is starting off solely as an addition to search results with +1 buttons showing up next to each entry on your results page. If you find a site or page you particularly like you can click +1 to share it with your Social Circle on Google.

And this is where Google's +1 hits its first snag. To recommend a site you have to either click on the +1 button before you leave the search results page or remember to click back to your search results after you've checked out the site.

This is very impractical and doesn't seem likely to gain much traction beyond early adopters. The beauty of Facebook's 'Like' button (or Digg buttons for that matter) is that it's right there on the page you're viewing. Google's +1 button is unlikely to become popular until it's sitting alongside the other Like, Digg, Reddit, and Tweet buttons currently available on blogs and Websites.

Who Are You Sharing With?

Google's +1 lets you recommend sites to people you're connected to through your Google Social Circle. These 'Google friends' are an amalgam of your Google talk buddies, Gmail contacts and connections from other social networks that you've connected to your Google Profile. These can be services such as Twitter, FriendFeed, Buzz and so on. The problem is it's not as obvious who the people in your Social Circle are compared to Facebook or Twitter where your connections are always at hand in an easy-to-find list.

Your Google Social Circle can be gigantic since it includes not only the people you're directly connected to, but also the people your connections are connected to. My Google Social Circle, for example, includes more than 1,200 people. That's more people than I could possibly follow on Twitter or would be interested in sharing my life with on Facebook. So sharing with Plus One is like throwing recommendations into an impersonal crowd compared to the online communities you can find on other services.

No Centralization, No Interaction

Unlike other social networks, Google's social experience doesn't really have a central repository where all your +1's can surface for other users. If I hit the Facebook Like button on a news story, that like shows up in the news feeds of my friends. So I know that when I share something on Facebook there's a good chance my Facebook friends will see it and comment on it. The same can be said for Twitter and Digg. That's not the case with +1. Once you +1 something that's the end of the social interaction. There's no way to have your Google Social Circle comment on the recommendation or a way to share the content with a specific set of people.

Sure, it's nice that I can see all of my +1's by visiting my Google Profile, but that makes +1 nothing more than a quick-and-dirty substitute for bookmarking services such as Delicious.

Perhaps Google plans on letting people share their +1 recommendations in a more centralized manner in the future, but right now +1 is just not that compelling.

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