Google’s new +1 service is not just about Google taking on Facebook. It’s also a great way for Google to make its search results relevant again.
Researcher Vivek Wadwha is largely to blame (or credit) for calling attention to Google’s increasingly spammy search results. His post for TechCrunch on New Year’s Day entitled “Why We Desperately Need A New (And Better) Google” got people talking, and may have been one big reason why Google changed its search algorithms last month to penalise content farms like Demand Media.
Last night at a dinner for journalists sponsored by alternative search engine Blekko, Wadwha was at it again: he insisted that Google’s search results still suck, that the changes didn’t help, and that any search engine that relies entirely on algorithms will always be gamed by scammers looking to divert more of the search firehose their way — there’s just too much money at stake.
But what other solution is there?
Blekko thinks that editorial curation — the model that Yahoo used way back in 1994 — can work.
But it’s slow. Millions of new Web pages are created every day. A lot of them are garbage, but who has time to go through them to find the few nuggets of gold?
The obvious answer: every user who visits your search engine.
Instead of relying on a team of editors like Yahoo did way back in 1994, let users rate search results themselves. Then, use those ratings as a factor in the rankings.
I suggested this would be a natural step for Facebook, which has been mapping out people’s social graphs for years now.
Wadwha agreed that Facebook could make a killer search engine if it ever decided to, but thought that the company had (wisely) not decided to get into the search space. Instead, it signed a deal with Microsoft — which owns a small chunk of Facebook — to incorporate its social graph into Bing results.
Even so, it wouldn’t address the problem. Google still has nearly 60% market share in the U.S., and much higher internationally. What Wadwha really wanted was for Google to use this kind of social information to make its results better.
Today, he got his wish. And Google didn’t have to team up with Facebook to make it come true.