Last week, Google announced it's answer to Facebook's Likes: Google +1. Will it be a Facebook killer? Will it usher in Google's social age? Will change the face of the web forever? Only time will tell. Until then, let's take a look at what +1 is. Here are a few posts to get you up to speed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RyY2-ofP4g&feature=player_embedded http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/1s-right-recommendations-right-when-you.html http://searchengineland.com/meet-1-googles-answer-to-the-facebook-like-button-70569
On the surface, +1 is pretty much a Facebook Like with new clothes. When you +1 something, you're recommending that something to all of your social connections and the rest of the world. Behind the scenes, though, +1 has the ability to change the face of search.
For some time now, Google hasn't known what to do with Facebook Likes. Facebook hasn't tried to hide the fact that they're not Google's friend and the wall around Google's side of the garden is getting higher and higher, but Google knows that Facebook is important and Likes need to play into ranking and relevancy the same way Tweets do now. I don't think Google will start including +1 in it's algorithm just yet, but the inclusion of +1 as a social signal is imminent. One of the reasons that Google wants +1 data is because they can't see the correlation between a Facebook Like and relevancy. What better way to get data than by creating and studying a copy it? With +1, Google can get the data they want with their own property, no Facebook involved. Google can then apply the data they gather from +1 and apply it to Facebook likes and, Viola! Two social ranking signals with one stone. The impact of which could be huge.
Currently, Bing's partnership with Facebook puts Google at a severe disadvantage. Google has been lucky that Bing hasn't made more strides with their partnership with Facebook. Yes, Bing is continuing to grow market share, but they're still a long way off from making a dent in Google's. +1 is Google's chance to once again prove why they're number one by being the first search engine to include social signals in a meaningful way.
It's still too early to tell what impact +1 will have, though. Right now, +1 doesn't feel complete. At least not until Google rolls out the ability to add +1 to a webpage. Also, in it's current form, +1 isn't intuitive. It doesn't fit into the flow of a search. A searcher has to +1 something on the search results page. This is a problem because, one, the searcher hasn't found a result they like yet, and two, once they do find something they like, they may not be likely to return to that results page. The same goes for ads. Sure you can now +1 an ad, but will people really do that? +1ing (is that how you write that?) an ad has the same issues as a natural result: once you click the ad, if you found what you're looking for, you're not likely to go back and +1 it.
On a side note, +1 isn't a very good name. But that's just me. I also didn't like the names Wave, Buzz, Knol, or Hotpot, but I'm sure they have good reason.