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It’s Complicated: The Awkward Socialization Of Search
All hail the vision of truly socialized search — where results and experience are personalized, drawing on social graphs, browsing history and reams of input data to deliver on the concept. Our expectations for absolute interconnectivity of environments and extensive personalization have us drooling over this concept of search at a glance.
But, taking the official and absolutely imperfect debut of Google’s Search Plus Your World as an illustration, we can safely say the market reality is out of whack with this vision. We are nowhere near the promise of the real deal on this. Yet, our penchant for personalization tricks us into short-term affairs with these would-be players. We can say this even of this new shiny Google thing.
As you by now know, Google has launched a search personalization feature called Search Plus Your World – which extracts material from Google+ — essentially integrating recommendations, results, and references from your circles to your search results. Is this appropriate, truly socialized, personalized search or not? Alas, no. I find myself musing on several things, as I look at what feels like a half-hearted overture.
The Sheer Improbability Of Referencing Your Total World
In order to deliver perfectly and authentically on this hallowed search concept, all across the land, many entities must cooperate and expose themselves on the back-end. Exactly how many entities must play along with the mass data game? The answer is: all of them. In order to service legitimate, socialized search personalization, every single platform or social network used by our friends, peers and business networks must participate: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, Tagged, Orkut, Meetup, Ning. The list goes on and on.
So, is it enough to have Google+ social data feeding the equation? Why even ask? Of course it is not. How could it be? We all know that no one network is a perfect cross-section of our worlds, interests and our casts of characters, both business and personal. And, no one person has the same mosaic of preferred social nets. Our circle-laden worlds are incredibly complicated to map.
If you imagine that Google cares about this exclusion of other social-net data that renders it so narrow in its execution of Search Plus Your World, you must believe they will eventually evolve this to a better, more inclusive place. But, I don’t see it happening.
Even if all players — Facebook and Twitter come to mind — made their data available, would Google ever relinquish the experience in this manner? There are so many proprietary data and branding interests to bridge, that such large-scale cooperation is unfathomable. So, without mass unwalled inclusion of all entities, the concept can and will never be a totality. How can anything short of totality adequately quench our personalization thirst?
We May Have Reached Our Limits
Given how much cooperation must occur — and how many entities are implied — are there just too many contortions to getting to where we hope to be? Has our quest for social search utopia reached its limits? Is it possible or even desirable to return to a simpler place? Have we reached the point of no return? Will we be forever caught in the massive conflict of interest that keeps us from getting the caliber of socialized search we so crave?
Well, what would be a simpler place?
It seems to me that the truest enactment of this concept — reflecting some reasonable level of collaboration between data parties — would be to let the consumer choose his or her factors and filters based on preferred social networks, once the cooperation is assured. Simple as that. Right?
So, as I take a look at all of us in the mirror — consumers who are also ad tech and media executives — I find it somewhat sad that we continue to settle for inauthentic executions on our strident wish for excellent, thorough, personalized socialized search. We are stuck in some middle land that’s too complicated for the pitance of personalization it actually delivers.
As with all shiny but limited things, then, I give this search toy its place. If I really want to know what my friends and peers think, I may start at the place where social search lives. But, in quick succession, I am more likely to: read a friend or thought-leader’s blog directly; message one of my community or society mailing lists; email a friend or confidante 1:1; pick up the phone and call said friend; invite her for a glass of wine; show up at her door and suggest we sit on the porch and talk about it over a bottle of wine all night long. For me, the real deal always wins the race and short-cuts complicate things every time.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.