The One Big Thing: Real-Time Social Search

The One Big Thing you need to know about this week is real-time social search.

The two big news stories this week were Google’s roll-out of real-time search and Facebook’s new privacy features.

While Google’s real-time search indexes new and freshly updated Web pages, blogs, and Tweets, reports have it that Facebook and MySpace updates will soon follow. If, as All Facebook contends, the social network’s new privacy settings have the effect of opening up a vast amount of user-created content to the search engines, then you have the foundation for real-time social search.

Both developments are important in an of themselves but if you put them together, the implications are profound.

Google actually has social search in place as a Google Labs project. Google Social Search takes what it knows about your social graph–from Twitter, Flickr, Gmail, Google Reader, your Google Profile, any publicly available social network–and returns relevant content that members of your social network have created.

The following screenshot shows what the social search results look like when I do a search for Minnesota Vikings:

Google Social Search Screenshot - 121/10/09

As you can see, there’s a link to the Sports Apparel section of the Mall of America Web site because I am connected to Mall of America on Twitter. Likewise, I am also connected through Twitter to Judd Zulgad, the Vikings beat writer at Star Tribune, though you’d think I could get a link to one of his stories on the Vikings.

People trust people they know the most, be they people they’ve met in person or those with whom they’ve built a relationship online. If you trust the source of the information, the information holds more weight.

If, then, my search results include references from my networks, that information is likely to be much more influential than any other information on the search page. If I’m doing holiday shopping online, for example, information about the gifts I’m considering buying, at the time I’m considering buying it, will hold a lot of sway. Throw in real-time and I have a scrolling list of opinions from my trusted sources.

Consider politics: The Spin Room used to be reserved for after a debate. You watch the debate and the you get the panel of pundits pontificating about who won and who lost. I suspect that with real-time social search, people will now do a Google search for “presidential debate,” for example, and stay on that page as they watch the speech to get real-time reaction from both friends and strangers. And they’ll pay more attention, no doubt, to their friends.

Will your own personal political pundits be the most influential source for shaping your opinion about candidates?

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