Earlier this month, Google made a pretty major update to its search engine results. You may have noticed something different when you were logged into Gmail, but what exactly has changed?
It’s something that Google is calling Search plus Your World, and it’s an expansion on a concept that Google introduced just over two years ago: social search.
The idea behind social search was originally to personalize search results, making them more relevant to the individual. Back before the days of Google+, Google’s social search was dependent upon things like Gmail contacts or your Google Reader.
When you were logged into your Google account while executing a search, Google would find relevant content from others that you were associated with through your account, highlighting that content at the bottom of your search results.
While it was an exciting idea when it was first introduced, for most people, the original social search did not have a major effect on the way we searched the web.
However, since Google introduced Google+ last summer, it has created a way for users to indicate not only relevant content, but also the nature of their connections with others who are sharing that content.
The announcement that Google made a few weeks back is about more than merely adding a few personalized hits to the results pages of the search engine we have always known. Search plus Your World is about an entirely new search platform designed around each user’s social graph.
When personalized search is turned on, search results will include Google+ posts and photos as well as profiles and pages of those in your circles or those Google thinks you may be interested in adding.
Google has built itself upon its ability to provide the most relevant search results to its users, but the new updates are raising questions about potential bias towards Google+ when compared with other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. And that's not all people are complaining about.
There are serious privacy issues related to Search Plus Your World as well. For example, if you search the word "cat" on Google, the Wikipedia page for cat might appear alongside photos of your own cat that you have uploaded to Google+. Further, the same situation could be applied to the names of your family members or friends.
Only time will tell what the future holds for Google's Search Plus Your World. Will it drive you away from what has become the world's most popular search engine? Or is it really the wave of the future, with only a matter of time until it catches on?